Tuesday, September 2, 2014

INTERVIEW: The Shining and A Clockwork Orange Co-Composer Rachel Elkind talks about Stanley Kubrick

Rachel Elkind, producer / co-composer of the scores for the Stanley Kubrick movies A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971) and THE SHINING (1980) talks with TV STORE ONLINE about Kubrick and the haunting images of THE SHINING....

Rachel Elkind and Wendy/Walter Carlos
TV STORE ONLINE:  What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think back about working with Stanley Kubrick on THE SHINING?

ELKIND:  Working on A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971) had been such a positive experience for me, but I can't say the same thing about THE SHINING. Some of the images in that film became very nightmarish to me when I had to watch them over and over while Wendy [Carlos] and I were composing together. There is nothing more traumatizing than an artist who can't create.   In a way, the Jack Torrence character was very Kafka-esque. Stanley was such a brilliant photographer and he had a very wonderful eye, but my experience on THE SHINING wasn't a very happy one I'm afraid.   I stopped working after the experience on THE SHINING.

I just felt that when you saw those images over and over, it was just a negative thing.   Having been to Africa and seeing for myself how film can effect those that aren't familiar with what television is, or what a film is directly, I just didn't want to do more work with all of the real horrors in the world out there because I didn't want to contribute to the world in that way.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Did Stanley ever tell you why he chose not to use the score you did for THE SHINING?

ELKIND:  He never told us directly.  We only heard that it just wasn't what he wanted for the film. Stanley's idea of music was to use needle drops.  What Wendy and I had wanted to do for the film was to give it a very textual feeling, something that was very Takamatsu like.   We would send Stanley lacquer acetates of the music that we were composing for THE SHINING while they were still shooting the film and even before it would get to him we would hear from the people that we were working with us at Warner Brothers that our music was very scary.

TV STORE ONLINE:  I've heard the score and it's very frightening...

ELKIND:  We thought so as well.  We also thought that our score was quite magical in a sense and in particular we were very happy with how the work turned out for example in the ballroom scene.    Although our score was never used, Wendy and I felt totally justified in how we had envisioned the score for THE SHINING when years later,  Stephen King made the ABC mini-series, and his score sounded very much like the one we had did for Stanley.

Rachel Elkind; Photo Courtesy of Wendy Carlos.com
TV STORE ONLINE:  When Stanley asked you and Wendy to create the score, did he ever meet with you or sit down to talk with you about what he wanted for the music for THE SHINING?

ELKIND:  He never explained anything to us.   He never really ever told us what he wanted. We wrote all the music based on Stephen King's novel.  Just before Wendy and I started to work with Stanley on A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, we had been working with Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.    When we heard that Stanley was shooting CLOCKWORK we hadn't even met him yet.    Being in our 20's, we were arrogant about the fact that he hadn't heard about either of us.    At the time I was friends with a literary agent in New York City, and she knew Stanley's lawyer in Los Angeles.  I sent him a recording of our version of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and said, "This is perfect for Stanley's project..." He said, "Well, I'll listen to it and if it's everything that you say it is, then I'll send it to him."   He sent it off to Kubrick, and within a week Wendy and I were on our way to London to meet with Stanley. When we got there he had already cut in some of our music into A CLOCKWORK ORANGE.  With THE SHINING it was a very different experience.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Wendy put out a portion of THE SHINING score on CD a few years back under the title "Rediscovering Lost Scores, Vol. 1..."

ELKIND:  Yes, but that is only about an hour of music.   We actually had about four hours of music that we did for THE SHINING.    The piece we did for the Torrance family driving up to the hotel in the beginning originally featured Jimmy Owens on Trumpet, but Stanley didn't like it.  He thought that it sounded too much like "Little Boy Blue", but maybe he hadn't ever heard Miles Davis (Laughing).

TV STORE ONLINE:  I really like the score you and Wendy completed.  It really seems like it is this exterior force that could exist in the hotel with the family moving against it...

ELKIND:   That was certainly the idea for it.   I did all of the voicing on both the scores for A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and THE SHINING, but I'm really sorry that people never got to hear what Wendy and I did for THE SHINING in its entirety.

Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung