The gang fight scene in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange is the first real action scene in the whole movie. It involves Alex’s droobs fighting against a rival gang who are trying to rape a woman; the Billy Boys. Earlier in the movie, it is established that Alex has a taste for classical music, and in this very scene, very pleasant classical music plays, contrasting heavily with the actions taking place, an ironic effect I think Kubrick was aware of and was looking to show.
Scene with original soundtrack:
-WHAT TYPE OF MUSIC IS THE SOUNDTRACK IN THIS SCENE, AND WHAT IS USUALLY LINKED WITH THIS TYPE OF MUSIC? (GENRE, ARTIST, ETC)
In the scene, the song The Thieving Magpie Overture by Rossini plays. This is a strange song to put in an anarchist scene such as this, since one usually compares classical music to serious, classy and down to earth things, not to two gangs fighting with furniture over a woman they want to rape.
-ARE THE LYRICS RELATED TO THE CONTEXT OF THE SCENE? IF SO, HOW?
There are no lyrics to The Thieving Magpie Overture, but I believe none are really necessary. The upbeat nature of the song I think is there to emphasize Alex’s heartlessness; he’s out there killing men, trying to rape a woman, and he’s doing it for fun. Its almost like the song was playing in his head while all this was happening, showing he actually enjoys doing the things he does, and thinks there is not a problem with it.
-WOULD THE CHOSEN SCENE HAVE PLAYED OUT IN THE SAME MANNER IF THERE WAS A DIFFERENT (OR NO) SOUNDTRACK?
I think with a different song, as long as it was another classical, lyric-less piece, it would fit fine, as the song itself isn’t directly linked to anything in the scene; it rather is there to represent the emotion Alex is feeling. Having no soundtrack though, would be completely different; the scene would feel like its missing something.
To try and test my hypothesis, I decided to replace the song with another classical piece that is upbeat and kind of happy; the classic Flight of the Bumblebee, by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. I chose this song because it is a very recognizable song, and because I believe it fits the bill that The Thieving Magpie Overture set.
-HOW DID THE SOUNDTRACK ENHANCE THE EMOTION OR ACTION SEQUENCE OF THIS SCENE IN ANY WAY?
Although the new song is a bit less happy than Thieving Magpie, I think it does the job of showing how tormented Alex’s mind is nicely. It has a more damaged sense to it, a more rushed sense, which I think actually enhances the feeling that Alex is in fact mentally damaged and psychotic.
-WAS THE THEME OF THE SCENE CHANGED WITH A DIFFERENT TRACK PLAYING?
The theme in itself wasn’t changed because the theme of the scene didn’t depend on the soundtrack at all; it is a very simple scene if you look at it, just two rival gangs fighting over a woman they can rape. The soundtrack itself is just to emphasize the crazyness of the situation and of the main character.
-DOES THE SCENE FEEL DIFFERENT/STRANGE?
The scene itself doesn’t feel much different other than the fact that it is a bit less happy, but nothing quite noticeable.
-IS MUSIC IN A SCENE LIKE THIS EASY TO EXCHANGE?
I think the music in this scene was easy to exchange, but under certain conditions. There are tons of happy, upbeat and chill classical songs out there, so it isn’t a difficult task to find one to replace Thieving Magpie, but it would be a catastrophe to replace it with a song of a different genre or of a different tone.