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The comment that became a review
• Posted by: Vincent   <Send E-Mail>
• Date: Thursday, July 23, 2015, at 2:41 p.m.
• IP Address:

As I recall, Hooper conducted Possession himself.

People complaining about Doyle's new sound only have limited reasons to do so. Yes, he could have re-used more themes. But no, the film wasn't suitable for Williams' happy-go-lucky style for the first two films. Yes, Prisoner of Azkaban is darker, but no, Doyle does not have to ape Williams like a fanboy. And above all, Patrick Doyle is a composer with enough talent to be allowed to do his own thing. If WB wanted Williams' music, well, they could have bribed Williams. Also, let's not forget that a Doyle score full of Williams-isms might have sounded incredibly forced and un-Doyle-like.

I wonder which kind of ideas did not make the recording. Also, it's very curious that Hooper's final work still allowed him to write the sixth score, but more on that in my upcoming HP6 reaction.

To say that the recording is crystal-clear sounds a little bit over the top to me. When you listen to the centre-channel of the end credits suite on the DVD, specifically 'the Ministry of Magic', you can hear an entire flute section almost inaudible on the stereo version. To be frank, my CD sounds very bad.

It would be interesting if you had elaborated on that balance of power in the score, because for me this is its big problem: it never sounds powerful enough for the franchise. For example, when the children are running from the Death Eaters in Hall of Prophecy, the tension is certainly there, but the power isn't, at least for the most part of the cue. The smashing prophecies in the film even sound more powerful than the music accompanying them. This allows the sound of breaking glass to shine, though.

To say that theme references might be absent from the album is a stupid excuse. They are present in the film, which people can watch, and now also in the leaked recording sessions that provide a few very wise choices, some of them mercilessly dialed out.

I agree that Hooper should have made references to Doyle's masterpiece. Never would 'Harry in Winter' have been more appropriate than for 'The Kiss'. Instead, we hear anonymous and vaguely magical music: pleasant, tender and gentle it certainly is, but that's all. What's more, 'The Kiss' is lacking a very essential message: the message that Cho isn't in love with Harry, not really. Apparently Yates and his team went to see a mourning psychologist to understand Cho better, so why on earth didn't they brief or bring Hooper? The beautiful thing about the Harry in Winter concert arrangement is that it ends on a very sad and more emotional note than the theme itself: this proves that Doyle understood, either because he knew the story or because of personal intelligence, that Cho's feelings for Harry were ultimately going to be doomed.

The placement of Hedwig's Theme is at times awkward, and in Half-Blood Prince even outrageous, but I won't rant about that here. On the leaked recording sessions, you can hear two unused Hedwig's Theme references: one that would probably have underscored Molly hugging Harry during Christmas, and a very emotional and effective rendering as Harry hands the prophecy to Malfoy. The Christmas variation would probably have worked somewhat if the hug was interrupted by Harry going snake-ish, which would have made it a very interesting scene indeed, but it's not the right theme for this occasion: Harry's Wondrous World or the Family Theme come to mind here.

Why neither Doyle's or Williams' Voldemort theme was used in this score is simply beyond comprehension. For all Yates' quotes about his films being character studies, you'd think he'd have wanted some musical reference to the villain. Instead, let's just throw in more anonymous threatening horns playing random notes. Very frightening indeed. And when Harry dreams of Cedric, we don't need emotional music at all.

Doyle didn't make full Hedwig's Theme references either, but then again, I like how the B section can go unused. It makes for more musical surprises, such as Hooper's rendering of the B section in 'Another Story'. Suggesting that the dismantled theme might represent a world in chaos is an idea that never popped into my head, and it's quite interesting to think about it that way. Wouldn't such theories be too big a leap, though, especially when we're talking about Hooper's scores? Also, cues don't have to be listenable all the time, though I do agree they should be on album, to a certain extent at least. Hooper also references 'A Window To The Past', by the way, in Storm and Hogsmeade, but its placement (during the storm) is questionable.

'Professor Umbriddge' is not a suite, it's just a cue underscoring her inspections. The theme, however, does fail to inspire hatred, and this is Hooper's general problem with this assignment (more later). During the trial, he did write very effective music for Umbridge, again mercilessly dialed out: the creepy violins and glockenspiel immediately tell you how twisted this woman really is, but critics obviously don't mention this bit because it's edited out. Not that everything is Yates' fault: in the scene near the ending where the character really becomes a sort of King Geoffrey - thank God she didn't execute anyone -, Hooper chooses to underscore her office sequence with ambient, low string chords, not even hinting at her theme. And as the review mentions the awkward care-free instruments of the theme, it seamlessly leads mine to another problem with this score.

Hooper fails to really convey tension, most of the time at least. He doesn't seem to have read the book or understand the characters that well, which is a disaster if your director claims to be doing character studies. His care-free music fails to grasp the gravity of certain situations. When the Order rescues Harry, for instance, the music is all happy and jolly, while Harry is still feeling isolated, fearing the hearing and emotionally, almost vengefully, thinking how he's finally leaving his Muggle hellhole (my own phrasing). Later in the picture, when Hermione starts Dumbledore's Army, the music is again jolly and happy and fails to grasp the seriousness of the situation: a war is coming, the Ministry is turning a blind eye and a teenage gang starts a rebellion, a gang that has The Boy Who Lived as its teacher, for heaven's sake. Even in Room of Requirement, Hooper doesn't seem to make these connections, he makes it sound as if they're having a blast practising spells. The same happens when a mini-DA decides to fly to London: Sirius is being tortured, Harry is possibly experiencing severe scar-aches, but the music is all bubbly and care-free. Very awkward indeed. 'Snape's Worst Memory' is also something Hooper really didn't seem to understand at all. Granted, the film version of that chapter was a total mess, but you don't have a glockenspiel playing fluffy music when a main character is being bullied and humiliated. Finally, The Ministry of Magic music: the setting might be wondrous - I have no idea whether the film shows a wondrous or foreboding building because I'm blind - but still, Harry doesn't go there to have a look at how wizards work or to do some nice shopping. He has been summoned to attend a hearing, and again Hooper doesn't write music foreboding enough. I would call this approach incompetent, not refreshing.

Then, the possession theme. Hooper seemed to be proud of it because even Pottercast, the podcast of The Leaky Cauldron, talked about it when Hooper gave interviews before the film was released. I remembber hearing Sue Upton saying something about how the theme is played very rapidly during the Department of Myestery Chase (Hall of Prophecy) and I was utterly dumbfounded. Possession theme? Does that even exist? I don't know whether it's because, like the review says, the theme is punctuated by dissonant tones or because it's slow, but there's something really problematic about it, something unmemorable, something... something that doesn't make it sound like a theme at all, and it really intrigues me why so many people seemed to find it vague because Doyle's Voldemort theme was in the same low register, yet one performance was enough for me to hum it. Hooper seems to have tried his best, though: the idea of having it play during the chase and its optimistic major-key versions towards the end of 'Possession' are all very wise and interesting choices, it's just the theme itself that causes the problem. The fact that Yates decided to dial the theme out in the 'LOOK AT ME!' sequence doesn't help either: Hooper originally wrote clear statements of that theme to underscore the scene. It's even more disturbing when I look at other themes Hooper wrote: Andes to the Amazon has a wonderful and very powerful main theme, far more powerful than any Potter theme he created, which makes me wonder whether Hooper understood the significance of the stories.

Wait, are the Order and DA theme connected? How? Did I miss something? That's quite a leap to connect those themes... Also, where is Umbridge's theme in Room of Requirement?

On to more positive feedback now. The review says the DA theme sounds truly magical. While I don't agree, I'll give Hooper this: he possibly used the celesta/glockenspiel even more than Williams(and certainly Doyle) did. No matter the other shortcomings, he seems to have really understood Williams' celesta-magic connection. Doyle created magic in other ways, but here the glockenspiel nearly plays throughout the entire score. The disadvantage, though, is that the instrument loses its effect if, as you say, you use it in every single cue.

Next: the atmospheric music. This is, for me, a big problem. As I mentioned earlier, 'The Kiss' is the worst example of such music. My second problem is this: Doyle wrote a considerable amount of atmospheric music, but with his (and Williams') music, I always had the idea the orchestra was still doing something, telling a story. This isn't the case here, with the exception of Sirius's theme in A Journey to Hogwarts and possibly the first Occlumency material. Here the music really broods or comforts. But other than that, cues such as Breakout and Dumbledore are incredibly dull andchildish, and the fact that such cues play during pivotal scenes only makes the score worse. The worst moment is when Dumbledore escapes and Hooper writes a line for solo trumpet (dialed out in the film) that simply begs for symphonic accompaniment.

Simplistic harmony doesn't make a cue unnecessary! That's dangerous reasoning. Lots of Doyle's cues had predictable harmonic progressions but still move me today. I do agree that Hooper's scores tend to make for non-easy listening outside of the films.

You are absolutely completely right about the score lacking any good action pieces. I would like to add that another problem with the score is its shallowness (though Half-Blood Prince suffers far, far more here). Cues like Death of Sirius (ending), Darkness Takes Over (Breakout) etc all feel so incomplete, as if I were listening to a piece of music that still needed to get its finishing touches, as if layers of instruments would still be added. Put simply, cues that haven't been written carefully enough. Simplistic harmony isn't the problem, the simplistic approach is: even if you don't judge the chords, some of these atmospheric cues sound like a child wrote them, not because of the harmony, but because nothing really happens in those cues. I feel terrible writing such things about a man who has more money, life experience and fame than myself.

I love your explanation about the guitar, which was indeed a perfect choice. Occasionally, Hooper shows moments of brilliance, but I don't think he's suitable for assignments like these, and that's not his fault, it's the fault of the people not wanting to understand it.

Doyle also wrote complex music. Yes, it was morbid and brazen, but complex too at times, and mostly stunningly beautiful.

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