Monday, July 11, 2011

The Music of Harry Potter

Written by Stefan Aune of Fein Violins

The Harry Potter films are one of the most successful franchises in history, and all seven movies that have been released so far are at the top of the box-office earnings list. The 8th and final installment, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2, premieres this week and is sure to meet or exceed the expectations established by the first seven movies. Although most famous for giving us characters like Harry Potter (played by Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (played by Emma Watson), and Ron Weasley (played by Rupert Grint), the movies have also given us a wealth of music that has set the tone and created the atmosphere in which the Harry Potter stories get translated onto the big screen.

Often forgotten or unappreciated, the soundtrack to a movie is a crucial element of cinematic story telling - giving the audience queues on how they should feel or react, communicating the emotions of the characters, and establishing a backdrop on which each scene unfolds. Indeed, without a strong soundtrack a movie would lose focus and have difficulty capturing an audience's imagination. Thanks to the skills of world-class composers and musicians, Harry Potter has been brought to life in sound as well as visually. Songs such as "Hedwig's Theme," the theme from the first Harry Potter movie, are just as recognizably "Harry Potter" as Daniel Radcliffe's face, and resonate with millions of fans worldwide.

BBC's Proms Hedwig's Theme

The Harry Potter story has been given a soundtrack by some of the biggest names in movie music. The music for the first three films was composed and conducted by John Williams, famous for composing the soundtracks to films such as Jaws, Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park. With 45 Academy Award nominations, Williams is the second most nominated person in history behind Walt Disney. Schooled at Julliard, Williams repudiates the common stereotype that Hollywood composition is a lower tier of artistry relative to the world of classical music. He has conducted the Boston Pops Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic, and has worked with such classical stars as Yo-Yo Ma, Michele Zukovsky, Judith Leclair and Dale Clevenger.

For the fourth Harry Potter film, John Williams was backed up with other projects and Scottish composer Patrick Doyle stepped in. Doyle is most famous for his memorable music from the film Henry V. Like John Williams, Patrick Doyle has the musical education and credibility to back up his work in films. He graduated from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music And Drama and started out as a composer and director for the Renaissance Theater Company, writing scores for productions of Hamlet, As You Like It, and Look Back In Anger.

For the fifth and sixth Harry Potter films, composition was handled by Nicholas Hooper, a  British film and television composer who received a Grammy nomination for his work. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows parts 1 & 2 were composed by Alexandre Desplat, a French composer who recently won a British Academy Award for his score of The Kings Speech. As a child, Desplat became proficient on the piano, trumpet and flute, and studied with famous composers such as Claude Ballif and Iannis Xenakis.

In addition to boasting an impressive list of composers, the Harry Potter films have also featured the London Symphony Orchestra and the London Chamber Orchestra, two of the most famous orchestras in the world. They recorded at London's Air Lyndhurst Studios and Abbey Road Studios, two of the premiere recording studios in the world.

Thanks to the talents of the different composers, editors, scorers and performers, Harry Potter has been brought to life and given a soundtrack on the big screen. Just because the soundtracks weren't written to be performed in concert halls doesn't mean they are any less musical or the product of hours of composition, practice, rehearsal, and performance. Some of the top composers, musicians, and recording engineers in the world have contributed to the music of the Harry Potter films, and the movies wouldn't be the same without their hard work.

1 comment:

  1. i want to nknow HOW TO PLAY IT!!! like, the NOTES!!!!!!!!!