While we love to wonder what would have happened had Robert Zemeckis stuck with Eric Stoltz in “Back to the Future,” it’s equally fun for us to, say, imagine if the opening of “The Royal Tenenbaums” would be as great if Wes Anderson got the rights to the “Hey Jude” master. To that end, how different would the pop culture landscape, the sci-fi genre, and Stanley Kubrick’s career be if he hadn’t had used pieces of classical music in his landmark “2001: A Space Odyssey”?
The number one piece of music identified with Kubrick’s iconic film has to be “Thus Spoke Zarathustra,” and yet, despite being so linked, the film almost ended up with different music entirely, an original score composed by Alex North. Kubrick and North first worked together on 1960’s “Spartacus” and were all set to continue their collaboration with Kubrick using the classical temp score as a guide for North.
In the end, per Open Culture, Kubrick was less than enthused with what North submitted, later saying his score “was completely inadequate for the film.” Kubrick ended up sticking with his temp score, which is how we wound up with the soundtrack we know and love. North’s score, however, hasn’t been lost to time.
Nearly 40 minutes of his unused compositions are now available for streaming on Rdio, and one kind soul recut the opening five minutes of Kubrick’s film to North’s score to jarring results. In the form we know and love, the soundtrack of ‘2001’ helps its timeliness, whereas North’s score, on the other hand, plays like any other B-picture from the late ’60s and dates the film. Once again, Kubrick’s attention to detail paid off, but the video is still a fascinating look at an alternate history.
Watch the opening of “2001: A Space Odyssey” with North’s unused score below.