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Volume 20 Issue 3 - November 2014

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Kubrick’s Musical

Kubrick’s Musical Odyssey:Ears Wide OpenBY PAUL ENNIS“A film is – or should be – more like music than like fiction. It shouldbe a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what’s behind theemotion, the meaning, all that comes later.” – Stanley KubrickImagine, as you walk through Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition(October 31 to January 25 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox), that you have aniPod loaded with music from Kubrick’s films. Listening to this music asyou stroll would further illuminate the artefacts from the filmmaker’sextensive archives that already comprise an extraordinary glimpse intothe working habits and intellect of one of the most thorough directorialminds the world of cinema has ever seen.Prokofiev’s Nevsky: The first piece on that iPod, perhaps surprisingly,would have to be Prokofiev’s soundtrack to Eisenstein’s AlexanderNevsky (1938), which Kubrick bought after seeing the film with AlexanderSinger, a friend from high school (and later a director himself).Kubrick was so obsessed with the record that he played it continually,well over 100 times, so much so that his younger sister, fed up, broke it“in an absolute rage,” Singer said. “Stanley never got over [the battle onthe ice].”But it was not only the film’s music that made its mark – it was thewhole working relationship between Prokofiev and Eisenstein thatfascinated Kubrick. They worked in tandem in the editing room, Eisensteinsometimes varying his cut to correspond with Prokofiev’s musicand the composer occasionally reworking his score to dovetail with thedirector’s wishes.This is precisely the way Kubrick worked with Alex North on Spartacus,Wendy Carlos on A Clockwork Orange, arranger LeonardRosenmann on Barry Lyndon and music editor Gordon Stainforth onThe Shining.Fried’s Suite from the Early Films: Your iPod will now be ready toshuffle on to Gerald Fried’s Suitefrom the Early Films of StanleyKubrick. Born in the same yearas Kubrick (1928), at 17 or 18Fried was a baseball and football-playingpal. He was also aJuilliard-trained oboist who wasentrusted with writing the scoresfor five early Kubrick films, fromDay of the Fight (1951) to Pathsof Glory (1957). The brashness of22-year-olds knew no bounds. Themusic ranges from big and brassyorchestral in Fight to the woodwind-centricatonal lilt of Fearand Desire; from a typical 1950sB-movie post-romantic Killer’sKiss to the busier B-movie paletteof The Killing, which Fried called“the most primal music I could think of.”The percussive score to Paths of Glory used snare drums to set upthe rank militarism of the film, but it was the impact of the traditionalGerman song, “The Faithful Soldier” sweetly sung by Susanne Christian,that underscored the emotional impact of the movie’s anti-warmessage. Christian, whose real name was Christiane Harlan, made a lifelongimpression on the director. She became his third wife shortly thereafter,and her brother Jan Harlan became a close confidant and executiveproducer of Kubrick’s films from Barry Lyndon onwards. Fried, meanwhile,went on to score several movies for Roger Corman (including JackThe Star Child from2001: A Space OdysseyNicholson’s debut The Cry Baby Killer) before concentrating on TV serieswork, from Gilligan’s Island, Star Trek and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. toMission Impossible.We’ll skip by Spartacus (1960) in our exhibition soundtrack. After KirkDouglas hired him to direct it, Kubrick never made a film over whichhe didn’t have complete control. Douglas gave North more than a yearto complete the score, so he had ample time to research ancient Romanmusic and collaborate with Kubrick, who encouraged him to listen toProkofiev’s Alexander Nevsky. North’s lush, suitably epic soundtracktook up over two hours of the film’s 197 minutes and was nominatedfor an Oscar.Lolita Ya Ya: Lolita (1962) was Kubrick’s last film with a traditionalscore and the director knew what he wanted it built upon – an unforgettable,perfectly apt, bittersweet tune written by his producing partnerJames Harris’ brother Bob. Knowing this, Kubrick’s first choice, BernardHerrmann, refused to do the score, so Nelson Riddle was hired. He endedup writing the iconic “Lolita Ya Ya,” a pop confection that was the idealmatch for Sue Lyon’s lollipop-licking nymphet. Listen to it while youglance at early outlines for Lolita’s screenplay, drastically different fromthe final version. Equally revealing is Kubrick’s handwritten draft ofLolita’s letter to Humbert. Curiously, Kubrick played Sinatra albums forLyon on the set to get her into the emotional mood he wanted.Tenderness plus: Two songs, “Try a Little Tenderness” and “We’llMeet Again,” bookend Dr. Strangelove (1964), which survives robustlyon dialogue apart from a recurring instrumental trope of “When JohnnyComes Marching Home.” Listen to them as you gaze at the set of the WarRoom. It was the next film that would break whatever mould was leftboth musically and cinematically.Musical Odyssey: “Movies present the opportunity to convey complexconcepts and abstractions without thetraditional reliance on words. I thinkthat 2001, like music . . . is able to cutdirectly through to areas of emotionalcomprehension. In two hours andforty minutes of film there are onlyforty minutes of dialogue.” – StanleyKubrick, 1969.And much more than 40 minutes ofmusic – excerpts from György Ligeti’sAtmosphères, Requiem (Kyrie), Aventuresand Lux Aeterna account for32 minutes alone – from the hushedopening bars of Richard Strauss’ AlsoSprach Zarathustra and Khachaturian’sAdagio from Gayane (deployedon the Jupiter mission) to the ingenioususe of Johann Strauss Jr.’s On theBeautiful Blue Danube which amountedto a reinvention of the cinematic wheel, so breathtaking was the footageof the docking of the space shuttle it accompanied the first time itwas heard.Astronaut Dave Bowman becomes the Starchild as Kubrick brings backZarathustra. Which is what your iPod should be playing as you gaze atit in the exhibit; the “Starchild” is one of the key attractions along withthe dresses of the ghostly sisters from The Shining and the “Born to Kill”helmet from Full Metal Jacket.Kubrick introduced Ligeti to a massive audience and also used hismusic in The Shining and Eyes Wide Shut. The composer was said to8 | November 1 - December 7, 2014 thewholenote.com

have been upset that his pieces weren’t used in their entirety in 2001 (hispublishers negotiated the rights without fully informing him accordingto The New Yorker’s Alex Ross) but as Ross writes, he “grew to admireKubrick’s achievement, and not just because it added greatly to his ownfame. It is difficult to think of another mainstream picture in whichmusic in the classical tradition plays such a dominant role ... 2001 isless a dramatic narrative than a concerto for film images and orchestra.”Some trivia: It was Kubrick’s wife Christiane who first brought Ligeti toher husband’s attention. She had discovered it by chance listening to theBBC and thought it might work in 2001. Kubrick had hired Alex North towrite the score and showed him the film with the temp tracks of Zarathustra,Ligeti, Khachaturian and the Scherzo from Mendelssohn’s AMidsummer Night’s Dream to give North an idea of what he was lookingfor. North scored the picture while admitting he was intimidated by theMendelssohn in particular. Kubrick wasn’t satisfied (“it could not havebeen more alien to the music we had listened to”) and given the releaseschedule reverted to his temp track, with one major change: Strauss’sBlue Danube Waltz replaced the Mendelssohn.Kubrick revealed his attitude to film music in general in an interviewwith noted French critic Michel Ciment: “Unless you want a popscore, I don’t see any reason not to avail yourself of the great orchestralmusic of the past and present. This music may be used in its correctform or synthesized, as was done with the Beethoven for some scenesin A Clockwork Orange. But there doesn’t seem to be much point inDAEDALUS QUARTETThursday, November 20 at 8 pmMNvSIMON TRPCESKIPianist(from left) James Mason, Stanley Kubrick andSue Lyon during the filming of LolitaMusic on the set of Lolita(From an unpublished interview with Terry Southern [co-scenarist ofDr. Strangelove] and Stanley Kubrick, 1962)“I understand that you often play music on the set, to help everyoneget in a particular mood.Yes, well, that was a device used, you know, by silent-film actors – theyall had their own violinists, who would play for them during the takes,and even sort of direct them. And I think it’s probably the easiest way toproduce an emotion ... which is really the actor’s main problem – producingauthentic emotion. We play it before the take, and if the dialogue isn’ttoo important, during the take and then post-synchronize the dialogue –it’s amazing how quick this will work, and I mean making a movie is sucha long, fragmented, dragging process, and you get into, say, about theninth week, you’re getting up every morning at 6:30, not enough sleep,probably no breakfast, and then at 9:15 you have to do something you feelabout as far from doing as you possibly can ... So it’s a matter of getting inthe right mood – and music I’ve found is the best for this, and practicallyeveryone can respond to some piece or other.What were the pieces you used in making Lolita?Well, there were a couple of bands of West Side Story that must havesomehow been very important to Shelly Winters – we used those in hercrying scene – and she would cry, very quickly, great authentic tears. Andlet’s see, yeah, Irma La Douce, that would always floor [James] Mason.”Tuesday, November 25 at 8 pmwww.music-toronto.comatCanadianHeritagePatrimoinecanadien416-366-7723 1-800-708-6754order online at www.stlc.comthewholenote.com November 1 - December 7, 2014 | 9

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