Music Webmaster Len Mullenger


Collection: STRANGELOVE – Music for the films of Stanley Kubrick SILVA SCREEN FILMCD 303 [78:01]





EDITOR’S CHOICE – CD of the Month May 1999


RICHARD STRAUSS 2001 - A Space Odyssey JOHANN STRAUSS II Beautiful Blue Danube ALEX NORTH Spartacus - Main title BEETHOVEN Ode to Joy (synthesised) TRADITIONAL Barry Lyndon: Women of Ireland; HANDEL Sarabande ABIGAIL MEAD Full Metal Jacket: Themes; FRAZIER/WHITE/WILSON/HARRIS Surfin Bird GERALD FRIED: suite from early films: The Killing main title and robbery; Killer’s Kiss; Fear and Desire Meditation on War, Madness; Paths of Glory - patrol; Day of the Fight - march; WENDY CARLOS The Shining: Theme Midnight the stars and you BOB HARRIS Lolita Love theme LAURIE JOHNSON Dr Strangelove - Bomb Run; PARKER/CHARLES We’ll Meet Again

This album had been in production over the last two years and so what had been planned as a celebration of the films of Stanley Kubrick has now, sadly, become a memorial. But what a splendid production it is! It spans all the master’s films and takes in many different musical styles to comprise a very satisfying musical experience. It commences with a robust floor-board quaking reading of the opening of Richard Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra used to such great effect for the opening sequence of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I must say that I have always felt that Kubrick was right to ditch Alex North’s not-too-inspired music in favour of source material from the classics. Later on in the album we also hear Johann Strauss’s The Blue Danube which once again was such an apt choice for the space station sequences. The final two selections in this album represent another inspired bit of album programming. Both are deeply ironic cues, considering the release of the doomsday machine at the end of Dr Strangelove: ‘The Bomb Run’ based on ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home’; and Vera Lynn singing her World War II hit, ‘We’ll Meet Again’

Following the opening selection, Also Sprach…, we have a wonderfully chilling reading of Alex North’s increasingly dissonant and brutal Main Title music from Spartacus, followed by an equally crushing and jaunty synth version of Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ finale from the Choral Symphony as used in A Clockwork Orange. The beautiful cinemaphotography of Barry Lyndon was a vital part of its success, particularly the early scenes in Ireland when Barry looses his innocence and his fortune. From the film the traditional Irish air, ‘Women of Ireland’ is given a magical rendition while the percussion part of Handel’s Sarabande is heavily emphasised to underline Lyndon’s growing insensitivity and cruelty. Abigail Mead’s brutal and barbaric themes for Full Metal Jacket are heavily accented towards snare drums, bass drum and heavy synth percussion (with synths cleverly lampooning the in-training soldiers chants as they run-march).

Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind supply some wonderfully synth grisly, ghostly figures (much more interesting and imaginative than the norm) entwined with a distorted Die Irae for The Shining. The other excerpt from this Jack Nicolson chiller is source music: ‘Midnight, the Stars and You’ with the Ray Noble Band and Al Bowly used to underscore the 1920s party in the haunted hotel. A warmer but slightly edgy ‘Love Theme’ for Lolita by Bob Harris, looks back to the sort of surging late romantic music one associates with Rachmaninov.

A major highlight of the album is a very impressive six-movement suite of music by Gerald Fried who scored Kubrick’s earlier films. The compelling, obsessive Main Title music from The Robbery opens the suite followed by the mix of swirling and staccato robbery music. Punctuated by rasping and sardonically commenting brass, it grows in intensity when the tension mounts as things start to go badly wrong. Killer’s Kiss has an extraordinarily sinister march with glissandos that sound like fingernails dragging screeching, down glass together with bitterly neighing brass – an amazing creation. Fear and Desire is represented by two tracks: ‘A Meditation on War’, a sad, demented visualisation, and ‘Madness’ in which the revulsion is further developed with a demonic Stravinsky-like (L’ histoire du soldat) violin solo. Paths of Glory is represented by ‘The Patrol’, a cold, grotesque, merciless, completely percussion-orientated cue ending in a crushing tam-tam crash. Finally, we are reminded of barbaric Roman splendours and gladiatorial combat in March of the Gloved Gladiators from Day of the Fight.

A splendid collection – one of Silva’s best - with The City of Prague Philharmonic on top form, captured in stunning sound.


Ian Lace

Rob Barnett says :-

This is a treasury album packed with a rewarding and often surprising selection of music. Represented here are both aspects of Kubrick’s attitude to scores for the big screen. He had a place for both original scores and his own discriminating selection of classical music. 2001 is an example of an instance where his first choice of an original score commissioned from Alex North (since recorded) was discarded and in its place substituted a very famous selection of classical pieces which sold the LP in tens of thousands and which arguably pushed Richard Strauss back out into the popular spotlight. As for Johann Strauss I wonder how many people were introduced to The Blue Danube by the film and the space-station ballet enacted against the background of Strauss’s music.

The CD mixes original tracks licensed from others with re-recordings by the Prague orchestra. The licensed tracks include popular tracks: Vera Lynn in We’ll Meet Again (well known in the UK but used with devastating effect to point up that no-one would be meeting again at the end of Dr Strangelove), Ray Noble (suavely crooning) etc in Midnight The Stars and You and Surfin Bird (Full Metal Jacket) raucously scatty.  

Electronics also played a part in Kubrick’s scores. The Beethoven Ode to Joy from A Clockwork Orange synthesised Beethoven in a way entirely appropriate to the sadly desolate landscape of the film. Abigail Mead’s themes from Full Metal Jacket are janglingly effective in much the same way as Wendy Carlos’s electronic score from The Shining.

Alex North’s whooping scarifying brass romp and shout across the epic landscape of Spartacus’s main titles. The war cries alternate with a Shostakovichian (Leningrad) march all quiet, purposeful and full of bitter menace. This is a truly glorious track.

This disc surprised me by reintroducing me to a piece of music which I heard many years ago and by which I was completely enthralled. This I the traditional tune Women of Ireland from the film Barry Lyndon. It is given the full symphonic treatment unlike the Chieftains track by which I first came to know the piece. It is however done with restraint and taste and the tune emerges in full tear-stained flight though not at all mawkish. You might have feared that the tune would be stifled by the full orchestra - on the contrary it spreads its wings wide and deep! When the full orchestra enters you are taken to the very borders of Richard Rodney Bennett’s Dorset (Far From the Madding Crowd) or at least reminded that the Irish counties gave something to Dorset or that Dorset gave something to them.

Then comes six tracks of music from Kubrick’s collaborations with composer Gerald fried whose notes about the recording session are included in the 12 page booklet. The brusquely energetic titles for The Killing contend competitively with Rózsa for the laurels for film noir music. Eerily high violins and squat brass serenade each other discordantly in a celebration of menace (Killer’s Kiss). Fried wrings threat from battlefield fanfares in Fear and Desire. Bats fly out from the eye-sockets of the death’s head in Madness from the same film. The Patrol from Paths of Glory is a tension-filled tone poem for percussion alone - an orchestration decision taken from choice not budgetary necessity. The suite ends in shabby sardonic bombast with March of the Gloved Gladiators.

Bob Harris’s music for Lolita is a slightly ‘gloopy’ film piano concerto which might well have found a comfortable place amidst Naxos’s fine 1998 collection of film piano concertos. Laurie Johnson suitably hollow victory march Bomb Run from Dr Strangelove. This deploys Johnny Comes Marching Home - and of course he doesn’t!

Fine notes from David Wishart although I wish someone would ask me to proof  read them to pick up a small scattering of typos.

No complaints about short playing time on this single CD volume! This is a very fine volume and should attract music lovers of all types.


Rob Barnett

Paul Tonks says :-

Hopefully there’s no need to point out that this isn’t a tasteless marketing exercise. What it is however, is an intriguing showcase of just how fussy the late Kubrick was. Collected together this way it really goes to show what eclectic tastes he had, and knowing even a little of how adamant he always was about his own choices really makes this a curiosity to have.

Some pretty obvious inclusions are here: Strauss’ "Also Sprach Zarathustra" and "On The Blue Danube" from 2001, "We’ll Meet Again" from Dr Strangelove, and Beethovens’ "Ode To Joy" from A Clockwork Orange. It’s great to see Silva throwing the classics about, but the other fun precedent is the use of song. Licensing the likes of The Thrashmen’s "Surfin’ Bird" from Full Metal Jacket and "Midnight, The Stars, and You" from The Shining are an indication that the Silva compilations may be about to take an even more diverse turn - which will open all sorts of doors for them.

The CD’s ‘middle’ section is probably of most interest to collectors. Gerald Fried collaborated on the inclusion of a suite from 5 of the early films Kubrick kick-started his career with. It has to be said that The Killing and Paths of Glory are classics that predictably stand out, but Killer’s Kiss is surprisingly eerie in places. Sandwiched as it is however between dramatic highs, the ‘suite’ is a little turgid and mis-matched to consider a successful whole.

There’s something there that translates to the disc as a whole. It comes down to which side of the fence you stand upon one particular point - does Kubrick’s diversity play well to the ear ? Can you admire that diversity for what it is, or is it all too much of a throw-together ?

Personally I have nearly always appreciated abrupt changes in style on disc. Sometimes the sequencing can work wonders with such changes. I think the transition from Mark Ayres’ electronic noodling with A Clockwork Orange to the gorgeous solo fiddle of "Women of Ireland" from Barry Lyndon is delightful. To me it’s perhaps a little tongue-in-cheek to make that jump, but the real point is the director’s insatiable desire never to repeat himself.

To which end you can expect this album to be a complete one-off. Don’t listen with your ears wide shut.


Paul Tonks


Rob Barnett
& Ian Lace

Paul Tonks

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