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Monday, January 25, 2016

Nicholas Hooper -- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

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Nicholas Hooper sticks out like a sore thumb in the Harry Potter film composer rogues gallery, and the two scores Hooper composed for Harry Potter stick out like sore thumbs in his discography. Hooper's catalogue , excluding the two Potter soundtracks, is abundant with work for small and TV films, and nature documentaries. However his music does fit the Harry Potter films it soundtracks...but the soundtrack albums don't quite hit the mark.
His first, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix follows a confusing tracklist order, and lacks cohesion and drive. His second, for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, thankfully appears in mostly the order it does on film. However, rather unfortunately, this score is even less propulsive than the one Hooper wrote for Order of the Phoenix. This isn't Hooper's fault, though. By it's nature, Half-Blood Prince is meant to be a breather, a chance for Harry and Dumbledore to do a little detective work, and for the students to fall in and out of love. Hooper gets to illustrate his adoration for the harp and acoustic guitar in the film's more romantic moments, particularly in "Harry & Hermoine" and "When Harry Kissed Ginny." Unfortunately, most of the rest of the music here is incidental background music meant to back the characters as they talk and hang out...except when the film concerns itself with Dumbledore.
Order of the Phoenix's soundtrack proved that when called to the task, Nicholas Hooper can write some incredibly powerful music. During Half-Blood Prince's few scenes of dramatic intensity (By the way, I enjoy the film a lot, it is great at what it does, there just isn't a ton of action), Hooper shines. For a climactic scene that showcases Dumbledore's full strength, in an incredible, fiery rescue of a hopeless Harry, Hooper re-interprets his "Possession" theme from Order of the Phoenix as a stirring display of stunning power.
(Also, you should probably go see this movie if you haven't. It's pretty good.)
However, the film's most powerful moment, and Hooper's masterwork comes after "Inferi in the Firestorm." "Dumbledore's Farewell," an intensely moving string and choral piece is one of the most powerful pieces of music I have ever heard. It is so powerful, that in the eighth and final Harry Potter film, which features an excellent score by Alexandre Desplat, the producers entered a re-mixed version of Hooper's music in the place of Desplat's for the scene that is literally the crux of all eight films. That was a Harry Potter joke. Also, there are spoilers in this review...if you haven't seen the movies yet, what's is up with you? Are you a kid who wasn't alive when they were released? Do you hate joy?

So it's a familiar line to the review I just published for Order of the Phoenix's soundtrack. The standout cuts are incredible, heart-smashing pieces of music. The rest is enjoyable, but better suited for the background. The fact that the tracks are in film order is a boon to this soundtrack over Order of the Phoenix's, but the even more subdued tone is not. The end.

2009 New Line Records
1. Opening 2:53
2. In Noctem 2:00
3. The Story Begins 2:05
4. Ginny 1:30
5. Snape & the Unbreakable Vow 2:50
6. Wizard Wheezes 1:42
7. Dumbledore's Speech 1:31
8. Living Death 1:55
9. Into the Pensieve 1:45
10. The Book 1:44
11. Ron's Victory 1:44
12. Harry & Hermione 2:52
13. School! 1:05
14. Malfoy's Mission 2:53
15. The Slug Party 2:11
16. Into the Rushes 2:33
17. Farewell Aragog 2:08
18. Dumbledore's Foreboding 1:18
19. Of Love & War 1:17
20. When Ginny Kissed Harry 2:38
21. Slughorn's Confession 3:33
22. Journey to the Cave 3:08
23. The Drink of Despair 2:44
24. Inferi in the Firestorm 1:53
25. The Killing of Dumbledore 3:34
26. Dumbledore's Farewell 2:22
27. The Friends 2:00
28. The Weasley Stomp 2:51

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