The 2001 Theme: A Project Odyssey

The first first time I remember hearing Richard Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” (composed, 1896) was as the theme of the award-winning movie: “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968). Since first hearing this composition, I have wished to eventually perform it.

For a long time I have been in possession of a piano-solo, sheet-music version of “Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001)” that was published by Screen Gems—Columbia Publications (copyright, 1973). That published piano arrangement credits having been based on the then-well-known arrangement by Eumir Deodato. My arrangement is derived from the sheet-music version, the movie version, and Deodato’s arrangement.

The existence of this project is testament to the role and value of persistence (stubbornness?). 40+ years later, I have finally been able to achieve that goal and to share this work with you.

The Music

Since my previous collaboration with percussionist, friend and colleague, Jason Pike, several significant and positive life-events necessitated him to temporary suspend our musical collaborations. I was enthused when, sometime in the first quarter of 2010, Jason reported that he was ready, willing, and able to resume our project-work. I knew immediately that the “2001 Theme” should be our next project. So, in April (2010) I gave him a set of keyboard recordings for his use (listening) to record and synchronize (his) percussion parts. The original keyboards recorded were the MOTU MX4 (bass), Mr. Ray (Fender Rhodes emulation), Alesis Ion (bass), and Synful Orchestra for strings and brass (including the French-Horns heard near the end of the arrangement).

Life has its way of intruding on our preferred activities (music-making, for instance). I reassured Jason during the intervening months that, though I didn’t wish to rush him, I also wished to propel our project forward. Jason completed the first version of his percussion performance in late October, 2010. Because of the monumental stature of this composition (in my mind, at least…), I was determined to achieve a blend/mix of instrumentation that was agreeable to both of us. The resultant “mix, share, listen, comment, fix, and re-mix” phase continued through several iterations and weeks until, believing that I understood the spirit of Jason’s commentary, I made several more versions of the audio before settling on what is essentially the version heard in this presentation, in late January, 2011.

The Animation

Again, because of the epic stature of the Strauss work, I believed that it deserved a “worthy” animated visual accompaniment. I initially hoped to avoid the effort required to produce my previous Blender animations (Johnny’s Tune, Oscar Peterson’s Etudes and Pieces, Billy Mayerl—Jazz Master, and Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings). So, I attempted to use the iTunes visualizer, record the screen, and then add opening credits and end titling. Though I hesitate to call that exercise a waste of time, the two videos that I made were jerky, and the three Mac screen-recording applications that I tested (including Apple’s QuckTime X screen-recording) were inadequate for the task of recording smooth and fluid movement.

I had sincerely wished to avoid the steep learning-curve associated with significant changes in version 2.5 of Blender (I was previously using version 2.49). Learning Blender has been a substantial task for me, and I was unsure how long it would take me to merely find each needed, but relocated command in the new version. Surprisingly, I have found the 2.5 version logical and quickly relearned what was necessary to use needed features.

The photographs used as this animation’s content are ones taken by the Hubble telescope. You can find these photos and many more at

And, The Music, Again…

In the past, I have characterized my music as being “piano-based.” After producing both the music and the animation, I felt something still was missing and so, I added the acoustic piano part in late June, 2011. The audio portion of the animation includes that acoustic piano part and is the first time that I recorded my Kurzweil PC3K8.

Special thanks to Jason Pike for his outstanding percussion artistry. I hope that you enjoy this presentation of our performance. As always, I welcome your comments.

2 comments to The 2001 Theme: A Project Odyssey

  • Phil Blycker

    My favorite is Adagio for Strings which the master also used as a gorgeous setting for the classic text, Agnus Dei. Stan has done a remarkable job in arranging this stunning beauty.

    My second is the piece called Jessica. I simply shut my eyes and let the music paint various scenes each in stunning color due to the keyboard and percussion arrangemts.

    Thanks for sending them my way!
    Phil on the Mexican border.

  • Kenneth N. Vines, Jr.

    Good job, Stan & Jason! Have thoroughly enjoyed listening to this unique version of 2001 several times over…….BRAVO! Also was intrigued by the Hubble pics……..nice touch!

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