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Concert Revue by Alan Duckworth

Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 classic 2001: A Space Odyssey was presented live Saturday night at Wolf Trap. The National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Emil De Cou provided an orchestral backdrop as the film was shown in its entirety with dialogue.

This was by far the loudest orchestral concert I have ever been to. The opening with Richard Strauss’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra” was colossal! Played by an amplified NSO, it’s that much grander of an experience – the highlight of the evening!

Another draw to the presentation was the Academy Award winning special effects. There’s a certain charming allure to seeing these effects accompanied with a live orchestra.

The scores really helped to express movement in space. Johann Strauss’s “Blue Danube Waltz” is a classic example of sound representing movement. It’s like dancing to architecture.


In addition to classical scores there was also music from twentieth-century composers Aram Khachaturian and Gyorgy Ligeti. In 1956 Gyorgy Ligeti composed electronic music for West German Radio (WDR), only to return to composing instrumentally. He borrowed early electronic music techniques and worked them directly into his orchestral compositions. You can really hear those influences being applied in the score “Atmospheres.” It’s amazing because computer based electronic music was so avant garde and in a developmental stage in the sixties that many people didn’t even consider it music. To pair it with classical composure was extraordinary and really ahead of its time.

The orchestra and choir performed admirably; this wasn’t your run of the mill program. Gyorgy Ligeti used a micro polyphony technique to mimic electronic sounds. This technique is a cluster of many lines of dense canons moving at different tempos and rhythms. Considering that this is not exactly your standard composition, it was very well done.

This was a bold concept as far as orchestral media presentations. I’ve seen films presented in their entirely accompanied with an orchestra, but they were all silent films without any dialogue. Any other orchestral media presentation I’ve seen consisted of edited clips and programs. This is a good concept and an excellent opportunity to see 2001: A Space Odyssey on the big screen in a concert venue with concert sound. I wouldn’t mind seeing new movies in this fashion –  it beats theater sound any day.


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