Williams, John (1932-) - Symphonic Suite from the film
- with its magical power to create moods, set scenes, and simply entertain
- has always played a big part in plays. Even top-notch concert
composers are drawn by the smell of grease-paint, turning their hands to
theatrical incidental music: think of Mendelssohn’s music for A Midsummer
Night’s Dream, or Grieg’s for Peer Gynt, or even Beethoven’s
first came along, pianists improvised musical accompaniments. With the
arrival of “talkies” around 1930, film makers just “shoe-horned” existing
music into their sound-tracks. They soon realised that this wasn’t good
enough: music to fit the action had to be specially written. But whereas
incidental music had been a sideline for a fast buck, composers found that
film music was a far tougher proposition. It wasn’t just a matter of covering
scene changes and such-like, they had to underpin the action, creating
on demand the right effect timed to the split second. To write like that,
the footage had to be “in the can”, so very fast work was called
from being good at their jobs, film composers had to be thick-skinned,
because other composers would snottily regard them as “mere tradesmen”.
Not any more. The achievements of John Williams, America’s answer to England’s
Malcolm Arnold, have done much to restore film composing to respectability.
His output is astonishing, ranging from Goodbye, Mr. Chips to Valley
of the Dolls, from Jurassic Park through Jaws to ET
and beyond! This brings in another important skill, the ability to adopt
any style, from pub piano vamps to something to underline the End of the
Universe. Williams does this brilliantly, yet his main tool is not the
“any sound you can imagine” digital synthesiser but the symphony orchestra.
That bears thinking about.
often you can’t simply “lift” music from the film into the concert hall.
By its nature, it mostly comes in snippets. If the music is to stand (or
at least wobble) on its own two feet, somebody has to weld the bits into
a “whole”, to provide some musical form, that skeleton which stops the
flesh of the music becoming a messy puddle on the floor. This “symphonic
suite” was put together by Jerry Brubaker. I’ll let you decide if he lavished
enough “TLC” on the job.
runs continuously, but falls into seven distinct sections:
Flight and Travel. A lilting theme on celeste, joined by woodwind and
strings, is used throughout the film - notably when the owls arrive at
Harry's home to summon him to Hogwarts School.
Broomstick Practice. Three trumpets mock the chums’ first efforts,
where Neville Longbottom (the clumsy school-pal) ends up dangling from
the roof top - the first of his many mishaps.
Hogwarts Forever! This majestic tune characterises the turreted school,
the moving staircases, and the banquet.
Diagon Alley. Flutes and percussion portray the hustle and bustle of
Diagon Alley, and a quirky violin solo the grotesque clerks of Gringotts
Voldemort. Horns and bassoons utter a ghastly motif, evoking the terror
of Voldemort whenever he appears.
Anyone for Quidditch?! A brilliant fanfare-like theme on brass accompanies
the bristling excitement of the game.
Harry’s Parents. Blossoming from strings to full orchestra, this typical
Williams melody is the “big tune” (every film must have one!). This always
underpins Harry’s recollections of his beloved deceased parents.
© Paul Serotsky
29, Carr Street,
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