In un primo momento la colonna sonora di uno dei film più importanti, celebrati e da troppi incompreso fu affidata al compositore Alex North che aveva nel suo curriculum pellicole come Spartacus, Chi ha paura di Virginia Wolf?, Cleopatra e Un tram che si chiama desiderio.
Tuttavia Stanley Kubrick durante la fase di editing ci ripenso ritenendola totalmente inadeguata (e a ragione per un film divenuto immortale anche per la sua colonna sonora), decidendo di andare sul classico. Alex North scoprì di essere stato estromesso durante la proiezione della prima a New York, ma questo è solo l'ennesimo aneddoto sulla difficoltà dei geni a intrattenere relazioni interpersonali.
Ecco cosa raccontò Kubrick a riguardo durante un'intervista rilasciata a Michel Cimen.
However good our best film composers may be, they are not a Beethoven, a Mozart or a Brahms. Why use music which is less good when there is such a multitude of great orchestral music available from the past and from our own time? When you're editing a film, it's very helpful to be able to try out different pieces of music to see how they work with the scene. This is not at all an uncommon practice. Well, with a little more care and thought, these temporary music tracks can become the final score. When I had completed the editing of 2001: A Space Odyssey, I had laid in temporary music tracks for almost all of the music which was eventually used in the film. Then, in the normal way, I engaged the services of a distinguished film composer to write the score. Although he and I went over the picture very carefully, and he listened to these temporary tracks (Strauss, Ligeti, Khatchaturian) and agreed that they worked fine and would serve as a guide to the musical objectives of each sequence he, nevertheless, wrote and recorded a score which could not have been more alien to the music we had listened to, and much more serious than that, a score which, in my opinion, was completely inadequate for the film.
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