Stanley Kubrick Transformed Scoring With His Music Choices - Raindance

Movie scores have always been something I am interested in. Music touches our souls and our hearts, and Stanley Kubrick is a great example of this. It has been rumored that he made his film crew listen to Mozart before starting each day. Undoubtedly, music is such a vital element in film, it almost plays as much of a role as Jack in The Shining. It is everywhere within our lives. It is an important character in so many films. Even when silent films were popular, there was usually a piano or other instrumental track that was performed.

So much time, effort and meaning go into creating movie scores and soundtracks. It adds another layer to films that images and dialogue cannot. Starting with 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kubrick started something new within his films.

He strayed away from the normal action packed soundtrack, which he had utilized in his films like Dr. Strangelove. Kubrick used the peaceful notes of classical music and it changed the tone of films. This music didn’t emphasize the action but helped deepen the plot and it became necessary in order to tell Kubrick’s stories. It almost separated itself from the film and resonated within the viewer to force them to think differently and adds dimension to the plot and the characters.

The songs he utilized in his films were not original and were not produced solely for his films– they were prerecorded tracks. This alone was a change from hundreds of previous films because directors hired outside artists or bands to record a soundtrack for them for their movie. I couldn’t help but think of Awesome Mix Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 from Guardians of the Galaxy when thinking of the scores of Kubrick’s soundtracks.

With an original soundtrack, the audience would hear a handful of new songs. This added to the mystery of many movies and appeal as people would be excited to hear their favorite bands perform new songs, or just hear new music in general.

Tony Palmer, a British film director of films such as 200 Motels and Bird on a Wire, said of Kubrick, “Before Stanley Kubrick, music tended to be used in film as either decorative or as heightening emotions. After Stanley Kubrick, because of his use of classical music in particular, it became absolutely an essential part of the narrative, intellectual drive of the film.” Music was no longer just there with pretty vocals and fluffy lyrics, but it provided significance to the story. Kubrick changed the way music was used and what it meant.

All of us can agree that Stanley Kubrick’s films were revolutionary both in plot and in production, and how and why he scored his films makes us appreciate this master even more. He made music meaningful in films and now we can’t even imagine a film without it, even dialogue-less films.

Now, doesn’t it make complete sense why “Polymorphia” by Krzysztof Penderecki was the perfect song choice for when it is revealed to Wendy how insane Jack actually is in The Shining? Check out this article about other great uses of music in Kubrick’s films throughout his career.



Loren is working at Raindance for the summer and is originally from the States. Her love for movies started when she was a young child when she first saw Disney's "Treasure Planet." She also loves photography and taking pictures of everything and everyone.