Media Review: Harry Potter Soundtracks

2 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Media Monday

In honor of the Potter-Thon’s last week, I decided to do something special – my very first musical media review!

Title: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Media Type: Feature Film Soundtrack
Composer: John Williams (of Star Wars fame, for those of you who aren’t über-geeks like me)
Origins: Purchased

My Review: I’ve been wanting to do a Music review for some time now. After all, I started the blog on the principle that I would review books, film and music and in the 5 months I’ve been blogging, I’ve yet to do a musical post. So, what better to start with than the soundtrack that started it all, way back when I was in Junior High and still didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up? And what better excuse than this lovely celebration of all things Potter?

Yes, you read that right, I’ll only be doing one and three for this review. I have some very good reasons for this. Reason 1) I don’t own Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It’s really hard to review something that you haven’t heard separately from the film, and I don’t have that possibility because I haven’t had access recently. Reason 2) After POA, they changed composers (with some very good results) and I don’t want to be comparing apples to oranges.

This soundtrack, when I first heard it way back when, was my introduction to John Williams (yes, I did make it all the way to High School before seeing Star Wars. Yes, that does make me a bad nerd/geek/dork). As such, I’ve always been a bit partial to this one, even though since then I’ve heard many of his other works and discovered that he is one of those composers that writes the same piece 50 million different ways. Even after hearing 25 of those 50 million, I think there’s something particularly special about this one. He really captured the spirit of Harry, and by doing so he captured my ears. This was the first time I walked out of a film and more than anything else that stuck with me, it was “I have to have that soundtrack!” (Actually the first might have been Lord of the Rings, they came out very close to each other and had a combined effect on me.) It also led to me deciding to be a flutist, which is another story entirely, but explains how much effect it had on me.

Another note-worthy thing about this soundtrack is that it co-founded (with Lord of the Rings) the modern trend for epic soundtracks on less than epic movies. Not that Harry Potter isn’t epic. But before Harry Potter the only films that really got huge soundtracks were the huge epics, like Star Wars and Superman (which were both composed by John Williams… hmmm, maybe there’s a reason lol). Now, go to any film, and it’s going to have some originally composed tracks on it, probably on a large scale. My personal favourite and focus of my current research is Shrek. It started as a stand alone (as did Pirates of the Carribean, which is my close second) and yet it has a mostly original soundtrack worthy of the giant epics. Filmmakers suddenly started paying more attention to what the music did to the audience instead of just slapping on something that fit like the Skater’s Waltz or Blue Danube *coughspaceodessy2001cough*.

A few more specific notes:
Hedwig’s theme is incredibly complex and yet highly memorable – I bet anyone who has seen the film enough times could whistle through the first few notes at least – and beyond that it’s a gorgeous representation of this little boy who is normal, and yet not. This theme will probably long outlast the series, and I’m so excited for that!
I have heard through the grapevine that the soundtrack for Chamber of Secrets is much like the soundtrack for Sorcerer’s Stone. This is highly disappointing, and much of why I haven’t bought it yet (though I suppose someday I will just to see for myself).
Prisoner of Azkaban, on the other hand, is a gorgeous reworking of the original material. It is so well reworked that it leaves me wondering if it was truly Williams writing it, or if he had some one of his students take the themes, rework them, and then he signed off on it. Not that I’m dissing Williams or anything, but it’s the most unusual score I’ve ever heard from him, and it has been known to happen that way, especially with the composers who are in high demand, like Williams or Hans Zimmer (who has done practically every film you’ve ever heard of, or it seems like it). I particularly like “Aunt Marge’s Waltz” and “Buckbeak’s Flight” from this one and there is a fabulous flute solo about halfway through “Secrets of the Castle” that I’ve been trying to transcribe and learn for years it’s so flippin’ HARD!

Anyway, overall thoughts: If you like soundtracks then definitely check this one out!

Since this is a new kind of review, I would love to know what you think! Would you be interested in more music reviews?

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2 Responses to “Media Review: Harry Potter Soundtracks”

  1. Lori says:

    This is a very interesting post! I honestly don't pay that much attention to soundtracks (I know that's horrible of me!) but my hubby it a HUGE Star Wars nerd so I hear lots of things about John Williams! Great post!

  2. Anne says:

    It's actually not all that horrible – most people don't. In fact, most filmmakers are counting on that! It's only weirdos like me that actually look at them and say "Hey there Composer, I see what you did there! Nice one!" =)

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