2001 Space Odyssey music during landscape to water transition
July 20, 2015 5:54 AM   Subscribe

During Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, during the smorgasbord of visuals and the aggressively modernist music, there is one moment of auditory consonance which I'd like to hear more of: as the red and blue landscape gives way to the false color images of open water, there's a fantastic sound: what is this sound, how is it made, and where can I hear more of it? 7:43 in: stargate sequence
posted by oonh to Grab Bag (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I listened to that section a few times, and I'm not sure whether you're talking about the synthesised-sounding tones over the top, or the orchestral noises underneath...
posted by pipeski at 6:13 AM on July 20, 2015

Response by poster: It sort of sounds like an (for want of a better phonemicization): 'aruvra'
posted by oonh at 6:18 AM on July 20, 2015

It sounds like cellos and basses to me.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 7:10 AM on July 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

If I'm understanding what you want, the underlying instrumental work (cello/bass sweep?) is something you can hear in this beautiful short at 3m33s.

It's missing what I think is a resonant filter effect in the 2001 soundtrack, though.
posted by weston at 8:09 AM on July 20, 2015

I think that is from one of the works of György Ligeti used in the film (Requiem, Atmosphere, Aventure, etc). You may check his work to see if that is what you're looking for.
posted by nightwood at 10:34 AM on July 20, 2015

Best answer: FYI this section of 2001 uses György Ligeti's composition Atmosphères essentially in its entirety. You can hear a different recording of Atmosphères here--it might help you to isolate what is going on in that part of the piece that you are interested in.

I think the part you are interested in involves a mass string glissando (divided into many different parts that are covering different notes and directions simultaneously), the glissando and other figures played as string harmonics, some arpeggiated string figures (again played as string harmonics)--all of them involving tone clusters and tremolo effects with the bow--and maybe a few other effects. Read the 'style' section of the wikipedia article on Atmospheres to get a sense of the techniques Ligeti was using here.

If this is the effect you're talking about, it occurs at 7:46 and 7:48 in the youtube video you linked, and 7:12 and 7:14 in the recording I linked above.

Another interesting performance with a slightly different sound.

This article about Atmospheres has a page from the score that gives you an idea of the type of string writing techniques that Ligeti used here. See the full sized score page here (I think by pure luck this might be the exact moment you are asking about; if not it's a very similar section).

The first thing you'll note there is that he has divided the string section, which usually plays four separate parts, into no fewer than 58 distinct parts. Then "gliss", "mute" (con sordino), etc etc etc.

Then note that all the string notes have a little circle over them indicating to play them as harmonics, and also the notation "glissando". Read the note about "flageolet glissandos" at the bottom. "Flageolet" means harmonics. So we are talking about sliding up and down on a string glissando here, with the approx. pitch shown in the score. Read an extended article about playing harmonics on a stringed instrument here.

Add all that up and there you go!

FWIW one of my graduate professors did her PhD dissertation on Ligeti and is something of a Ligeti expert--she's referenced a few times in the Wikipedia article on Ligeti. I'm don't know that much about Ligeti or his music myself, though.
posted by flug at 11:10 AM on July 20, 2015 [5 favorites]

So we are talking about sliding up and down on a string glissando here, with the approx. pitch shown in the score

Oops, that should had been, "So we are talking about sliding up and down on string harmonics here, with the approx. pitch shown in the score."

In particular, these are "artificial harmonics" - explained in the linked wiki article and the article on Cello harmonics I linked above. Basically, the string player presses the string against the fingerboard with one finger and then just touches the string at a different spot, while bowing. Then you slide those two fingers up and down the string (glissando). It creates a pretty interesting effect.

Here is a nice example of a melody played with artificial harmonics.
posted by flug at 11:24 AM on July 20, 2015

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