by Tony Maygarden

A Clockwork Orange LP cover

The soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange came in gatefold cover and non-gatefold cover versions. Inside the gatefold cover are twelve color stills from the film.


The awesome and ominous A Clockwork Orange (1971) produced, not surprisingly, an awesome and ominous soundtrack. Kubrick hired Moog synthesizer virtuoso Walter Carlos to write original music, and to create synthesized versions of classical compositions by Beethoven ("Ninth Symphony" movements two and four). Purcell ("Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary," which was used as the film's title music) and Rossini ("William Tell Overture" and "The Thieving Magpie," which was not used in the film). Carlos original music included "Theme from A Clockwork Orange (Beethoviana)" and "Timesteps." Carlos had already finished "Timesteps" and the fourth movement to Beethoven's Ninth before Kubrick had heard them. The finished tracks were sent to Kubrick on the chance that he might use them in the film, and he did.

Like 2001, music plays a fundamental role in the workings of the film. Carlos' electronics add a sense of unease and anxiety to the dystopia populated by Alex and his gang-mates.
Kubrick's genius stroke, though, was the use of classical themes. Unlike 2001, the grand and majestic compositions seemed out of place amidst the squalor, brutality and terror shown on the screen. When Alex is being brainwashed into foregoing violence, his doctors can't understand why he screams in agony when they play Beethoven in the background. Little do they realize that it is Alex's favorite music, and that he realizes in the future he'll get sick to his stomach if he hears his beloved Beethoven again.

Other music on the soundtrack include the baroque sounding, "Overture to the Sun," the song "I Want to Marry a Lighthouse Keeper" by Erika Eigen, and standard orchestral performances of works by Beethoven, Rossini, and Elgar..

In 1972 Walter Carlos released the complete score to the film, which includes the full 13:50 version of "Timesteps," the synth version of "The Thieving Magpie," and "Country Lane," which utilized the religious theme "Dies Irae," rainstorm sounds, and a bit of "Singin' in the Rain.."

A Clockwork Orange LP cover

Walter Carlos' complete score to A Clockwork Orange.


Barry Lyndon (1975) was Kubrick at his most meticulous. This costume drama epic set in 18th century England was faithful in every respect to the period. Kubrick even went so far as to film all the interiors only with candle light. The music Kubrick selected for the film is equally authentic.

Gone are the synths and modern composers. In their place are traditional folk songs played by The Chieftains, and classical music by Schubert, Vivaldi, and J.S. Bach. The "Sarabande" by Handel was used over the main and titles and during the duels, and could be called the "Barry Lyndon Theme Song."

The soundtrack to Barry Lyndon is one of those rare soundtracks that is nice to listen to on its own, outside of the context of the movie.

Barry Lyndon LP cover


Shifting gears in a major way, Kubrick's next film was a adaptation of the Stephen King horror novel, The Shining (1980). Wendy Carlos and producer Rachel Elkind were brought on board again to create title music. Utilizing the "Dies Irae" theme and some delightful howling synth lines makes for an effective opening. Carlos and Elkind also recorded "Rocky Mountains" full of rich, dark, creepy synth textures.

Kubrick again turned to classical compositions, using "Lontano" by Ligeti (he of the screaming strings -- shades of "Psycho!"), "Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta" by Bartok, and three compositions by Penderecki that have an avant-garde sound to them (lots of dissonance and more screaming strings). Rounding out the soundtrack is "Home" by Henry Hall and the Gleneagles Hotel Band, heard in the ballroom scene.


The Shining LP cover


After a seven year hiatus, Kubrick was back with Full Metal Jacket (1987) , his starkly realistic look at a group of Marine recruits destined for Vietnam. Abigail Mead was assigned the task of writing the original music. "Full Metal Jacket" utilizes the call-and-response of the drill instructor and the recruits over a heavy dance-hall style beat. The rest of side one of the LP is taken up with songs from the period, including "Hello Vietnam" by Johnny Wright. Other rock hits used in the soundtrack include "Wooly Bully," "Chapel of Love," "I Like It Like That," "These Boots are Made for Walking," and "Surfin' Bird." "The Marine's Hymn" is thrown in for good measure.

Side two of the LP features the original music by Mead, performed on a Fairlight Series III synth. The music doesn't work too well outside of the context of the film. One section features martial drumming and synth sound effects, while other sections are so quiet you wonder if the record is still playing.


Full Metal Jacket LP cover