Music from 2001: A Space Odyssey

Find out about two of the most iconic pieces of music in film – Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra and Ligeti’s Atmosphères – and how they came to be included in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. We perform both works live at Royal Festival Hall on Friday 10 February.

Book now

When composer György Ligeti attended the Vienna premiere of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968, he was more than a little surprised to hear almost 30 minutes worth of his music accompanying those now iconic scenes of outer space.

Kubrick had originally hired composer Alex North to score the film, with a request for North to emulate Ligeti’s unique, otherworldly sound, but in the end decided to simply use original Ligeti recordings. What he neglected to do was ask the composer’s permission. Ligeti was initially shocked at this brazen move which resulted in legal action for breach of copyright. The matter was eventually settled with Kubrick out of court and the two artists went on to work together on future projects, Ligeti apparently admiring and identifying with Kubrick’s artistic pursuits. Whilst his methods in sourcing the 2001 soundtrack may not have been up to scratch, Kubrick’s pairing of imagery and sound was inspired, and brought Ligeti’s work to the attention of enthralled audiences across the globe who may never have stumbled across it otherwise. So a happy ending, after all.

Hear an extract of Ligeti’s extraordinary music here:

Ligeti's Atmosphères

Hear Ligeti's Atmosphères in this short video.

Alex North was equally as surprised at the opening of the film: when expecting his own music to be the soundtrack to the film’s monumental opening sequence, he in fact heard Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra, now one of the most famous pieces of musical mastery in film.


Hear this iconic moment here:

Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra

Watch the iconic opening to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Hear both pieces live in concert on Friday 10 February.

Book now