Screening cinema classics with live orchestra has long been a draw at the box office and it’s not hard to see why. From Charlie Chaplin flicks to 21st century animation films, combining the immediacy of film with the sound mass of a full symphony orchestra provides a full-on sensory experience.
2001: A Space Odyssey is perfect fodder for the format. Over two nights at the Royal Festival Hall (tonight and tomorrow), the Philharmonia Orchestra and Philharmonia Voices, conducted by André de Ridder, perform the score from the sci-fi classic, as part of Southbank Centre’s Ether Festival.
Yet it’s not a film score in the traditional sense. Director Stanley Kubrick threw out the music commissioned for the film and instead cherry picked classical works to reinforce the film’s epic set pieces.
In doing so, he arguably made the film. The elemental dawn fanfare of Richard Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra will forever be associated with planetary movement; the Blue Danube Waltz by Johann Strauss was employed beautifully by Kubrick to accompany a slow space docking.
But it’s the music of the 20th century Hungarian composer György Ligeti, with its shifting microtonal soundscape that best reflects the uncertain, otherworldly tone of 2001: A Space Odyssey. It should be electric live, but a word of warning – 2001 is renowned for its long periods of silence so don’t expect a concert-length’s worth of music.
A few tickets are still available from the Southbank Centre website.