Soundtrack Saturday: “The Shining”

Written by Film, Soundtrack Saturday

“Come play with us forever and ever and ever.” Kelly Stitzel invites you up to room 237 to listen to The Shining‘s epically creepy soundtrack.

“Some places are like people — some shine and some don’t.” Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers) in The Shining (1980)

I first saw The Shining when I was 10 or 11 years old. It was a cold Saturday afternoon in the winter, and it was just me and my dad at home. I think he was in his basement office watching sports or something and I was in the living room doing what I normally did on a cold Saturday afternoon — watching television.

I had been flipping around the channels and stopped on one of the cable channels, probably Cinemax. The scene that caught my attention was that of a little boy standing on a stool in front of a bathroom sink, talking to himself in the mirror — well, talking to his finger, actually. I was intrigued, so I kept watching.

For the next couple of hours my mind was blown. The Shining was unlike any film I’d seen before. Everything about the movie scared the shit out of me, yet when it was over I wanted to watch it again. After that first viewing I looked for it on cable, wanting to see it from the beginning. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. (This is where I tell you that I’ve never gotten around to reading the book and I’m ashamed of that.)

When I was older — probably late high school or early college — I bought the movie on VHS and watched it every night for a week. I was obsessed with it. With every viewing, I saw something I hadn’t seen previously. And since I wanted to be a writer, watching what happened to Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) as he descened into madness fascinated me. And every time I sat down to write something after that, I thought of him.

All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl.

All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl.

All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl.

All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl.

All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl.

All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl. All work and no play makes Kelly a dull girl.

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What was I talking about? Oh, right.

One of the creepiest aspects of the film, at least for me, is its soundtrack. What was origingally supposed to be a completely electronic score, composed by Rachel Elkind and Wendy Carlos, with whom director Stanley Kubrick had worked with on A Clockwork Orange (1971), wound up becoming a score almost entirely comprised of works by Béla Bartók, Krzystof Penderecki, Gyorgi Ligeti and was stylistically similar to the score for Kubrick’s 1968 masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey. In fact, several of Ligeti’s pieces were used in that film as well.

Very little of the score that Carlos and Elkind had composed was used in the film; only their adaptation of Hector Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique,” which is played over the opening credits, “Rocky Mountains,” which can be heard during the Torrance family’s drive to the Overlook Hotel, and a few other brief snippets made it to the film’s final cut.

Though I’ve never heard the original score by Carlos and Elkind, I have a hard time imagining any music better suited to soundtrack this film than what was chosen by Kubrick. I’ve been obsessively listening to this music since I acquired it, much like I did with the film when I first bought it on VHS all those years ago. Perhaps it’s because I’ve seen the film so many times, but when I put on my headphones, close my eyes and listen to this music, I can see every scene of the movie as clearly as if I were watching it. I’m sure Carlos and Elkind’s score is brilliant and haunting, and I would love to see a cut of the film released using their score. But for me, the music that was ultimately used is practically perfect.

An official soundtrack album, which only featured about a third of the music used in the film, was released on vinyl only, but was taken off the market due to licensing issues and has never seen a proper rerelease. Some of the Carlos/Elkind score can be found on Carlos’s album Rediscovering Lost Scores, Vol. 2.

I’ve done my best to compile the songs that were used in the film. It’s probably one of my favorite soundtracks I’ve written about and I highly recommend you listen with the lights off.

Wendy Carlos & Rachel Elkind – The Shining (Main Title)
Wendy Carlos & Rachel Elkind – Rocky Mountains
Gyorgy Ligeti – Lontano
Béla Bartók – Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta III
Krzysztof Penderecki – The Awakening of Jacob
Krzysztof Penderecki – Utrenja (Ewangelia)
Krzysztof Penderecki – Utrenja (Kanon Paschy)
Krzysztof Penderecki – De Natura Sonoris No. 1
Krzysztof Penderecki – De Natura Sonoris No. 2
Krzysztof Penderecki – Polymorphia
Jack Hylton & His Orchestra – Masquerade
Ray Noble & His Orchestra – Midnight, the Stars and You
Ray Noble & His Orchestra – It’s All Forgotten Now
Henry Hall & the Gleneagles Hotel Band – Home

And, just because (though I know you’ve seen it before):

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