Space is the Place. The New Yorker, Sept. 23, 2013.
This short piece on the music of 2001, anticipating the New York Philharmonic's presentation of the film, appears as part of the redesign of our Goings On about Town section. I'll be writing occasional mini-essays for the section; these take the place of the more abbreviated Critics' Notebooks.
I allude to Julia Heimerdinger's fascinating paper "'I have been compromised. I am now fighting against it': Ligeti vs. Kubrick and the Music for 2001: A Space Odyssey," which appeared in the Journal of Film Music in 2011. Some of her findings: 1) Jan Harlan, acting on Kubrick's behalf, tried to contact Ligeti after the director discovered his music, and was told by the composer's housekeeper that he was away; 2) Kubrick's associates did obtain licenses from Ligeti's publishers and from record and radio companies, although they were not forthcoming about the pivotal role assigned to the music in the film; 3) Ligeti learned about the use of his music not from his publishers but from members of the Bavarian Radio Chorus; 4) he attended a showing of the film with stopwatch in hand, furiously scribbling down timings — thirty-two minutes in all; 5) many years later, Kubrick was annoyed to hear Ligeti saying on the BBC's Desert Island Discs that the director had stolen from him, and threatened to sue for libel. Heimerdinger concludes that Kubrick did follow the correct procedures, despite some shady negotiating tactics, and that Ligeti's accusation of theft "was not valid." Despite all these difficulties, Ligeti admired Kubrick's films and the employment of music in them, as his longtime assistant Louise Duchesneau has attested.
Previously: Ligeti's Third Quartet.