by Dan Goldwasser
After scoring the first three Harry Potter films, and writing a plethora of themes, composer John Williams passed the baton on to composer Patrick Doyle, who wrote his own themes, but kept Williams' "Hedwig's Theme" and integrated it into his score. As the books have progressively gotten darker, so have the films, with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire taking advantage of Doyle's ability to write lush melodies and strongly dramatic action cues.
Director David Yates, who is relatively unknown to audiences in the USA, was tapped to direct the next film, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and insisted in bringing along the composer he has collaborated with in the past, BAFTA-winner Nicholas Hooper, also relatively unknown to American audiences. Hooper won over the Warner Brothers music department, and subsequently wrote over two hours of score for the film, which was recorded this past spring at Abbey Road, in London. Mixed by Peter Cobbin and recorded with the Chamber Orchestra of London, Hooper - like Doyle - wrote new themes, while retaining "Hedwig's Theme" for key moments.
For people unfamiliar with Hooper's style, the biggest "concern" expressed has been a question of whether or not his score will fit within the palette firmly established by Williams for the first three films. Hooper's talent for strong melodies, and solid writing should put those fears to rest. The score to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix has two prominent new themes: the Professor Umbidge Theme, and the Possession Theme. There also appears to be a recurring motif for Dumbledore's Army, and a few other bits and pieces that turn up a few times, as well as an orchestrational wink-and-nod to some of Williams' previous themes.
The soundtrack is presented out of chronological order, undoubtedly for a more enjoyable listening experience, but be warned that the track titles do contain plot spoilers. SoundtrackNet hasn't seen the film (and it's been a while since we've read the book), so we're not entirely sure what's happening during all of the music cues, and it's possible (even likely!) that what follows could be incorrect in some aspects. But we're excited to continue our Summer 2007 coverage for you with an exclusive track-by-track "first listen", with sound clips, of Warner Bros. Records' Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, hitting stores on July 10th, 2007.
SPOILER WARNING: The track titles give some plot details away!
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1. Fireworks (1:49)
A playful track, a rousing orchestra kicks in with some fast upbeat music. It progressively builds, and then suddenly drops away, leaving us with drums and a wailing electric guitar, adding a rather surprising contemporary element to it. Now the orchestra kicks back in, and the whole piece crescendos into a fun and exciting finish.
2. Professor Umbridge (2:35)
Tremolo strings slowly ascend, leading into a rather jaunty rendition of Professor Umbridge's Theme on high strings with chimes. Soft woodwinds join in, and soon the full orchestra is playing the A-part of the theme. Now the B-theme comes in, a rising build-up that is very Williams-esque (reminiscent of parts of Hook), utilizing the French horns. Now the A-theme is played on oboe, then full orchestra, leading into the B-theme played on clarinet and glockenspiel, backed by strings. Flutes flit lightly, and then we're treated to a full version of the A-theme. The track ends with a slightly ominous downward movement of the strings and glockenspiel, softly fading out.
3. Another Story (2:41)
Hedwig's Theme is heard here, as the film (presumably) opens. It's a little darker, with some orchestrational fluttering, and builds up into a large statement, but the horns never get to finish - instead it transitions into piano and some distant atmosphere (possibly electronic), with soft string tremolo. Now the flutes alternate up and down while the strings swell slowly, and the French horns restate a bit of Hedwig's Theme in an ominous and foreboding manner.
4. Dementors in the Underpass (1:45)
Deep low end drums pulse, and then low strings rumble and high string quietly appear, and then suddenly they hit loudly. Strings randomly create a frenetic dissonance as low choir appears. Now it all builds upwards, sounding much like Williams' Dementors music from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Large choir appears, and then strings builds upwards to a dramatic chord that falls off, leaving trailing brass behind.
5. Dumbledore's Army (2:42)
Soft flutes backed by high strings play a new motif that is evocative of "Windows to the Past". But it doesn't play that theme, instead the flute is slowly joined harp and then pulsing strings start a rhythm. Now clarinet starts playing a rather buoyant line, and are then joined by the French horns. It's upbeat and playful, and has the same tone as the "Fireworks" cue, but without the celebratory nature and electric guitar.
6. The Hall of Prophecies (4:27)
Distant atmospherics create an uncomfortable soundscape, and soft choir can be heard in the background. It slowly builds, and French horns ominously play a variation on Hedwig's Theme as the strings slowly crescendo. An electronic "reverse-hit" is heard, and the strings creep around with soft drum subtly pulsing in low-end. Brass start to build, joined by the strings, and after a hit, a tense rhythmic ostinato starts to build. The energy has a fugue quality to it as timpani rolls bring more of the string sections, and soon the whole orchestra is racing. A pause, and the choir swells, and then the race is back on, and it builds intensity into the end of the track.
7. Possession (3:20)
Dissonant orchestra and choir quickly build into a dramatic chord that falls away, leaving us with soft tremolo in the strings. The Possession Theme is slowly heard here, and ascending and descending melody played very softly (and almost subtly) in the low strings. The rest of the strings join in as the piece builds, growing into a rousing crescendo, and then it turns dark and dissonant, then falls away. A mournful solo cello rises from the mix, and the track ends with a soft timpani roll.
8. The Room of Requirements (6:09)
Descending glockenspiel creates a texture with quiet choir and strings as the piece opens. A wave rushes over the music, and now tremolo strings hold, as chimes and glockenspiel play Professor Umbridge's Theme. A clarinet joins in, and there is a somewhat (dare I say) magical vibe to the track as strings swell in major and minor chords, creating a recurring motif. The harp joins in the theme, and soon there is a bit of a percussive melodic groove building upwards. It leads into a bassoon playing the theme with backing strings. Now the strings get a little more dissonant, but the theme continues, soon carried over into the French horns, which start to bounce the melody off of the woodwinds. Now the flutes have it, and soon the strings get into the theme, building upwards. The horns help out a bit, and now there is a pulsing in the strings as a new motif is heard in the brass, then long strings, as the rest of the orchestra rises up with the theme. It climaxes in the major-minor motif, and ends on a rousing note.
9. The Kiss (1:56)
Lush strings swell as glockenspiel and chimes gently provide backing textures. There is no distinct melody here, but the chord changes create an emotional and almost romantic vibe. It builds up into a large crescendo full of warmth, and then closes nice and satisfied.
10. A Journey to Hogwarts (2:54)
Strings run up and down as Hedwig's Theme is heard on horns, flutes and brass, and now tremolo strings back a clarinet, which is then joined by other woodwinds. Now a new melody is played on the flutes, with lush strings backing it. It builds upwards into a playful bit of music that has what sounds like an accordion repeating a pattern, and then the strings hold a tremolo as it ends.
11. The Sirius Deception (2:36)
Dark and ominous strings slowly rise (hinting at the Possession Theme) with electronics subtly adding a bit of distortion. Now a rhythmic ostinato kicks in, with dramatic brass and strings kicking it up a notch, building into a crescendo. Suddenly the track takes on a positive and breathtakingly uplifting version of what seems to be the Dumbledore's Army Theme as it rides to the end.
12. The Death of Sirius (3:58)
Extremely low pulses (which are more felt than heard) start the track, with deep choir and tremolo strings, signifying something ominous to occur. The choir and strings rise upwards into a frenzied crest, and now extremely low strings are heard, with a subtle swirling flange effect behind it. The orchestra starts to play dramatically, building upwards, leading into strong ostinato bursts accentuated with percussion, and suddenly a choir bursts through. Now it's gone, and the strings continue their fast-string buildup and then the choir is back, building to a climax. Now soft emotional strings, with a hint of distortion, slowly descend into sorrow and the track concludes.
13. Umbridge Spoils a Beautiful Morning (2:40)
Flute, strings and harp awaken and playfully lead into a pizzicato version of Professor Umbridge's Theme. It's softly backed by tremolo strings with occasional swells. After a brief pause, dissonant strings hold as chimes play the theme, and it ends on another string swell.
14. Darkness Takes Over (2:58)
Ominous strings build upwards as low timpani softly rolls in the back. Dramatic strings emotionally play as a flute repeats an ostinato and then the French horns softly come in with a motif that sounds like a cross between Doyle's "Voldermort" and "Harry in Winter" themes. A dramatic chord is played, with snake-like percussion grinding, and now atmospheric wind and timpani rolls can be heard beneath swirling strings and a bit of Professor Umbridge's Theme is heard on glockenspiel. Low strings start to swirl as trombones darkly build up with electronics and now the strings get faster and accentuated with brass hits. Now military snare appears, as a rhythm is established and a motif is repeated, slowly building in the brass. A swirl of dissonant strings and then the track ends.
15. The Ministry of Magic (2:48)
A playful solo bassoon starts out with a repeating motif that is soon joined in by pizzicato strings and then a clarinet and other woodwinds. It has a very Peter and the Wolf vibe to it, and soon strings are descending while a glockenspiel provides support. Now a dissonant chord is heard, and a solo flute is heard briefly before the strings start a descending ostinato that repeats and grows into a dramatic and emotional crescendo. Now the bassoon is back as the French horns play, then the flute flirts as the strings keep a soft rhythm going forward. The track ends with things slowing down, and then a wave rush is heard ending it all.
16. The Sacking of Trelawney (2:15)
Emotional strings backed by glockenspiel play a new melody, tinged with sadness. Lush chords swell and it builds, climaxing right into the next track.
17. Flight of the Order of the Phoenix (1:34)
Snare drum taps out a rhythm joined by the strings, as things slowly build, growing quickly into a rather boisterous piece. Fast strings swirl around as the rhythm is maintained and what sounds a variation on Dumbledor's Army motif is heard on the brass and strings, before coming to an end.
18. Loved Ones & Leaving (3:15)
Dignified French horns and strings play emotionally as the album comes to a close. There is a sense of longing, with strong chords. Now glockenspiel and woodwinds backed by tremolo strings tap softly, before going into an emotional harp-backed version of a melody played on strings with flute. It slowly builds upwards to a concluding and strong final note.
Much like the book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is not an action-heavy score, but there are plenty of tense and exciting moments. With numerous melodic moments, a few sprinkles of Williams' Hedwig's Theme and a few passing orchestrational references (intentional or otherwise) to Patrick Doyle's score, Nicholas Hooper has composed as score that should fit nicely in the Harry Potter musical franchise. The album runs 52-minutes in length (leaving over an hour of score unreleased), and will hit stores on July 10th, 2007. The film, released by Warner Brothers, will be in theaters on July 11th.
Special thanks to Debi Streeter, Darrell Alexander and Ayal Kleinman