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Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 1 - Soundtrack

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Artist: Various / Released: 16 Nov 2010 / Label: Water Tower

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      03.07.2012 01:53
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      A beautiful, superb and superior film score from the modern French master Desplat

      It was with Hans Zimmer's "Chevaliers de Sangreal", the track that underlies the final scene of Ron Howard's take on "The Da Vinci Code", that my interest in film music came about. I didn't think much of the film, but the story is an epic and Zimmer's soundtrack compliments it well. I was astounded by the powerful effect that final scene had on me, and it was predominantly due to the music. Around the same time, I watched Nolan's "The Dark Knight" and was equally astounded, but this time by the whole score. The aura that the composer could create was fantastic, and I've never felt so inspired in my life. Since then, it's been my quest to pursue a life and career in film music. Apart from John Williams however, prior to these revelatory moments, I hadn't given much thought about the music in film. It was when I watched "Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows - Part 1" that my inspiration and love for film music branched out and became definite - Alexandre Desplat gave me the help I needed to look beyond Zimmer and to the vast amount of possibilities in this field.

      The soundtrack is, I strongly feel, a powerfully subtle but important component of a film. It can tell a story where the film perhaps hasn't or can't, and can be used both in harmony and counterpoint with the images on screen and the emotions the film conveys. From bombastic brass themes to understated low string ambience, and from acoustic ensembles (full orchestra or smaller groups) to purely synthesized soundtracks - or, even, nothing whatsoever. A soundtrack exists in a film one way or another, and it is often the director that oversees the fruition of ideas; the composing is one of the final elements in the filmmaking process, but the director views it as massively vital - it could make or break the film.

      Alexandre Desplat is a French composer who predominantly works in Hollywood. Other scores of his include "Fantastic Mr. Fox", "Carnage" "The Prophet", "New Moon", "The King's Speech", "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and the Golden Globe-winning "The Painted Veil". I feel that his efforts on the final two Harry Potter instalments are amongst his best works. Prior to these films, composers of the Harry Potter soundtracks include Nicholas Hooper (5 & 6), Patrick Doyle (4) and of course, John Williams (1, 2 & 3), who provided us with the legendary "Hedwig's Theme" - the main theme of Harry Potter (named after Hedwig as the character is somewhat of a iconic representation of the wizarding world, particularly in the first book/film). In "Deathly Hallows pt. 1", while Desplat's music isn't quite as extraordinary as Williams' (no other film composer gets close though, really), it has a unique beauty that surpasses Hooper and Doyle's (although they were both great scores). As this is a review of the soundtrack of the film, please note that there may be a few minor spoilers of the film/story itself.

      Introductions over - let's get on with it, shall we?

      -== Track Listing ==-
      1. "Obliviate" - 3:01
      2. "Snape to Malfoy Manor" - 1:58
      3. "Polyjuice Potion" - 3:32
      4. "Sky Battle" - 3:48
      5. "At the Burrow" - 2:35
      6. "Harry and Ginny" - 1:43
      7. "The Will" - 3:39
      8. "Death Eaters" - 3:14
      9. "Dobby" - 3:49
      10. "Ministry of Magic" - 1:49
      11. "Detonators" - 2:23
      12. "The Locket" - 1:52
      13. "Fireplace Escape" - 2:54
      14. "Ron Leaves" - 2:35
      15. "The Exodus" - 1:37
      16. "Godric's Hollow Graveyard" - 3:15
      17. "Bathilda Bagshot" - 3:54
      18. "Hermione's Parents" - 5:50
      19. "Destroying the Locket" - 1:10
      20. "Ron's Speech" - 2:16
      21. "Lovegood" - 3:27
      22. "The Deathly Hallows" - 3:17
      23. "Captured and Tortured" - 2:56
      24. "Rescuing Hermione" - 1:50
      25. "Farewell to Dobby" - 3:43
      26. "The Elder Wand" - 1:38

      Total length: 73:38


      -== The Review ==-
      The album's track listing is basically in the same order as the music in the film. It opens with "Obliviate", a melancholy track that purposefully does not suggest "Hedwig's Theme" in any way. In the story, the three main characters are leaving to embark on the most daunting and difficult task of their lives: to hunt down Voldemort's remaining horcruxes and destroy him once and for all. This involves leaving behind family and friends, and the title of the first track refers to the spell which Hermione casts on her parents to erase her existence from their memory completely, in fear that Voldemort will hunt them down. Therefore, it is important that the theme that epitomises the magical and wonderful world which Harry entered as an eleven-year-old is put to one side for now, while a new dark and progressive theme is introduced, signifying that the world has changed and our beloved characters are grown up now. "Obliviate" is a beautifully haunting track and is the piece that, ultimately, shaped my perception of music. It emerges out of deep low orchestral ambience with the soft hit of a bass drum, before the surfacing of rhythmic strings and a brilliant horn melody. The piece evolves timbrally, but revolves around this elementary theme, the climax coming in the form of Hollywood-style strings.

      It is worth mentioning now that every single one of the tracks on this album is spectacular. Desplat captures aura like no other (despite my statement that Williams is in a league of his own, which he most certainly is, I prefer Desplat as a composer). "Snape to Malfoy Manor" is stormy, and relies predominantly on the string section, although his utilisation of the woodwinds in this piece particularly is fantastic, while the harp provides a mysterious edge. "Polyjuice Potion" provides listeners with one of the final light magical pieces in the Harry Potter series; thus, it is Desplat's most 'magical' sounding pieces - and what a grand job he does! The orchestration is excellent, and develops far too much to explore in this review. "Sky Battle" contrasts most sharply as the characters leave the Dursley's house to be met by an army of Death Eaters in the sky, and shows that Desplat is as equally apt at writing 'dark' music. Also worth noting is that 'Hedwig's Theme' is first heard here - but dwindles away as [SPOILER] the owl gets hit by a incoming spell, aimed at Harry.

      Desplat is very well known for his piano music, most notably in films such as "The Painted Veil" and "The King's Speech", and track 6, "Harry and Ginny" is a decent display of what he is capable of working with such an instrument. It is not a solo piano piece, but alternates between delicate and patient piano music and peculiar low-mid strings plus harp. "Death Eaters" reprises the 'Obliviate' theme in a more eerie light, with dissonant strings which build up to a fantastic reprise of "Snape to Malfoy Manor". Desplat mentioned in an interview that his favourite theme was that for the character of Dobby, which is a pretty bizarre view in my opinion, next to the beautiful themes he has written for the film. "Dobby", unsurprisingly, presents his buoyant theme in pizzicato strings, harp, bassoon, flute and mandolin, as he comically tries to take credit for the capture of Mundungus Fletcher upon his long-awaited return to the films (his only other appearance was in 2002's "Chamber of Secrets", despite being included in a number of the books). The track does develop however, when the 'Obliviate' theme is heard over the characters' acquiring of materials for their Polyjuice Potion, displaying their progression and pursuit of the horcruxes. The following two tracks are rather playful, and "Ministry of Magic" in particular is superb, sounding somewhat like a news channel theme, while "Fireplaces Escape" brilliantly conveys a sense of chaos and desperation in both composition and orchestration as the characters try to escape with the locket.

      "Ron Leaves" presents new thematic material alongside an even further 'melancholied' 'Obliviate' theme, and at points suggests 'Hedwig's Theme' ever so subtly. I don't massively like the track in the context of the film, but it is rather majestic and nicely written. The tone of the piece is revisited and developed upon Ron's return, in "Ron's Speech". "The Exodus", I would say, is bizarrely out of place in the film; it's ambitious, but I wouldn't say that it works very well, and as a standalone piece, is massively jarring, with deliberately mismatched heterophony and grating motifs. Again however, brilliantly written, and enjoyable nonetheless. "Bathilda Bagshot" is an awesomely written piece that again conveys utter chaos and horror as the eponymous character transforms into Nagini, Voldemort's snake, and includes the use of a Shakuhachi flute, while the soothing and emotional "Hermione's Parents" provides the much-needed antidote, quite like "Ron Leaves" does for "Fireplaces Escape".

      "Lovegood" is a strange and exotic but enjoyable track that doesn't actually feature in the film, but was written, as the title suggests, to mirror the oddness of the Xenophilius Lovegood, as the characters approach his house to question him on the Deathly Hallows. The track is a more upbeat version of the gloomy material heard in "Godric's Hollow Graveyard", and I feel it was included simply because of its luminosity in the album. "The Deathly Hallows" provides excellent ambience to Hermione's telling of the 'Tale of The Three Brothers'. It also provides a tone for the theme of death, and love through death (themes very important to the story) that somewhat foreshadows 'pt. 2' of the story. The final four tracks are sublime: "Captured and Tortured" uses percussion and dissonant tremolo strings to build tension and provide a dry and distressing sound; "Rescuing Hermione" touches on pre-existing themes and also introduces a new, somewhat uplifting one, as the characters save their friend; "Farewell to Dobby" is patient, sparse but absolutely stunning - a highlight of the album. Finally, "The Elder Wand" offers a brilliantly dark and ominous finale to a magnificent collection of music.

      -== Conclusion ==-
      Desplat's score to "Deathly Hallows - Part 1" is my favourite soundtrack, and I've seen many films since I began to pay close interest to film music. The film itself is my favourite of the series, but I don't regard any of them as particularly fantastic; but Desplat's music elevates the experience far beyond what the previous two composers have achieved. His blend (and the help of Conrad Pope, orchestrator, must be mentioned here) of traditional orchestra and exotic instruments is remarkable, and the way in which he uses all instruments is hugely inspiring, and exciting. He stands out from many other film composers and has a unique edge that allows him to do that. I think he is just brilliant, and this is the best soundtrack I have heard of his. I would completely recommend it, whether you like Harry Potter, or film music, or not. I think that generally, one associates the music with the film when listening, but as a standalone experience, it is nonetheless outstanding.

      -== Three to Download ==-
      Want to hear a taster of the score? The three tracks I would you recommend you check out are: 'Obliviate', 'Farewell to Dobby' and 'Polyjuice Potion'.

      -== Technical Details ==-
      Composer: Alexandre Desplat
      Release date: 16 November 2010
      Length: 73.38
      Label: WaterTower Music

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