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'2001: A Space Odyssey.' (photo via @StanleyKubrick on Twitter)

Special screening of '2001: A Space Odyssey' to feature live improvised score performance

2001: A Space Odyssey is a classic movie beloved by many. 

It is a movie that many consider to be the late Stanley Kubrick’s greatest film, and it inspired many directing greats, like George Lucas and James Cameron. 

One of the most important — if not the most important — aspects of the film is the musical score. To many, the sound of “Also sprach Zarathustra” playing over the rising of a celestial sun is one of the greatest moments in cinematic history. The collection of classical piece present in the movie has cemented it as having one of the greatest musical scores of all time.

To many, changing one of the most important aspects of the movie might seem insane, and yet Ohio University professor of piano, composition and general studies Andre Gribou and professor of percussion Roger Braun are doing just that. They’re even improvising the score, no less, as part of the OU Performing Arts series.

Gribou and Braun have been doing productions under the name Duo Unprepared since 2000 and have taken their talents across the nation and to Europe. Their knack for improvisational music has allowed them to perform improvisations of the scores of many movies. 2001: A Space Odyssey will be their most recent endeavor, and they will perform it at the Athena Cinema this weekend.

“We’ve worked with them before on the Charlie Chaplin film Modern Times earlier this year,” Alex Kamody, director of the Athena Cinema, said.

The films they score generally have long sections with little dialogue that allow an opportunity for the music to enter scene. Modern Times is a movie in which the music’s reaction to the actions of the main character are important. For 2001: A Space Odyssey, the score itself can be viewed as a character.

“We chose 2001 for a couple of reasons,” Gridou said. “It is a film without a whole lot of dialogue. It is also a very musical movie, in the sense that the visual imagery and music affect each other.”

To 2001: A Space Odyssey, the visuals and atmosphere are more important than what is actually spoken between characters. The movie is remembered not for any sort of witty dialogue, but instead for its visual metaphors and the music that accompanies them.

Because of that scoring, the 2 hour, 41 minute movie is an act of endurance as well as skill. It requires precise timing and rehearsal to get a feel for how the movie flows. The two musicians have watched the movie multiple times and listened to the soundtrack to help them understand the tone of the film.

”We might find ourselves adding music where there is none and improvising in the moment,” Braun said. “All the instruments, everything we’re doing is acoustic. We could have used keyboards and everything that was electronic. Some things are going to be amplified to give them an otherworldly sound.”

The number of instruments is very large. The musicians have to react to the film on a moment’s notice, and having a large variety of tools to do so is very important. 

“It’s a lot,” Braun said. “I use a lot of small things that are more portable. In the 60 instruments kind of zone.”

The instruments are set up in front of the screen in a long narrow theater on the ground floor of the Athena Cinema. The small space permitted for the instruments is taken up by a large grand piano and a series of percussion instruments.

For those who have not seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, the even will be an excellent opportunity to see a classic that has influenced a large part of cinema history.

“For those who haven’t seen it it will be a really great way to see the movie,” Braun said. “The performance will make it fresh for those who have seen it before.”


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