2001: A Space Odyssey is a soundtrack album to the film of the same name, released in 1968. The soundtrack is known for its use of many classical and orchestral pieces, and credited for giving many classical pieces resurgences in popularity, such as Johann Strauss II's 1866 Blue Danube Waltz, Richard Strauss' symphonic poem Also sprach Zarathustra (inspired by the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche), and György Ligeti's Atmosphères. The soundtrack has been re-issued multiple times: including a 1996 version and a digitally remastered version in 2010.
2001 is particularly remembered for using pieces of Johann Strauss II's best-known waltz, An der schönen blauen Donau (On the Beautiful Blue Danube), during the extended space-station docking and lunar landing sequences, and the use of the opening from the Richard Strauss tone poem Also sprach Zarathustra (Usually translated as "Thus Spake Zarathustra" or occasionally "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" – the soundtrack album gives the former, the movie's credits give the latter). Composers Richard and Johann Strauss are not related.
In addition to the majestic yet fairly traditional compositions by the two Strausses and Aram Khachaturian, Kubrick used four highly modernistic compositions by György Ligeti which employ micropolyphony, the use of sustained dissonant chords that shift slowly over time. This technique was pioneered in Atmosphères, the only Ligeti piece heard in its entirety in the film. Ligeti admired Kubrick's film, but in addition to being irritated by Kubrick's failure to obtain permission directly from him, he was offended that his music was used in a film soundtrack shared by composers Johann and Richard Strauss.
The Richard and Johann Strauss pieces and György Ligeti's Requiem (the Kyrie section) act as recurring leitmotifs in the film's storyline. Richard Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra is first heard in the opening title which juxtaposes the Sun, Earth, and Moon. It is subsequently heard when an ape first learns to use a tool, and when Bowman is transformed into the Star-Child at the end of the film. Zarathustra thus acts as a bookend for the beginning and end of the film, and as a motif signifying evolutionary transformations, first from ape to man, then from man to Star-Child. This piece was originally inspired by the philosopher Nietzsche's book of the same name which alludes briefly to the relationship of ape to man and man to Superman. The Blue Danube appears in two intricate and extended space travel sequences as well as the closing credits. The first of these is the particularly famous sequence of the PanAm space plane docking at Space Station V. Ligeti's Requiem is heard three times, all of them during appearances of the monolith. The first is its encounter with apes just before the Zarathustra-accompanied ape discovery of the tool. The second is the monolith's discovery on the Moon, and the third is Bowman's approach to it around Jupiter just before he enters the Star Gate. This last sequence with the Requiem has much more movement in it than the first two, and it transitions directly into the music from Ligeti's Atmosphères which is heard when Bowman actually enters the Star Gate. No music is heard during the monolith's much briefer final appearance in Dave Bowman's celestial bedroom which immediately precedes the Zarathustra-accompanied transformation of Bowman into the Star-Child. A shorter excerpt from Atmosphères is heard during the pre-credits prelude and film intermission, which are not in all copies of the film. The adagio movement "Carpet Weavers" from Aram Khatchaturian's Gayane ballet suite no. 3. is heard during the sections that introduce Bowman and Poole aboard the Discovery conveying a somewhat lonely and mournful quality. Other music used is Ligeti's Lux Aeterna and an electronically altered form of his Aventures, the last of which was so used without Ligeti's permission and is not listed in the film's credits.
Since the film, Also sprach Zarathustra has been used in many other contexts. It was used by the BBC and by CTV in Canada as the introductory theme music for their television coverage of the Apollo space missions, as well as stage entrance music for multiple acts including Elvis Presley late in his career. Jazz and rock variants of the theme have also been composed, the most well known being the 1972 arrangement by Eumir Deodato (itself used in the 1979 film Being There). Both Zarathustra and The Blue Danube have been used in numerous parodies of both the film itself and science fiction/space travel stories in general. HAL's "Daisy Bell" also has been frequently used in the comedy industry to denote both humans and machines in an advanced stage of madness.
The initial MGM soundtrack album release contained none of the material from the altered and uncredited rendition of "Aventures", used a different recording of "Also Sprach Zarathustra" than that heard in the film, and a longer excerpt of "Lux Aeterna" than that in the film. The soundtrack was a commercial success, reaching the 21st spot at the Billboard 200, and receiving a RIAA certification of Gold for an excess of 500,000 copies.
In 1996, Turner Entertainment/Rhino Records released a new soundtrack on CD which included the material from "Aventures" and restored the version of "Zarathustra" used in the film, and used the shorter version of "Lux Aeterna" from the film. As additional "bonus tracks" at the end, this CD includes the versions of "Zarathustra" and "Lux Aeterna" on the old MGM soundtrack, an unaltered performance of "Aventures", and a nine-minute compilation of all of Hal's dialogue from the film.
Citing John Culshaw's autobiography Putting the Record Straight, the Internet Movie Database explains
The end music credits do not list a conductor and orchestra for "Also Sprach Zarathustra." Stanley Kubrick wanted the Herbert von Karajan / Vienna Philharmonic version on English Decca for the film's soundtrack, but Decca executives did not want their recording "cheapened" by association with the movie, and so gave permission on the condition that the conductor and orchestra were not named. After the movie's successful release, Decca tried to rectify its blunder by re-releasing the recording with an "As Heard in 2001" flag printed on the album cover. John Culshaw recounts the incident in "Putting the Record Straight" (1981)... In the meantime, MGM released the "official soundtrack" L.P. with Karl Böhm's Berlin Philharmonic "Also Sprach Zarathustra" discreetly substituting for von Karajan's version.
In the early stages of production, Kubrick had actually commissioned a score for 2001 from noted Hollywood composer Alex North, who had written the score for Spartacus and also worked on Dr. Strangelove. However, during post-production, Kubrick chose to abandon North's music in favor of the now-familiar classical music pieces he had earlier chosen as "guide pieces" for the soundtrack. North did not know of the abandonment of the score until he saw the film's premiere screening.
In March 1966, MGM became concerned about 2001's progress and Kubrick put together a show reel of footage to the ad hoc soundtrack of classical recordings. The studio bosses were delighted with the results and Kubrick decided to use these "guide pieces" as the final musical soundtrack, and he abandoned North's score.
In an interview with Michel Ciment, Kubrick explained:
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 are 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...Well, with a little more care and thought, these temporary tracks can become the final score.