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December 07, 2012

Alex North's Lost Score for Kubrick's 2001

By Abby North

Alex North

Alex North

My father-in-law, Alex North, was a prolific composer who rose to prominence in Hollywood in the 1950s. His seminal scores for films such as A Streetcar Named Desire, The Rose Tattoo, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Spartacus and others are known for their ability to intensify on-screen drama and support the director's vision without getting in the way of the characters and story. Alex related to the characters in films his scored. His music conveyed and exposed characters' emotions, flaws and strengths.

While Stanley Kubrick was apparently pleased with North's score for the 1960 film Spartacus, such was not the case with 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kubrick had his heart set on the public domain compositions he had selected as temp tracks. MGM wanted an Alex North score for 2001. After stringing along at least a few other composers, Kubrick agreed to hire Alex, but he never let go of his desire for his temp tracks.

As all composers know, directors fall in love with temp tracks. It is often next to impossible for even the most talented and skilled composer to replace the temp tracks with new music cues that elicit the same feelings initially felt with the temp tracks. Unfortunately for Alex, Stanley Kubrick loved the grandeur of Richard Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra and the "poetry of motion" of Johan Strauss's The Blue Danube in the context of 2001: A Space Odyssey.



Alex knocked himself out on this score - he composed 40 minutes of music in two weeks' time. To meet deadlines, composers often work ridiculous hours and create copious amounts of music in nearly no time. But this was extreme - Alex's back spasmed and he had to be taken to the recording session in an ambulance. He was in so much pain that Henry Brant, his long-time orchestrator, conducted the orchestra.

As lore goes, Alex had no idea his score had been tossed until he showed up to a screening of the film. And he was not at all pleased when he learned of the fate of his work. Alex believed, up until his dying day, that his score was the ideal accompaniment to Kubrick's images. He believed his talents had been grossly undervalued.

Anne and Alex North

Anne and Alex North

My mother-in-law, Anne, had been the manager of the Graunke Orchestra in Munich. She met Alex in Munich in 1967 when he recorded his score for Africa. Though there was a 30-year age difference between them, they fell in love, and soon Anne moved to Los Angeles to be with Alex. Theirs was true, undying love. After Alex passed away, Anne was the primary force responsible for keeping Alex's name and works in the public eye. Most people I have met in the film music world knew Anne, genuinely adored her, and respected and admired her tremendously.

In an attempt to pick up where my mother-in-law left off, my husband Dylan and I are so proud to now release Alex North's Music for 2001: A Space Odyssey on our boutique label, Dylanna Music. Nick Redman is the producer of our album. He fought for years for the release of the original mono composer recordings from North's 2001 scoring sessions. Nick knew how important it was to Anne that Stanley Kubrick acknowledge Alex's score.

While he was not able to pull it all off while Anne was still alive, not only did Nick facilitate the release of Alex North's Music for 2001: A Space Odyssey (initially as a CD released by Intrada Special Collections), but he also managed to secure a lovely sanctioning statement regarding North's score from Jan Harlan, the representative of the Kubrick Estate. Harlan's words would have been tremendously meaningful to both Alex and Anne. And they are powerfully moving to my husband and me.

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Read a new essay by Jon Burlingame, Nick Redman's production notes and more at www.alexnorth2001.com.

The album is available for digital download exclusively at Amoeba.com.

Read about Alex North and his legacy at www.alexnorthmusic.com.

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