By Ty Burr
Updated January 14, 1994 at 05:00 AM EST

On April 3, 1968, film composer Alex North relaxed into his seat for the New York City premiere of Stanley Kubrick’s science-fiction epic, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Like most of the audience, North was stunned from the first frame, but his astonishment came not from what was on the screen but from what wasn’t: his score. Although Kubrick, under pressure from MGM brass, had hired North to record and synchronize 40 minutes of original score to the film, in the end the director did what he had intended all along. He junked North’s music in favor of classical warhorses like Richard Strauss’ ”Also Sprach Zarathustra” and Johann Strauss’ ”The Blue Danube.” At least that’s the story according to the liner notes of Alex North’s 2001 (Varese Sarabande), a new release that finally rescues the lost work from Hollywood’s ash bin. Unfortunately, North isn’t around to hear it. The composer of such daringly orchestrated scores as A Streetcar Named Desire and Kubrick’s Spartacus died in 1991, while planning for this recording-but not before asking longtime friend and peer Jerry Goldsmith to pick up the baton. Would this breathtaking music have served the movie better? Listening to a cut like ”Trip to the Moon,” it’s clear that North sincerely wanted to portray the film’s philosophical vastness. Kubrick, on the other hand, used intentionally cliched classics to give 2001 a slippery, more modern cynicism. Goldsmith remembers his own less-than-impressed impression at the time: ”I didn’t like the Strauss waltz in the docking scene. It had an air of frivolity to it, almost like thumbing your nose.” And North’s reaction? ”He was crushed, I’m sure,” says Goldsmith. ”He never complained to me, but that just wasn’t his way. I’ve been crushed before too, but life goes on. That’s the nature of this business.”