Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part2 - Soundtrack Review/Ramblings

This is insane. It’s almost three in the morning, and I’m sat on my bed in floods of tears listening to the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 soundtrack. If I’m like this over the music heaven help me (and whoever I drag with me to see it) when I actually put the film to the music.

I started looking at all the promo posters for this whilst I listened (because let’s face it, I’m a sucker for punishment.) and tried to work out why this was upsetting me quite so much. Yes ok there’s the obvious ‘it’s the end of an era’ line of thought – and that’s particularly true for me and everyone in my year group. Everyone has grown up with Harry Potter to a certain extent, but I wear my badge proudly of being the same age as Harry when the books were released. I read him getting his letter for Hogwarts and spent day after day waiting for mine. I graduated just as he was busy defeating the dark lord. And I think that’s one of the reasons why I found the epilogue so upsetting – because suddenly Harry had gone on. He was grown up, he had a wife and children, and he’d left me behind.

But I digress – we were talking about the final film.
I think partly why I’m finding it so difficult to find the end so near, is because I, like so many others around the world, decided to give the books a last re-read before seeing the final film. And currently I’m at the beginning (well, second year) and there’s something about having baby Harry and co in the book and seeing these posters of them all looking devastated and broken and bloody and so completely exhausted, and it really reminds you that they are just children. They are the same age as when most people do A Levels, and they’re on the run, staging guerrilla attacks and trying to bring down the baddy of the century because the grown-ups seem incapable.

And there’s something so completely heart breaking putting these two together in a way that I haven’t truly appreciated before.
It started to get me in that fabulously awkward yet completely endearing scene in Part 1 where Harry pulls Hermione up to dance in the tent and the most fitting song is playing ‘Oh Children’ by Nick Cave. And I just want to cry because that song is just so perfect for them. So yeah, good choice people.

Desplat has brought something new and exciting to the table of HP soundtracks with his scores for parts one and two. There have been elements that I've loved of all of the soundtracks, but these final two are really taking it further for me. He's got the epic battles, but he's incorporated in a lot of previous themes - Hedwigs, elements of the Weasley's - but also included new ideas as well. There's a lot of battle music included, and he's really gone to town with the drums - just listen to 'Courtyard Apocolypse' and that fabulous beat to get it started. And actually this is a good track to talk about because it starts off so slow, so mournful and just builds until you feel as though it might break you apart inside. It's a slower version of the same theme you find in 'statues' and they both evoke such a fabulous mental image of them going off to fight - all the statues that McGonagall wakes up and sends off to defend Hogwarts. Ooo Shivers.

I want to break down a couple of the tracks in a little more detail, and they're ones that immediately stood out on the first listen.

Lily's Theme (track 1)
It's strange, I can hear a little bit of Billy Boyd's 'Through Mist and Shadow' from the Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King, and a little bit of some of Pirates of the Caribbean. (This motif is actually one that gets repeated later on in 'Snape's Demise' and I love the added layers to the Snape tracks that link it back to Lily.)
 This piece is really haunting, a lot more so than I've come to expect from Potter, so it really sets the tone for the whole soundtrack.
It also is a nice salute to 'Obliviate' the opener for the Part 1 soundtrack - which had me crying within the first five minutes of the film - although it has less of the urgency that came with that.
It's got a long slow strings opener, nice and dark, and then that beautiful voice coming in over the top. It doesn't build quickly, it takes its time, and uses very little else other than that voice. It does a beautiful job of being dark, haunting, and brings across the whole idea of her ghost, the young woman she was that Harry never knew and we see later through Snape's memories.
The strings come in and repeat the theme with a lot more energy, which is still very beautiful, but nothing quite compares to the voice opening. And then we finish with the strings bringing in that quick motif that was used in 'Obliviate' and again in many of the pieces throughout. It sets it up nicely for the rest of the soundtrack - it's a bit edgier, very mournful and really sets the tone.

Statues (track 9)
This is what I'm going to call the 'battle theme'. It's used in quite a few of the other tracks, either in full or just a few bars, and it's a really fab piece of music.
First off, the title gives us the clue where it's going to be used, and I cannot wait to see McGonagall's statues heading off to defend the castle.
It starts with the strings and the drums, a very insistent repetitive pattern that really gets into your head, and then layers everything over the top, the woodwind joining in, each section coming in one after the other until what started as a battle march has melded into this beautiful piece - almost as more people are drawn into it, and come to fight. 
At its peak we get a fabulous moment with the drums and a trumpet, everything about this soundtrack is mournful as well as being beautiful, and this captures that and brings it into this track. It then drops and we have the strings bring a darker element, a slight variation on the initial battle theme, quieter but no less insistent. Followed by a really beautiful, slightly slower repeat of the battle theme until the end.

Battlefield (track 12)
This one gets me because it uses the Weasley twins music to kick start the piece. A very exciting strings build to kick it off and then everything pauses for a moment for the drums and then everything just kicks off into this really urgent piece - far more so than anything else we've had so far. The strings set the tempo and the brass weave in around it and it really is just so exciting and fast paced that you can almost feel everything going on around you. It's a lot busier, where statues was quite focused this is all over the place whilst being quite contained if that makes any sense...
You get a lone trumpet calling out and then a lull before the strings really pick it up again. Everything just builds and builds and then it all goes quiet. It's quite a frustrating end to the piece, and I wonder how it ends in the film. This one just really carries on that momentum that was gained in statues and you feel as though you're right in the action - and as I said, the Weasley twins theme just makes me want to cry, but I love that it's there.

Courtyard Apocalypse (track 15)
This uses the battle theme again, and it's very similar at first to statues. The drum goes on a lot longer at the start, and the whole is very much slower - it feels like the scene is going to be a lot of slow motion, blood, curses, and tears as lots of people die...
It's a much heavier drum beat, and as I said much slower, and then the strings come in again and we have a repeat of statues but there's none of the vibrancy and excitement over the battle this time. It feels as though the true devastation is starting to creep in, and we get an overlay of strings instead of the woodwind to start with. The violins provide a haunting rendition of the main 'theme' and it isn't until almost two thirds through the track that the brass really comes in underneath to give that extra boost to the bass thrumming through the piece. It's a very sad solemn piece, but I love it because it takes that initial battle theme that was initiated in statues and changes it into this dark piece that is so devastating rather the energetic. 

There are some other really fabulous pieces, but if I went through all of them I'd most likely bore you to tears, so I've just picked out those as a few of my favourites.

Whilst you don't have the continuation that I like in CD's with something like this where they're taking out key elements and making them into individual tracks, you still get a nice build of emotion as the journey progresses from what I can only assume is the opener 'Lily's Theme' to the beautiful close 'A New Beginning' which is, quite frankly, perfect.
On a re-read of the book, I really hope this is used either in the epilogue or when the sun rises and Voldemort is finally defeated. Either suit this piece perfectly.

Desplat knows how to work his orchestra, and virtually every instrument gets its moment throughout. The strings in particular work exceptionally hard and create a lot of the more stirring or mournful moments. But you get woodwind coming in right behind, and the drums are just crazy.

There are some tracks that I'm not that fussed on, and given their titles I'm really upset that they're not better. I really don't like any of Neville's pieces, which is tragic because Matt Lewis/Neville are (you can tell) going to be epic in this finale, and I really wanted something epic to show him off. Although as I listen to 'Neville the Hero' again, there are elements that start to grow on me, and I can see it working, but I'm curious to see how the music works with the film.

However, the more I listen to the soundtrack as a whole, the more I come to like the pieces that I initially wasn't that fussed on. It's definitely something that grows on you. But some tracks immediately leap out at you as being truly exceptional - I've listed them with links below.

And you get a wide variety on show here, not just of Desplat's incredible prowess, but the incorporation of older themes - the quiet melancholy pieces in the soundtrack like ‘Lily’s Theme’ and ‘Harry’s Sacrifice’ where you get strains of his earlier themes, including in 'Snape's Demise' a slow moment of Hedwig's theme. And also some of the bigger ones like ‘Battlefield’ where you can hear slight elements of the various Weasley themes we’ve had over the years – and it just makes me think of all of them racing off to the end, no matter the consequences, and how fiercly they all fight. Some for love, some because it’s what they’ve been waiting for, and some laughing because it’s the best game in the world. And it breaks me.

So I guess what I’m trying to do in a round about sort of way is first off to say oh good lord this soundtrack is brilliant, and that’s without seeing the film, and I find that to be a mark of a really great soundtrack if I like it before the film. So if you haven’t had chance to listen to it, go forth. Pretty much all of it is good, but I highly recommend (because they make me cry and get goosebumps) ‘Lily’s Theme’, ‘Statues’,  ‘Battlefield’, ‘Courtyard Apocalypse’ , ‘Harry Surrenders’,  and ‘A New Beginning.’

It feels like a fitting send off and tribute to Harry but also to Hogwarts and the whole world. I've always loved Deathly Hallows because all this build up and tension and Harry refusing to let anyone else take some of the burden is broken down, and everyone gets a chance to fight for what they love and what they want to protect, and I think some of the tracks really reflect that beautifully.

But it’s not just about the soundtrack. I’ll do a later post  with a review of the film, and when I have finished re-reading the books I’ll do a review post of all of those as well. This is more of a warm up. A start to the goodbye which will actually be a really difficult one for a lot of people, including me, even though we have the films and the books to go back to. There is no more though, it’s a close of a chapter, and a lot of people are starting to feel that all over again now that the films are coming to an end.

So thank you for listening to my ramblings, my musings on the soundtrack and how many packets of tissues I may need to take to the film with me. How many packets are you taking? What are you most looking forward to seeing? And what do you think is going to make you cry the most?... 


  1. I am getting so excited but also sad for this to come. I just blogged about it too ironically lol.


  2. Lily's Theme and Statues (and the Statues theme in Courtyard Apocalypse) really make this soundtrack for me. There's less beautiful/soft tracks than in Pt 1, but those two more than make up for it!