Friday, December 08, 2006

Things I Dig: The Clockwork Orange Soundtrack

So I might make this a bit of a regular Friday feature here on Hell Fell. Consider it a pleasant intelligent sorbet to cleanse the palate after a whole week of pithy mean spirited low-brow jabs at rubbish celebrities and their propensity towards slagging off all the jews in the world, blabbering about how shit Africa is and flapping their privates about like exposed shaven labias are the latest Milan fashion. Basically I'll pick something I really dig and ramble about it for a couple of paragraphs.

This week I'll be discussing the soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange by Wendy Carlos. Now I used to really love the movie A Clockwork Orange but then it got a little bit ruined for me when I discovered that every idiot band and their great grandma had done at least one wanky take-off of the movie in every other video clip ever made. Seriously, watch Vh1 for an hour or so and I guarantee at least one videoclip will feature some prat dancing around in a white tracksuit with underpants on the outside and a bowler hat. I guarantee it.

However, it all worked out because I watched it again a year or so ago and realized that most of the reason why I liked the movie was because of all the banging music in it and not the sight of Malcolm McDowell hitting some fat guy in the groin with a walking stick. Don't get me wrong, I still think the film itself is pretty bloody good; I mean, I challenge you to find a movie with more memorable scenes in it and with a more compelling protagonist than Alex. And such is Stanly Kubrik's genius that I would probably have sex with him if he offered and if he wasn't all dead and stuff. I just dig the movie's soundtrack more.

If you've seen it, I'm sure you can still remember the moody, dystopian music that the film opens with. But if you haven't seen it, here's a bit of a run down: the soundtrack is primarily comprised of classical music but trippily re-interpreted with a synthesizer as the sole instrument. Basically, it's the sort of classical music someone would listen to in a Salvador Dali painting. I know what you're thinking: electronic versions of classical music? Wow. Daggy much? But it's not! It's really kewl!

As far as I know, there are two major versions of this soundtrack: the official one and one released by Wendy Carlos a few years later. I've got both of them on vinyl, because I'm one of those obnoxious twenty-something year olds that still buys music on vinyl, and I think the second one's a lot better. The official soundtrack is dragged down because it has a few normal classical music tracks and the song Singing in the Rain in it whereas the second is all just crazy Wendy Carlos stuff and even has a few tracks extended beyond what was heard in the film. Of the songs on the second album, I really like the batshit crazy March from A Clockwork Orange and the opening theme. But my favourite is probably Time Steps which is a stunning extended electronic soundscape and one of the few original compositions on the record.

Supposedly the soundtrack was hugely influential especially on the early electronic based artists in the seventies and eighties. You can specifically hear it's influence in a lot of Brian Eno's work, especially in his collaboration with David Bowie, Low. It also became the official sound for weird sci-fi movies for the next decade or so, albeit without the classical music angle. For example, check out the music in Logan's Run and Blade Runner.

I like a couple of recent electronic artists like Boards of Canada, Autechre and Aphex Twin. But there's something compelling and atmospheric about early synthesizer based electronica that most later, more precise, computer based, stuff have failed to capture.


Johnny Strike said...

Coincidentally, two films I've seen recently featured Clockwork Orange scenes: "Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny" and "Colour Me Kubrick". (But since the latter is a Kubrick-themed film anyway, I suppose it's not such a big surprise).

The last time I saw Clockwork Orange, I (somewhat embarassingly) couldn't help but refer to eggs as "eggy-weggs" for at least 6 months afterwards.

Hoardmeister said...

Oh, dear, I haven't seen "Clockwork Orange" since it came out. Although I did purchase the Wendy Carlos album before he/she/it was Wendy and had some male was so long ago, it was an LP. I plead that I was a mere wee child...well, perhaps not so wee, but a child nonetheless.

My governess wanted to see the film and so she snuck me in under her cloak. Unfortunately, the game was up when I insisted on borrowing my mother's eye-liner, painting exaggerated lines around my eyes and took a swing at Mama with a walking stick.

We had a new governess within 24 hours. Pity.

Captain Great said...

Johnny: I can relate. I referred to sexual intercourse as "the old in out, in out" for an embarrasing proportion of my teenage years.

H.M: Yeah, she used to be known as Walter for some wacky reason. God, I hope your mama was alright after being taken to with a walking stick!