This letter is in response to the Washington City Paper review of Eyes Wide Shut (“Eyes Without a Face,” 7/23).
While there are a number of points in Joel Siegel’s review that I disagreed with, they are matters of taste and opinion that are not worth firing off a letter to the editor about. There was one rather glaring factual error that should be corrected, though. While Jocelyn Pook wrote a number of pieces for this film, including the ambient music that plays during the black-and-white dream sequences, and the gothic organ piece that accompanies the orgy, Siegel attributes the piano piece that is repeated throughout the film, the repeated notes of which he likens to the sound of a piano being tuned, to Pook as well. This piece is not by Pook, nor was it written specifically for the movie. Rather, this is an existing piece from a series of short solo piano works, Musica Ricercata, by Gyorgy Ligeti, a highly respected 20th-century composer whose works have been used before by Kubrick, most notably during the Overture and Entr’acte portions of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and during the “Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite” portion of the same.
Personally, I love Ligeti’s work and think that, as in 2001, in Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick once again used the composer’s music to stunning effect. The tension created by those repeated notes growing ever so slightly more urgent with each repetition caught my breath every time it recurred. Siegel’s perception of the music probably wouldn’t have been any different had he known this, and I don’t know whether or not he would have chosen to describe an existing work by an established composer in the same way that he did when he thought it was a piece written for the film by a relative unknown, but proper credit (or criticism) should be given where it is due.
via the Internet