Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra – Also sprach Zarathustra (Main Title) [Richard Strauss]

2001: A Space Odyssey
Gustav Mahler / Richard Wagner / Kronos Quartet

If someone offers you the opportunity to trade the Polar Vortex for the cold vacuum of space, you do it.

This past weekend, I had the chance to see Stanley Kubrick’s classic 2001: A Space Odyssey on the big screen at the IFC Center in New York. Up until that moment, I had only seen the film on a small TV. Despite multiple viewings in the past (as well as having read Arthur C. Clarke’s source material, I was totally blown away by the film on the big screen. There is simply no better way to experience the film and, if you’re a fan, I would urge you to make it a priority to get tickets if you ever have the chance.

Richard Strauss’ music is, of course, one of the central elements of the film–certainly its least subtle. On the big screen, however, the score is a force to be reckoned with. Hearing it erupt from a good theatre PA is almost enough to blow away all of the years of satire, homage, and straight up (re)appropriation that’s been done to the music from the film’s key sequences. It reminds you why this is the movie that owns Also sprach Zarathustra.

At the same time, the score is also much larger than the film itself. It’s something that, I would argue, Kubrick was well aware of too. The version of the film that I saw kept the “Intermission” sequence in tact. It was one of the most fascinating moments of the night. The house lights remained down during the short stretch of blackened screen as the films score continued to roll, quietly murmuring only build to a small swell and then recede back into the darkness. The “Intermission” separates the movie at a critical moment (the next scene is the famous “Open the pod bay doors, Hal” scene) and nothing that comes after the intermission is really in the same, ahem, universe as what comes before. It’s when the deeper questions probed by the film begin to truly take shape.

As I watched people mill around during the intermission, it dawned on me that it might be something of a joke (or at least sly nod) by Kubrick to the film’s operatic scale and ambitions. The “Intermission” is not a bathroom break, but an operatic interlude separating two parts of a story painted on a grand canvas. The entire structure of the film mimics an opera, dispensing with the typical three-act Hollywood story in favor of a four-part narrative complete with a prelude and interlude. It’s just another example of the many ways in which Kubrick layered ideas upon ideas in his films.

If you’re stuck inside this week, trade up for the cold blackness of space and watch the music unfold. You won’t regret it.

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(@YahSureMan) is the Founder of The Daily Soundtrack and Bark Attack Media. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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