This week the popular Harry Potter site Pottermore gave its members the chance to find their Patronus. Being a Harry Potter fan I, of course, needed to find out this vital information. While answering the questions, I felt the urge to play some mood music and quickly launched Spotify and started from the beginning: The Sorcerer’s Stone. And even after I discovered that my Patronus was a white stallion (thank goodness it wasn’t Neville’s toad...although I see the irony), I could not stop listening to the hour and thirteen-minute long album.
John Williams’ score is just amazing!
The soundtrack really is what makes that film stand out so well. The iconic themes, the way he was able to create mood whether it be fear, wonder, happiness, sadness; John Williams' music is invaluable.
It is still a bit of a surprise to me why he never did ALL the films (there were rumors at the time that he would do the seventh and eighth film). But one of my friends made the interesting observation that the music grows up with the character. As Harry Potter and his friends get older the subject matter and themes get more complex. The music has to change to reflect the changes in the story. While I do think that Williams would have been up for this challenge, I do agree it gave the films a different ambiance and helped to bring out these changes.
But I digress. I am writing this to be a John Williams "fan boy"!
The mood in the beginning of the film is captured perfectly. Eerie and mysterious, this theme is presented by the Celeste bells. This instrument will play a vital part throughout the movie. Why vital? It so perfectly captures the feeling of mystery and wonder.
Here it establishes the mood immediately. A lone figure. On a foggy street holding a contraption that seems to make the street lights go out?! Then a cat who turns into a person. Thank goodness Hagrid comes along! Otherwise, we could have easily been watching the beginning of a horror flick! And it's all because of a bell instrument!
One of my favorite scenes were Williams uses the Celeste is when Harry Potter visits Olivanders to find a wand. The theme, to my knowledge, is never repeated but captures the wonder of the moment.
This is the second time Williams has used the instrument to start a scene and have it lead to the "wonder" moment highlighted by either strings or choir.
It is these "wonder" moments that have always attracted me to Williams’ music (and orchestral music in general). And from a writing angle, they don’t always have to be complex. They often are simple in presentation. It is how that theme is then expanded. Williams does this so well. He will present an idea simply and then begin to fill the background with more harmony and design. He does this so well in the opening track "Prologue" where he takes the Celeste that has presented the theme and has it become part of the harmony or counter-melody. He has done this sort of orchestration in so many of his film soundtracks it has become a part of his sound.
I could go on. But you get the point.
I'm sure the films would have been popular if Williams hadn't composed the music. But I don't think they'd have the same recognition or defining movie moments for fans.
So while trying to find your Patronus (click here), I suggest listening to some Harry Potter! Link below :)