My, my, what a surprise. “Harry Potter,” one of the biggest films of the year, is finally upon us, and John Williams, of all people, provides the musical accompaniment. With nearly 80 film soundtracks under his belt, Williams has certainly become the most prolific film composer of the last 25 years. While the music from “Harry Potter” is further proof of Williams” supremacy, it fails to break any new ground for the composer and take on a life apart from the film.
Movie critics have lauded director Chris Columbus for making “Harry Potter” so faithful to the book, and likewise, Williams” score is remarkably well-tailored for the film. In typical Williams fashion, the opening track begins with a harrowing yet playful xylophone theme that carries throughout the score. This theme, which transfers over to the strings and brass in later tracks, sets the tone for the world of Harry Potter. Williams” orchestration is adept at conveying the dark undertones of Potter”s adventures, shrouding the film in a low, lyrical cello and mellow flute.
You might leave the theater humming “Hedwig”s Theme,” but may also ask yourself if you”ve heard it before. Williams does quite a bit of recycling from previous scores, most notably “Jurassic Park,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Angela”s Ashes.” Considerable trumpet fanfare is almost a given in a Williams soundtrack and you”ll find plenty of it on tracks such as “Harry”s Wonderous World.” These brass themes instantly remind one of the closing scenes to “Jurassic Park,” flying above a dinosaur-infested island in a helicopter. The audience has left Isla Nublar but Williams has failed to take notice in his music.
On the other hand, Williams often blesses his score with tracks such as “The Quidditch Match,” which perfectly captures the frenzy of the fast-paced game. Here, the whirling, flying athletes onscreen are matched by Williams” scurrying violins and schizophrenic brass choir. But on the whole, Williams seems to want to play it safe the soundtrack to “Harry Potter” is remarkably tame and lacks the emotional fire needs to become a classic.