New Classical Tracks

New Classical Tracks - The Music of Harry Potter

by Julie Amacher, Minnesota Public Radio
July 12, 2011
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St. Paul, Minn. — When the credits began to roll as "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows--Part 1" came to a close last November, my friend turned to me and said, "I can't wait for Part Two." The final movie in the record-breaking boy wizard series opens July 15th, in 3D. Whether you choose to wear those cardboard glasses or not, this epic finale will be an exciting ride, in part because of the movie soundtrack.

As soon as French composer Alexandre Desplat completed the score for the first part of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," director David Yates immediately asked him to score Part Two. Yates requested a very operatic score. Desplat says the first thing that was needed was a strong theme to pull the film together.

"The thread that we decided to have was Harry Potter's mother, Lily, who's connected to another character in the film. I wanted to find a theme that had a lullaby quality to it, something very gentle and tender. A bit ancient, maybe Celtic, but with no Celtic reference in terms of instrumentation. It is of the first hearing, a haunting melody sung by a female voice with no lyrics.

"This pure crystal clear voice, that to us was the echo, the mist of Lily's presence which has been near Harry all around the years, and maybe also near another character that we discover near the end of the film. Lily is not only the reason he is fighting, he wants to know why his parents died. He also knows he's been protected by his mother's benevolence.

"Later in the film you will hear it played by full orchestra in a very epic moment when a dragon is flying with the three heroes on his back. It has both qualities of being very gentle and being very wide and large."

A musical theme very familiar to Potter fans resurfaces at least seven times throughout this film score. Desplat explains why: "We knew from the start that this last episode would require a bit more of the reference of John Williams' wonderful Hedwig theme. The previous film was very much away from the school of Hogwarts, and therefore was going for something more adult. And, now that they are back at Hogwarts, with all their friends, all the kids we've seen growing up through the years, this incredible theme was needed, was calling."

In "Snape's Demise," the misty presence of Harry's mother and Harry's owl Hedwig intermingle. Desplat says this makes perfect sense, "You should never forget that Hedwig's theme is the Harry Potter theme. Each opportunity to pay tribute to that theme and use it, in many ways, you hear celeste play it, the celli play it in another key . . . . It's such a great melody. You can use it as a strong tool because it immediately resonates in the unconscious and the conscience of every listeners."

The best cinematic experiences need to stir emotion. Alexandre Desplat says that's what allows him to be a good film composer. "I need to be moved, excited, frightened. I need to feel a strong connection," he explains. "Of course I hope the visual will be as good as the script. When the combination of both is there, you have a great cinematic experience. You do 'The King's Speech,' 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,' 'The Ghost Writer,' you do 'Harry Potter,' and then you realize that that's the job that you wanted to do, because of this magical combination."

Just like many of us, Alexandre Desplat and his children have been captivated by Harry Potter. We've read the books, and we've grown up with the actors, with the story. I'd be willing to bet that many of us are more adventurous, more imaginative, thanks to J.K. Rowling and her boy wizard. Now we have all of the movies, and the music, to go with those thick, dog-eared books on our shelves.

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