Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Classical Music Used In Stanley Kubrick Films

A film is - or should be - more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what's behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later. - Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick's obsessive and perfectionist nature is wholly reflected in his choice of music for his films. Without the eerie Bartok and violent Penderecki music, Jack Nicholson's Jack Torrance would only be a jumpy lunatic, but never a convincing and truly frightening psycho as we see in The Shining. The Handel theme perfectly indicate the implacable working of impersonal fate in Barry Lyndon. And, besides the famous use of Strauss and Ligeti in 2001, even the lesser known Gayane's Adagio from Khachaturian beautifully conveyed a lonely and mournful quality into the sections that introduce the spacemen aboard the Discovery One.

I compiled a playlist for the classical music used in five Kubrick films: 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, The Shining, and Eyes Wide Shut. And subgrouped the music by films in chronological order, by inserting Wilco's 23 Seconds Of Silence. Here's the Spotify playlist: Classical Music Used In Stanley Kubrick Films (38 tracks, total time: 3 hours) And here's an interesting Q&A, including "Why did Kubrick use classical music for his films?"

Update: Great bargain on Amazon, 9 Kubrick films, 10 blue-ray disks for $63.

See the full list of classical music used in Stanley Kubrick films below:

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Khachaturyan: Gayaneh Ballet Suite
Ligeti: Atmosphères, Lux Aeterna, Requiem (The Kyrie section), Aventures
Richard Strauss: Thus Spoke Zarathustra (The Einleitung section)
Johann Strauss: An der schönen, blauen Donau, op. 314 (The Blue Danube)

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Purcell: March from Funeral Music for Queen Mary
Rossini: The Thieving Magpie Overture, William Tell Overture
Elgar: Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 & 4
Beethoven: Symphony No.9 (2nd and 4th movements)

Barry Lyndon (1975)

Schubert: Piano Trio in E-flat, Op.100 (second movement), 4 Impromptus, Op.90, D.899 - No.1 in C minor, German Dance No.1 in C major
Vivaldi: Cello Concerto in E minor (3rd. movement)
J.S.Bach: Concerto for 2 harpsichords and orchestra in C minor, BWV 1060 (adagio)
Giovanni Paisiello: The Barber of Seville (cavatina)
Mozart: Idomeneo (march)
Frederick The Great: Hohenfriedberger March
Händel: Sarabande from the Suite for Harpsichord No. 4 in D minor, HWV 437

The Shining (1980)

Ligeti: Lontano
Bartók: Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta (3rd movement)
Penderecki: Utrenja (the Ewangelia and Kanon Paschy movements),Als Jakob Erwacht (The Awakening of Jacob), De Natura Sonoris No. 1 and 2, Kanon For Orchestra and Tape, Polymorphia.

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Shostakovich: "Waltz 2" from Suite for Variety Stage Orchestra (often misidentified as the composer's Jazz Suite 2)
Ligeti: Musica Ricercata (2nd movement)
Liszt: Nuages Gris (Grey Clouds)
Mozart: Requiem (Rex Tremendae)
In the ritual, the incantations in the background are part of a Romanian Orthodox Divine Liturgy recorded in a church in Baia Mare, played backwards.


  1. Thank you for this playlist!

  2. Check out this programme with an EYES WIDE SHUT section->

  3. I updated the playlist so that most tracks are playable on Spotify USA.

  4. great list! Last week visited the great Kubrick exhibition at the dutch Eye-institute. A whole room was dedicated to this music.

  5. Thank you. Oddly, I have just read Jon Ron's "Lost at Seas. In a chapter of this he describes going through Kubricks "archive" in his home: a few years after his death and before Christiane Kubrick donated it all to London College of Communication. It has sent me on something of a Kubrick film watching "binge" which this nicely complements :)

  6. thankyou for this playlist : )

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