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Riding into the fifth Harry Potter film, The Order of the Phoenix, we again see a change in director and the tone of the series getting darker, a prevalent criticism elicited by parents still feeding up on the first couple of films in the series that catered more to the family friendly fantasy environments. With Lord Voldemort now getting ever stronger and stronger, it is time that Harry and friends step up their game and leave behind the more frivolous merriment of the past and focus on some really important issues (and teenage growth as well). With the change in director from Mike Newell to David Yates, so too comes yet another change of composers from Patrick Doyle to newcomer Nicholas Hooper. Now Hooper was one of the most widely speculated appointments due to the fact that he was a complete unknown, having never scored anything really high profile and now being suddenly given a huge blockbuster to score, which had already sported such heavy weights as John Williams and Patrick Doyle. Therefore expectations were most certainly apprehensive to say the least. Now all things considered, Hooper managed to get past the scoring of the new Harry Potter film in flying colours, but what exactly were those colours has divided opinions as much as the initial appointment of the composer to the film.
From the get-go, Hooper seems to be following right along Patrick Doyle's footsteps when it comes to the thematic usage of music in again using Williams' Hedwig's Theme as the mooring post to keep the score rooted to the Harry Potter series, but does little else to keep any sort of thematic consistency to the series as a whole musically. Instead he relies on three major elements to build much of his music on. The first is the theme for the new guest character of Professor Umbridge, a theme that prances and rather obnoxiously buzzles around with nosy authority as was the intention of the theme, mostly underlined by the pomposity of the light touch of the orchestra and keeping up a constant twinkling of a celesta that seems to be the general instrument of choice in these scores, whether it be to represent the magical environment or the characters within this magical world. The second theme is called "Dumbledore's Army", effectively the theme for the Order of the Phoenix itself, and which is a largely positive theme of almost lightheartedness that at times seems almost too frivolous in nature and not forceful enough for its intention, this theme manifesting most prominently in the short "Flight of the Order of the Phoenix", a cue that provides a more sweeping and majestic tone to the score that otherwise is a bit missing.
Thirdly the score relies on the dark, atmospheric music that envelopes such cues as "Dementors in the Underpass", "Possession" and "Darkness Takes Over", that are all cues determined on providing a darker and tenser atmosphere that take particular centerstage in the "Possession" cue, a theme of dark terseness relying on simple chord progressions to get to the end of its means by rumbling heavily down in the orchestra's lower regions. Apart from this there is fairly little else at play in the score and largely remains at either providing a sense of either darkness or fluffiness. The way the album is sequenced, all of these styles are pretty much given out as initial presentations and what ever follows after them is this thematic usage in action. The opening "Fireworks" cue is a slightly strange piece that is like music from a barn dance and also provides a token appearance of the electric guitar as a suck up element for the teenage fans, though to me its inclusion seems largely uninspired and badly mixed in, coming across as a useless instrument in the score as it doesn't even appear anywhere else or does anything of real importance when it comes about. The film's opening cue in "Another Story" presents the largest appearance of Hedwig's Theme on full orchestra and provides a quite beautiful piano melody that is of minor importance for the rest of the score, unfortunately as it is quite touching.
Apart from these themes and cues mentioned above, there is actually fairly little to say about the rest of the music as there is not that much of variety one had heard before in The Prisoner of Azkaban and The Goblet of Fire. Now, I am of two minds about this score. For one, according to reports I've heard from others, is that this is a score that works extremely well in the film, and that indeed is the primary role of the music. On the other, I can't seem to really warm up to the music above appreciating that it does it's job. To me, good film music not only works wonderfully well with the film itself but also functions as an underlying explanation of the film, expressing those things that you can only feel and that images can not properly express. To that end, listening to Hooper score, I can't help but feel that while this is music undoubtedly works wonderfully as underscore for the film in not being too obtrusive, it at the same time feels like it really tries as hard as it can to stay out of the way and fails to really be anything more than simple accompaniment to the film, a necessary evil, so to speak. With the current popular trend being that music in film should be heard as little as possible, it also undermines the dramatic importance of why music is used in a film, and with The Order of the Phoenix I can't help but get the impression that Hooper has taken this approach to heart and produced an effort that shies away from any large expressions of emotion. A case in point being the cues "The Kiss" and "Death of Sirius" that basically fail to elicit any sort of emotional response or any hint as to what the music is trying to signal.
So, what does the score offer for the listener? Well, it works for the film quite beautifully I suppose, at least much better than I expect the very up-front score of Patrick Doyle's for The Goblet of Fire that sounds like a score that at times upstages the film itself a bit too much (though it makes for a wonderful album), but at the same time Hooper's effort doesn't offer any underlying messages to the film instead of simply underscoring the action. The themes themselves are fairly weak and not even close to the caliber of either Williams' or Doyle's scores, making the score, once divorced from the picture and slapped on the soundtrack album, a bit of a forgettable affair. In short, I could almost say The Order of the Phoenix is the very antithesis of Doyle's Goblet of Fire in being the exact opposite to that score's sensibilities (both in and outside the film). To me, Hooper's work here is one that doesn't make me too eager to pick out the CD for some listening just for the fun of it as there simply is not enough of interest here to sustain long durations of darkly rumbling atmosphere music and almost inappropriately fluffy and frivolous secondary music that tells really little about this being "the darkest Harry Potter film yet". And after listening to some of John Williams' Dementor music from Prisoner of Azkaban, the comparison of Hooper's similar music just brings the newer score down on its knees, begging for mercy.
I think a word about the CD releases is also in order in this instance. There are two releases available of the score. The first, and most recommendable, is the plain sandwich version. The other is a "Special Edition" that has the same CD contents and booklet, but is wrapped up in a leather casing and has a huge bubble in the center of it with a hologram inside. Now this must be the most crass attempt at commercialism ever produced. The very design of the case is so totally impractical that I wonder where exactly are you supposed to store such a thing; secondly the contents offer nothing additional to the plain diamond case version; and thirdly the impractical casing, that has no functional usage for even the most die-hard Potter fan, is priced twice the amount of the regular release. So for twice the money, you'll get a hugely stupid leather case with a hologram and a big bubble, leaving me to sum up that if anybody even considers buying this version, they must have something seriously wrong in their heads. But as to the score, it is a decent score, but it is also a largely forgettable one and for anybody not hell bent on buying all the Potter scores (I confess my guilt to the contrary), is a possibly skippable entry in the series.
1. Fireworks (1:45)
2. Professor Umbridge (2:32)
3. Another Story (2:37)
4. Dementors in the Underpass (1:43)
5. Dumbledore's Army (2:40)
6. Hall of Prophecy (4:25)
7. Posession (3:18)
8. The Room of Requirement (6:07)
9. The Kiss (1:56)
10. A Journey to Hogwarts (2:52)
11. The Sirius Deception (2:34)
12. Death of Sirius (3:56)
13. Umbridge Spoils a Beautiful Morning (2:38)
14. Darkness Takes Over (2:57)
15. The Ministry of Magic (2:47)
16. The Sacking of Trelawney (2:13)
17. Flight of the Order of the Phoenix (1:31)
18. Loved Ones and Leaving (3:15)
Music Composed by Nicholas Hooper
Performed by The Chamber Orchestra of London
Conducted by Alastair King
"Possession" Conducted by Nicholas Hooper
Choir: RSVP Voices
Orchestrated by Alastair King, Julian Kershaw, Geoff Alexander, Simon Whiteside & Bradley Miles
Score Recorded and Mixed by Peter Cobbin
Recorded at Abbey Road Studios
Supervising Music Editor: Graham Sutton
Music Editors: Sophie Cornet, Allan Jenkins & Robin Whittaker
Warner Bros., 2007 (9362-49973-1)
© berlioz, 2008
Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix was a great new addition to this awesome franchise complete with great story, visual effects, acting and of course, soundtrack. A soundtrack can, in my opinion, make or break a film. You could have visually made the best film in the world but give it music that just doesn't "work" and it all comes crashing down. Luckily, every Harry Potter soundtrack to date has not failed to impress and now, thanks to its composer Nicholas Hooper, the OOTP soundtrack can be added as another achievement in bringing Harry's world to life!
In my view, the most beautiful music to be in the HP films yet can be heard on this OST. The music is inspirational and well reflects the events and emotions that take place in the OOTP story. Nicholas Hooper has done an outstanding job and I hope to hear more of his music.
There are 18 tracks in total. Unusually for a soundtrack, or, more accurately, a score, the track list is in a different order on the OST than it occurs in the film. For example, track 7 is called "possession". This is featured less than half way through the score, yet it is music for an event that happens near the end of the film. Some may see this as a negative and believe that it should be played out as it is in the film, however, as i believe was the reason for the tracks being ordered as they were, the OST does have better "flow", as each track seems to work well in the order in which they have been placed. The tracklist is as follows:
2. Professor Umbridge
3. Another Story
4. Dementors In The Underpass
5. Dumbledore's Army
6. Hall Of Prophecy
8. Room Of Requirement
10. Journey To Hogwarts
11. Sirius Deception
12. Death Of Sirius
13. Umbridge Spoils A Beautiful Morning
14. Darkness Takes Over
15. Ministry Of Magic
16. Sacking Of Trelawney
17. Flight Of The Order Of The Phoenix
18. Loved Ones And Leaving
Of course, it seems an abomination to make a Harry Potter soundtrack without the use of "Hedwig's Theme", the track that is most widely recogniseable as the theme tune to Harry Potter. Every HP OST has included this theme and likely the last two OST's will also. The tracks "Hall Of Prophecy", "Another Story", "The Room Of Requirement" and "A Journey To Hogwarts" all contain this theme.
This is an excellent addition to the Harry Potter soundtracks and the overall Harry Potter franchise. The music is beautiful and often dark, always accurately reflecting the intended emotions of the scene. I love listening to this soundtrack and i would advise it to anyone, fan of Harry Potter or not.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Professor Umbridge
3 Another Story
4 Dementors In The Underpass
5 Dumbledore's Army
6 Hall Of Prophecy
8 Room Of Requirement
10 Journey To Hogwarts
11 Sirius Deception
12 Death Of Sirius
13 Umbridge Spoils A Beautiful Morning
14 Darkness Takes Over
15 Ministry Of Magic
16 Sacking Of Trelawney
17 Flight Of The Order Of The Phoenix
18 Loved Ones And Leaving