John Williams’ original Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone soundtrack was a whimsical, wondrous album with a hook that was instantly as memorable as anything he’d done for Star Wars or Jaws. The Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire soundtrack (Amazon) retains elements of Williams’ themes, but its musical evolution is nowhere near as impressive as the film it scores.
I was excited when I first received The Goblet of Fire soundtrack to review, because I’d never had a chance to fully review a Harry Potter soundtrack. I came to the CD having seen — and enjoyed — the fourth film in the series, but as I listened to the album, I found that most of my musical memories were of earlier films.
Goblet of Fire is comprised of 23 tracks, 20 of which are instrumental and three of which are rock-and-roll inspired songs by “The Weird Sisters”, which totals an impressive 1 hour, 13 minutes of music. The instrumental portions were composed by Patrick Doyle and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra while Jarvis Cocker, formerly of the band Pulp, performs the rock songs.
Those expecting (as I subconsciously was) the uplifting, magical, and occasionally whimsical music of the earlier movies will be disappointed. The fourth Harry Potter movie accelerates the series, making things ever more dark and fast-paced. While Harry retains some semblance of awe for the arcane — “I love magic” he says as he steps into a small tent with the interior of a small house at the Quidditch World Cup — that sense of wonder is crushed by the awe of dragons and the terror of Lord Voldemort returned.
The soundtrack’s first song, “The Story Continues”, personifies this change. It’s a short-track that infuses dagger-plunging highs and lows while occasionally evoking Williams’ original theme. It’s too short though (only 1:31 minutes) and quickly launches into the subdued “Frank Dies”, which parallel’s Harry’s dream and the slow walk through Voldemort’s ancestral home and culminates with sudden, jarring concordance.
The “Quidditch World Cup” is a fun track, with its Irish and Bulgarian influences, but like the scene in the movie it’s over far too soon. “The Goblet of Fire” is a grand, slowly rising track that evokes some of the older wonder of the earlier films as well as the mystery of this all-important artifact.
“The Golden Egg” starts plodding and slow, but builds to a franticly heroic frenzy by the end, as Harry figures out how to get the egg open. It’s the most traditionally heroic music, crescendoing in all the right places.
“Neville’s Waltz” and “Potter Waltz” are both light waltzes (as their name implies) and suite their individual scenes well. I could see how they could be very useful as background music in a role-playing game where a stately dance is to be held (and you don’t have any waltz mp3s handy, as I know I don’t).
“The Black Lake” is a nicely orchestrated track that pulls you into the obsidian depths of its namesake scene. It’s an intense, pressure-building track good for that could be good for D&D battles, though you should watch for the occasional heroic upticks or mellow downturns that serve as a relief against the rising drama, but which could break mood you’re trying to create.
The longest track on the album is “Voldemort”, which reiterates the opening them. It’s a discordant, jarring track that serves the villain well. It’s a horror-inspired track that you can almost hear Voldemort monolouging against.
I’d just as soon forget about the last three rock tracks by “The Weird Sisters”. It’s not that they’re terrible musically — they do what they’re supposed to do, which is provide fast-based dance music for the movie’s ball scenes. It’s that it’s a further sign of the Mugglification of the movie universe. Just as the school uniforms of the early movies have given way to jeans and sweat shirts in the more recent ones, this these songs substitute mainstream lyrics for fantastical ones, but do nothing to evoke a civilization that stands apart from normal society. In the books, wizards and witches are different, to the point that wearing normal clothes is a befuddling and comic experience.
I don’t mind the music of the Weird Sisters pulling from Muggle musical experiences, but I’d rather they have drawn more heavily from the past, giving us more in the way of violins, fiddles, drums, flutes, etc. — anything but rock’n’roll.
The first time I listened to this soundtrack, none of the songs really stuck in my mind. Subsequent listens haven’t changed that, but while I found myself disappointed by the soundtrack as it stood on its individual merits, I felt I needed to watch the movie again to put it in its proper context. After spending a night re-watching it on DVD, I can safely say that this is a decent soundtrack that does exactly what it’s supposed to do — score a movie. As a background for the silver screen happenings, it works and works well.
But what it isn’t is memorable. It doesn’t have the sort of audio punch that you get from Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Battlestar Galactica, or Lord of the Rings. It’s not the sort of soundtrack I find myself wanting to sit down and listen to while working or relaxing.
- Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire
- Composer: Patrick Doyle
- Performer: London Sympothy Orchestra
- Released: November 15, 2005
- Label: Warner Bros / Wea
- Buy it from Amazon.com