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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Composed, Co-Conducted, and Produced by:
Nicholas Hooper

Co-Orchestrated and Co-Conducted by:
Alastair King

Co-Orchestrated by:
Jeff Atmajian
Geoff Alexander
Simon Whiteside
Daryl Griffith

Performed by:
The Chamber Orchestra of London

New Line Records

Release Date:
July 14th, 2009

Also See:
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Audio Clips:
1. Opening (0:29):
WMA (191K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

2. In Noctem (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

19. Of Love & War (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

24. Inferi in the Firestorm (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

Regular U.S. release. An online 5.1 surround sound version of the album was accessible through the enhanced portion of the commercial album.

  Nominated for a Grammy Award.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
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Buy it... if you were among the few who were emotionally engaged by Nicholas Hooper's music for the previous film in the franchise and seek an even more conservative and reserved approach counterintuitive to the story's developments.

Avoid it... if you're hoping to hear Hooper transcend to provide a depth of gravity or memorable themes that can be favorably compared to John Williams or Patrick Doyle's previous Harry Potter scores on any level.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: (Nicholas Hooper) There are both advantages and disadvantages to franchises that contain as many films as that which swept onto the big screen in 2001 from J.K. Rowling's best-selling books. The Harry Potter franchise has had its fair share of production troubles, including the death of a lead actor, constantly rotating crews, and the perpetual shifting of release dates by Warner Brothers. At the same time, it endures into 2009 and beyond despite being the explosive fad of the moment in the early 2000's that caused its initial supersonic hype. The 2007 film directed by David Yates, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, earned $938 million worldwide in a summer debut, and due to the timing of a writer's strike in Hollywood, the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was held more than half a year to both take advantage of the same summer rewards in 2009 and fill a gap in Warner's line-up of offerings. Meanwhile, production of the final duo of films in the franchise, both inspired by Rowling's seventh book, was already well under way. At least, thankfully, the ridiculous religious protests spawned by these films have diminished significantly. The plot of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is one that turned off a fair number of readers, if only because it was the final confirmation that the innocent escapism of the early books in the series had been lost. The forces of Lord Voldemort are in full attack in this story, prompting Professor Dumbledore to spend his final days assisting the now fully hormonal Harry Potter in preparing for his final battle with his nemesis. While the inevitable confrontation and the permutations of magic associated with it are indeed fascinating, The Half-Blood Prince not only suffers from the tragedy of its ending but also the probably necessary but still somewhat obnoxious teenage love stories that slow the pace of the story considerably at times. That said, the tone of The Half-Blood Prince is one of darkness prevailing, announcing its wicked arrival with a harrowing fury. Returning to address the most distressing of entries in the franchise is composer Nicholas Hooper, who accompanied Yates into the realm of Harry Potter after a successful prior collaboration in British television and cinema.

To summarize Hooper's music for The Order of the Phoenix as disappointing is a disservice to the fact that his achievement for the franchise was adequately functional. But that score remains a disappointment because of the legacy created by John Williams and decently emulated by Patrick Doyle previously for the concept. Simply put, Hooper's score wasn't comparable to the emotional depth or orchestral mastery of the first four scores. His work was sufficient but not memorable. Large but not resounding. Careful but not precise. In short, Hooper earned his paycheck. When you're dealing with a franchise that is grounded in the sonic spirit of Williams, however, simply earning a paycheck is not enough. Doyle realized this dilemma when he expanded the scope of the soundscape in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and if only he had better integrated Williams' original material, he could have matched the maestro in terms of overall quality for the realm of Hogwarts. Hooper doesn't earn style points in either regard. He, for the most part, continues to disregard Williams' material and, unlike Doyle, doesn't replace it with a powerful enough new identity to compete with it or compliment it. Thus, in the end, Hooper's music has to be classified as a disappointment. This not only applies to The Order of the Phoenix, but to The Half-Blood Prince as well. Most of the same problems that inhabited the fifth score are pivotal factors in the sixth. These include the lack of truly dominant thematic presence, leaving this score as bereft of an identity as the previous one. It still underplays the dramatic depth of the story, rooting a significant number of cues in a treble region that never comes close to the impressive balance of power that Doyle achieved. It still addresses conversational scenes and others of lesser volume with sparse constructs that are as dull as they are lacking a magical element. It still lacks passion, betraying some wise choices in instrumentation and tone by relying upon a limp environment of too few layers and unengaging performances. All of the enveloping curiosity, the swirling whimsy, and the tangible sense of a growing threat is so marginalized by Hooper in comparison to his peers in the franchise that his two pedestrian scores are completely uneventful. They fill space but not memories. And let's not get started on the absence of "magic" in the ambient tone.

The ensemble for Hooper in The Half-Blood Prince carries over from the previous score, but a more significant role for light choir is an important addition. Thematically, the composer references his own ideas from the previous score and two elements from Williams' work (an improvement, but barely). Once again, Doyle's efforts to musically define Harry and Voldemort are dismissed by Hooper, still a major irritation given the potential for the mingling of the two themes in these later scores. Returning from Hooper's material is, most prominently, the possession theme, representing the encroaching influence of Voldemort but losing what little cohesive touch the theme's adagio format in the other score contained. In fact, casual listeners may not even notice the integration of the idea because it was so nebulous to begin with. While the Professor Umbridge theme understandably isn't reprised in full, its dancing spirit heavily informs "Living Death." The Dumbledore's Army theme from The Order of the Phoenix is not explicitly developed here either. Instead, Hooper devises one new significant theme for The Half-Blood Prince, a choral hymn for Dumbledore. This almost religious, light choral chant in Latin is a limp version of something you'd hear in Hans Zimmer's The Da Vinci Code, very pretty in its rendering but too cerebral for even the most thoughtful wizard's violent decline. Presented in concert format in the end credit cue "In Noctem" (and moved to near the start of the album), this distant choral representation is reprised in the film several times even though it never receives a second full treatment on album. It does appear in fragments throughout the score, especially in "Journey to the Cave," but its construct is so airy that it too passes without much notice. Such caressing beauty is lovely to the ears, but not befitting a scene outside of the beloved character's funeral. The possession theme is the only other recurring identity, and its performances in the trio of climactic pieces are surprisingly underplayed, barely registering at times because of a lack of symphonic power. A new theme for Malfoy in "Malfoy's Mission" is an intriguing piano and synthetic-defined piece that almost conveys the characteristics of a Mark Snow creation; this too is an underdeveloped idea that badly needed some variation or merging with the other sinister material in the work.

And then, of course, we reach the point where we search for Williams' influence on Hooper's score. It's limited to four cues in The Half-Blood Prince, but only one that doesn't rely upon veiled fragments. The 'A' portion of Hedwig's theme makes it obligatory entry over the title opening and portions of the 'B' sequence of the theme are masked in ominous minor key figures later in "Opening." The only full statement of the complete theme exists in "Ginny," and when this statement arrives, it delicately blows open the windows like an incredible breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale room. So distinct is Williams' sense of spirit, adventure, and childhood fantasy in this theme that even fifteen seconds of material unaltered significantly amongst Hooper's otherwise unremarkable music seems far more important than it actually is. The other Williams' theme referenced is part of his Quidditch fanfare, though Hooper so thoroughly engrains it within his own material that the two uses here are not worth mentioning. Williams' identity for Quidditch was so well constructed that he used it to open his closing credits, so what's the purpose of re-writing it here? The same question applied to Doyle, but at least he was able to replace it with a monumental piece of his own. Ultimately, Hooper has once again created a score that doesn't sound like any part of the Harry Potter franchise. He confesses that he handled most of the cues in The Half-Blood Prince based on the individual needs of each sequence. Even within the realm of Hooper's music for the franchise, there is little continuity of enough volume and clarity to serve the purpose of connecting all the dots. The scenes of teen romance are provided dainty rhythmic prancing familiar to the awkwardly over-positive tone of the previous score, even resorting to soft, contemporary acoustic guitar material for almost the entirety of "When Ginny Kissed Harry." The Death Eaters are provided a percussive identity that is extended to elongated metallic percussion rattling and strikes when Voldemort's reach is addressed. The Weasley jokesters are scored with a reprise of the rowdy jig that burst in the "Fireworks" sequence of the previous score. The least effective single moments of the score are those of slight dissonance on strings for fright and extreme tension, culminating in a "The Killing of Dumbledore" cue that is extremely unsatisfying in its weak, shallow stature.

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If you find all of this pounding of Hooper's barely effective and underdeveloped music for The Half-Blood Prince to be unfair, keep in mind that not only are these assignments the kind of once-in-a-lifetime types of opportunities for a man like Hooper (and maybe even Doyle, who made the most of it), but in franchises as tightly woven as this one, there is no escaping the legacy of the music that has come before. You simply cannot forget Williams' identities for Harry Potter. The maestro's music for the franchise is still recognized as outstanding, and if Hooper has done anything with absolute clarity, he has revealed Doyle's The Goblet of Fire as a more impressive score than it may have first seemed (due to the fact that his references to Williams' material were considered too few and far between). Williams reportedly stated at a lecture in the summer of 2007 that he desires to return for the final installment of the Harry Potter franchise. This is, of course, the hope of the mass majority of film music enthusiasts. In fact, a dream scenario would see Williams score both of the two final films adapted from the seventh book and, though extremely unlikely, make use of Doyle's touching theme for Harry's family. The studio could make this happen; Warner executives were reportedly the ones who forced Williams' primary theme into at least one of the later sequels. But Yates will be returning to direct these final two films, and he could be at odds with the studio on the issue of assigning the composer. It remains difficult to imagine that Warner wouldn't jump at the opportunity to bring Williams aboard once again, if only as a cash cow for the music department. In the meantime, listeners will need to consult with Williams' first three scores, Doyle's lone impressive entry, or even James Hannigan's popular music for the current Harry Potter video games. A note of interest involving the score release for The Half-Blood Prince is the availability of a 5.1 surround sound version of the score that be downloaded through the enhanced features on the CD. It's truly unfortunate that this wasn't an option for especially Doyle's massive recording. Hooper's bland music for this franchise simply doesn't connect with the concept. It lacks the depth and gravity to form an emotional connection in the fantasy genre, and without dominant themes to remember, his involvement in the series is irrelevant. Even standing outside the immense shadow of the Williams and Doyle scores, Hooper's second Harry Potter recording is less engaging than his first. For film music collectors, it could define the word "disappointment." Price Hunt: CD or Download

    Music as Written for the Film: **
    Music as Heard on Album: ***
    Overall: **

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 2.42 Stars
Smart Average: 2.58 Stars*
***** 180 
**** 238 
*** 402 
** 519 
* 593 
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    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
   Complete Score
  Drew C. -- 7/15/12 (10:41 a.m.)
   A good choice for Zombies
  Rebecca -- 1/27/11 (3:45 p.m.)
   Lacks continuity, coherence and even accura...
  Luke22 -- 4/1/10 (9:42 a.m.)
   Re: Some interesting things about this scor...
  David -- 9/25/09 (3:27 p.m.)
   Good score by Nicholas Hooper
  Sunil -- 9/15/09 (11:09 p.m.)
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 62:38

• 1. Opening (2:54)
• 2. In Noctem (2:00)
• 3. The Story Begins (2:05)
• 4. Ginny (1:30)
• 5. Snape & the Unbreakable Vow (2:50)
• 6. Wizard Wheezes (1:42)
• 7. Dumbledore's Speech (1:31)
• 8. Living Death (1:55)
• 9. Into the Pensieve (1:45)
• 10. The Book (1:44)
• 11. Ron's Victory (1:44)
• 12. Harry & Hermione (2:52)
• 13. School! (1:05)
• 14. Malfoy's Mission (2:53)
• 15. The Slug Party (2:11)
• 16. Into the Rushes (2:33)
• 17. Farewell Aragog (2:08)
• 18. Dumbledore's Foreboding (1:18)
• 19. Of Love & War (1:17)
• 20. When Ginny Kissed Harry (2:38)
• 21. Slughorn's Confession (3:33)
• 22. Journey to the Cave (3:08)
• 23. The Drink of Despair (2:44)
• 24. Inferi in the Firestorm (1:53)
• 25. The Killing of Dumbledore (3:34)
• 26. Dumbledore's Farewell (2:22)
• 27. The Friends (2:00)
• 28. The Weasley Stomp (2:51)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes notes from the director and composer about the score. Yates' note dates back eight months prior to Hooper's. The CD itself contains none of the enhanced material it advertises, so availability of the online surround sound version, recording session material, and other features may not last forever.

  All artwork and sound clips from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince are Copyright © 2009, New Line Records. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 7/3/09 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2009-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.