Has John Williams gone mad? Why would he revisit the theme from Schindler’s List
for the main motif of Harry Potter? What possible link could there be between the
Holocaust and Hogwart’s school? None of course. Williams isn’t mad, just
magical. The greatest composers can leap across a cosmos of context with the merest twist
of phrase: a dotted rhythm here, a chromaticism there. Hogwart’s theme does sound
similar to Schindler’s List, but their emotional impacts are like chalk and cheese,
or spells and spaghetti if you will.
Williams is a master of music that breaths life into fantasy. Notwithstanding
Schindler’s List, his collaborations with Spielberg most often involve the creation
of fairytale realms. The composer is a wizard with his orchestral palate, blending tonal
colours into the essence of imagination and shaping credible realities from impossible
The sweet strings, bold brass and whimsical woodwind of cues like Harry’s Wondrous
World are typical of Williams in this mode. The great achievement of this soundtrack is
how such cues weave with the agility of a Quidditch stick between the odder enticements.
It requires a diabolical sorcery to be so utterly enchanting with the fractured phrases
and peculiar dissonances of Platform Nine And Three-Quarters. If floor seven and a half
led to Mr Malkovich’s mind, Williams is acutely aware that this unusual corridor is a
couple of notches kookier.
It all seems so perfect for the magical milieu as to be almost obvious: the celeste
that sounds like a spooky music box; the choral additions for light, ethereal drama. Yet
Williams infuses it all with a distinct character by drawing on the arcane art of
reinventing the familiar. The score relies on liberal dips into the folkloric vocabulary
and Williams own repertoire, but Harry’s universe emerges with its own unmistakable
Less impressive than the CD soundtrack is an accompanying "Special Edition
CD-Rom". A rather bogus bonus that comprises little more than a series of ads: a
preview for the video game, and the film trailer (which admittedly is rather good) in
multiple languages. Then there is the downloadable Harry Potter wallpaper, which I suppose
might hold some appeal for those who can still count their birthdays on one or two hands.
But don’t worry about the frills. The magic here is in the music.
Published November 6, 2001