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Sci-Fi Films Dominate the Chicago Symphony Orchestra‘s “At the Movies” Series: ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ and ‘Metropolis’

By Louise Burton l.burton@classicalite.com on Apr 10, 2014 12:48 AM EDT

Today I subscribed to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's 2014-15 season, and took advantage of the sweet subscriber discount to order single tickets to a concert I've been looking forward to for a long time: a screening of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey in Orchestra Hall next March with the CSO performing the soundtrack live.

This film concert is part of the "CSO at the Movies" series, which includes another classic sci-fi film from an earlier era: Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927), scheduled for May 2015.

I recently wrote about the CSO's complete schedule of film concerts for 2014-15, but I thought the classic sci-fi films deserved special mention, since they are so fundamentally different from sci-fi movies being made today.

As I waited for my 2001 ticket order to go through, I imagined sitting in Orchestra Hall's red velvet seats, watching celestial images of the sun rising over Earth on the screen above me, while the CSO played the magnificent opening bars of Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra, culminating in Orchestra Hall's mighty organ sounding the final chord into infinity.

This is the movie that made Strauss' tone poem Zarathustra famous worldwide, even though the other four-fifths of the work sound nothing like the stupendous opening bars:

I've always thought that 2001 would be an ideal candidate for concert halls because the movie has large stretches where the only sound is the music. No loud sound effects thunder over the musical score at these moments, as happens frequently in more contemporary sci-fi movies.

In fact, 2001 is notably different from most sci-fi movies today in its luxuriously slow pacing. Compare it with the most recent crop of Star Trek movies, for instance. Star Trek (2009) is a movie that presents a near-constant barrage of action, as if afraid to lose its audience's attention for even one moment.

The sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) is paced at the same near-hysterical speed, even though you would think the success of the first one had earned the filmmakers the right to let the movie breathe every once in a while.

Just about every fantasy or sci-fi movie I have seen in theaters lately has been dominated by hyperactive battle scenes, so I look forward more than ever to immersing myself in Kubrick's hypnotically slow imagery.

If the CSO is willing to present 2001, why not Forbidden Planet or The Day the Earth Stood Still or other classic sci-fi films? Such film concerts would provide a perfect introduction to classical music for the geek community, surely an underserved demographic in classical music today.

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TagsChicago Symphony Orchestra, CSO at the Movies, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick, Metropolis, Fritz Lang, Also Sprach Zarathustra, . Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, Richard Strauss