In the film, there is a variety of classical music usage; however, one stands among them, and that is Beethoven’s 9th symphony. This is an important choice, this cannot be another piece because it is not just that Alex conditioned against all the things he enjoyed in his life. On contrary, it is about the society, free will, violence, class differences etc. There is a variety of composers from different times and styles; each will be examined separately.
The film opens with electronic version of Purcell’s The Funeral to Queen Mary. The piece is the dark side of a funeral, not a sentimental but the scary, distance funeral. This is when we first meet Alex, at Kodova drinking milk, in a disturbing sex objects and hunger for ultra – violence. The second time we heart the Purcell is just after Alex finishes to sing ‘’Singing in the rain’’ and starts raping the writer’s wife. After that, we are again at the Kodova for drinking milk. Although Purcell start at the writer’s house, when Alex goes into the milk store, he said ‘’after the disk on the stereo stopped, she started to sing’’; and then Purcell stops, so was Purcell diegetic music? And after, Alex punishes his friend for disturbing 9th symphony, Purcell starts again. Purcell was Alex’s usual state of mind, and it only stops when he heard Beethoven. Since we can be in the Alex’s own world, the sex objects the language, and the background music is Purcell. When he arrives at home, different version of Purcell is played again, started with whistle, and the inner world of Alex is introduced in his room.
Purcell was used mostly in the first part of Alex’s life. We hear it again when as a test, Alex is confronted with a naked model. Is this reminded him his old life, or is it because we saw that Alex didn’t change, just couldn’t perform as he wishes?
When we see the old gang as a police, we hear Purcell again. The gang is from his former life, and we understand even he is not changed, the environment changed for him and he is being punished properly now. He used to see violence choreographically but know the hitting sounds added to the piece disturb the tune, because now he experiences violence and doesn’t receive it as an art form.
We hear the Purcell last time at the hospital in a major tonality. It is a clue that Alex’s life again turn to its own path. He will not return to his former life, but he is recovered from the cure and can create a similar life.
Rossini was a composer that composed very fast, the pieces have similarities and not have a deep meaning. He usually composed comedy operas, and produced a lot of catchy melodies. This is why it is hard to associate the usage of Rossini with the plot of the opera. The meaning hear just a joyful melody in Alex’s mind associated with violence and rape.
Rossini’s two opera overtures is used in the film. ‘’La Gazza Ladra’’ is first used at the fight scene with Billy Boy gang, as an opera staging, with dancing like figures, since Alex’s mind is perceived that fight as a work of art.
The second time we heard the same piece, is when Alex, with a help of a lovely music as he say, beats his gang friends for making decisions for whole group. This is again Alex’s perception of the violence as a good solution and he needs some music in his head to help him, to make his art. The tune continues for a while, in the cat lady scene.
The William Tell overture’s final part is used in the flash forwarded orgy scene. The tune itself is really fast, and really famous. Rossini was very proud with himself in regard of usage of instruments. In other words, he claim he knows well which instrument plays the which part, so there is variety of instrument change in his works. In addition to that, the piece is very choreographic. This maybe the link in Alex’s mind, that he saw that action as a choreography.
The less known, beginning part of the overture used twice. First one was gazing upon the prison, the sad part of Alex’s life. Overtures are a brief summary of the opera, the themes that is used in the certain situations, as a leitmotif or not, and usually by looking at the opera you can understand whether it is a happy ending or not. The sad part of William Tell overture appears at the beginning of 2nd and 3rd act of Alex’s life, and we understand those parts will not be happy parts. When he comes to his own home after he’s cured, he understands that he will not be able to continue his old life, there is a beginning of William Tell Overture in the background, makes us associated with Alex, even though we know he is still the same person, we feel for him.
Rimsky – Korsakov’s Scheherazade is used only once in the film, when Alex reading the big book and dreaming about the violence and sex. In religion, he found nothing, and a piece written for the ‘’One Thousand and One Nights’’ fairytale is nothing related to the religious stories. However, he imagines and understands stories in this way. There is a mocking in that scene, while the father thinks he found peace in the religion, on the other hand he seems so peaceful because he is imagining having sex with maidens etc.
1st and 4th march from Pomp and Circumstances marches is used in the film. 1st march is associated with graduation and it is almost impossible to think separately. So there is a walking proudly feeling in it. When the inspector checks out the rooms, guards are proud of their system. In the following scenes, we saw guards as they do not trust to this cure and trust the prison system. The scene also followed by Alex picked out for a new cure, in a way Alex graduated from prison and take a step toward his freedom.
The 4th march is used when Alex enters to the hospital. There is a ceremony taken place by the guards, march is appropriate for this ridiculous ceremony, there is an irony there.
Alex loves Beethoven. In his room we see Beethoven’s portrait and statue. He hushes his gang in order not to disturb the soprano singing ‘’Ode to Joy’’, and this causes a tension between them, later that will cause Alex to be arrested. After this tension, when Alex goes to his room, he plays 9th symphony 2nd movement followed by a disturbing images as a video clip. In the morning, when his mother arrives the symphony continues without any change, turned into a non-diegetic music.
When he is walking among the music stores, again it is 9th symphony in the background 4th movement. It is like Alex’s mind is closed to other musics and just hear the Beethoven in that moment.
In the prison, the inspector looks at Alex’s room, takes and looks at the Beethoven’s statue, he doesn’t seem surprise, and maybe even he couldn’t recognize the music genius. Then Alex begins his ‘’cure’’, and 9th symphony came across with a visual of Nazis. Very rightfully, Alex starts to scream to this ‘’sin’’.
9th symphony is composed over nationalism after the French revolution. In the 4th movement of the symphony, we are given fragments from previous movements but cellos (representing human voice) reject all as in a recitative mode. Then there is a search for a melody. First there is a hesitation in the melody, then basses plays the melody, then liked the melody but it played lightly. Then each instrument accepts the melody one by one. At 5.00 the melody started to spread. Idealism is spread to the all instruments. Cello starts again, indicating the human voice. Then the bass says ‘’ those are not the melodies we seek’’. The melody is our savior; the joy is in that melody, melody. After, they celebrate the melody in the end with the chorus (majority’s approval). The piece is associated with nationalism.
How 9th symphony could be background music for concentration camps? It is indeed a sin as Alex shouted. Although scientists surprised to find out that Alex listened to Beethoven before, they didn’t close the sound. It was one good thing in Alex’s life that he enjoyed, but they didn’t leave it. For that reason, Alex is become dehumanized and alienated towards the life. He no longer has any enjoyment. The one good thing in his life turned into a torture device. However, the importance is that the piece is written for noble feelings, become a tool in the system that is clearly doesn’t working, used by seemingly ‘’elite’’ class and destroy free will. And at the end of the film, since Alex is ‘’cured alright’’ and remain as Alex after all, celebration part of the finding a melody as a savior, as a solution is played.
Kubrick says Beethoven that those findings, wasn’t enough after all. Systems changed, but we are tools of those different systems still. Look we celebrate that Alex is now a part of the machine, didn’t file a suit and remain a sociopath.