REJECTED: Alex North’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ Score

Rejected movie scores are a dime-a-dozen in film history. This series intends to explore the history and even evaluate some of the music that has been rejected from movies. We’re starting off with one of the most legendary films with a legendary, rejected soundtrack: Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

When Kubrick was prepping production of 2001: A Space Odyssey, he asked Alex North to write a score for the movie. Kubrick had previously collaborated with North on Spartacus and Dr. Strangelove. But as he was editing the film, Kubrick realized he preferred to use classical music to accompany his sci-fi opus. North had no idea his score had been rejected until he watched the film at its New York City premiere. He wasn’t happy at all that it had been rejected, but he did concede the selection of classical music was a better match for Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke’s vision of the future.

Afterwards, only snippets of North’s score were available in compilation albums. But it wasn’t until 1993 when North’s friend and colleague Jerry Goldsmith created a commercial recording of the original score, giving audiences the opportunity to picture 2001 with this score. However, it wasn’t until 2007 that North’s original recordings were made available through a limited edition CD by Intrada Records.

With North’s score available, some fans have gone out of their way to rescore some of the film’s iconic scenes, such as YouTube user Stephen Kilpatrick, who uploaded the opening title sequence with North’s score:

Looking at other scenes in the movie with North’s score replacing the classical music, one can see a strong fit for the movie. But maybe it’s because I’m so accustomed to the final soundtrack, it doesn’t feel quite as transcendental. North’s music is good and perfect for a sci-fi movie of the 60s, but that’s the problem, it makes the movie feel part of the time it was made. In the meantime, Kubrick’s musical choices make the movie, and the overall story fit with all of history. This makes sense because we’re watching all of human evolution unfold before our eyes. Ever since the film was released, we quickly relate The Blue Danube to the docking sequence, or Also sprach Zarathustra to the movie.

All that said, North’s score is a worthwhile listen. He was a very talented composer but this was perhaps one of those situation where Kubrick made the best choices.

“We’re sorry, Alex.”

If you’re interested in listening to the whole score, you can buy the Jerry Goldsmith recording here, and the original North recording right here.

Oscar Moreno
Oscar Moreno
Mexican. Writer. Filmmaker. Lover of good laughs and good food.