Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by John Williams Available at Amazon.com 

 

 

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Soundtrack) by John Williams

That Ol' Hack Magic
Review by Christopher Coleman

 

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Soundtrack) by John Williams

Harry Potter
and the Sorcerer's Stone
8/10
 

Buy Hannibal (Soundtrack) by Hans Zimmer Now at Amazon.com

Category  |   Score

Originality 7
Music Selection 8
Composition 8
CD Length 8
Track Order 9
Performance 9
Final Score 8/10

 

Real Audio Clips

 

 
 

 

John Williams
Composer 
John Williams

 

 


Harry Potter and The Philosophers Stone
Harry Potter
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Harry Potter
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Quick Quotes


"
All in all, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone isn't exactly what I expected it to be, but it's darn close and it is certainly one of the best scores of 2001. Fans of Hook, Home Alone and Star Wars will probably appreciate this score. I'm rather sure that I will love after having heard it in the actual film." ****

Andy Lindahl -
Score! Reviews
Harry Potter

 

 

Composed, Conducted and Produced by John Williams
Performed by London Voices (Chorus); Terry Edwards
Released by Warner Records October 30, 2001

Who would dare even hint that the maestro John Williams is a hack?  Who, indeed.  As the title of this review has likely stirred some strong emotional response from you, we'll commence with a look at John Williams' highly anticipated score, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and see why anyone would dare say such a thing...and if being a "hack" is all bad.

One of the most anticipated film's and scores of 2001 has been Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.   The Great PR Hype Machine has become all too proficient at building up films that, when finally released, very rarely live up to all of the pre-release hub-bub.  In this new millennium, celebrating hype has become big business and more entertaining the actual projects themselves.  This unfortunate trend has carried right over into the realm of film music as well.  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by John Williams has been painstakingly scrutinized, gushed, and maligned since the original trailer, containing excerpts from the original score, was released months ago. 

If one applies the same measure by which other composers have earned the official ranking of Musical-Hack, then John Williams most recent work, among others of his (if we were to be really honest) would certainly get him "nominated" for such a title.  While it could be argued that Williams doesn't come close to the alleged level of "borrowing," "stealing," "reusing," that a James Horner has been accused of, even a little objectivity will cause one to admit that John Williams score for Harry Potter is guilty of such things as well.  As it has been over-discussed for some time now, Harry Potter, overall, takes on a Hook-like dimension.  The fantastic title theme, the celebratory-family feel, are all characteristics that made Hook such a pleasant surprise back in 1993 and make it one of John Williams best ever.  If a composer can "hack" his own material, certainly Williams has here, but so what?

Many devoted fans are truly offended by such accusations, but, in the end, how much does it really matter?  Yes.  It would be ideal, in the opinion of many, for a composer to "reinvent" himself with each project - providing an endless experience of delightful surprises with each successive release; however, for many others, including directors and producers, the classic sound of a given composer is exactly what they want; not something wildly "new" or "different."  As a result, the composer's job would have to be said to have been made relatively easier.  (Coming up with variations or derivatives of a theme or motif, is likely much easier than starting from scratch.) The score does its job as it captures and enhances the story and characters.  The director is pleased and fans of that composer's distinctive style and "sound" are also generally pleased.  Such is the case with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

Despite any similarities one can hear, Harry Potter remains a delightful score.  The music finds several distinctive Williams-elements from Hook and E.T.- The Extraterrestrial along with a number of the composer's more recent signatures heard in film's such as The Patriot and Star Wars:  The Phantom Menace.  The title theme as heard in the Prologue (1) is magical mix of atmospheric bells and breezy strings and is given a fuller treatment in Hedwigs Theme (19) which triumphantly concludes the soundtrack.  In Harry's Wondrous World (2) the listener is treated to strikingly bright piece that features some of Williams best use of brass maybe since Hook.  The Chess Game (16) is a surprisingly militant track that almost sounds as though a dreaded Sith had made a cameo appearance into Harry's little adventure.   The piece will be clearly familiar to those who know The Phantom Menace and The Patriot, yet The Chess Game is actually a notch above either score's respective tracks.  The same could be said of The Quidditch Match (11).  In much the same vein as The Pod Race March from The Phantom Menace, Williams actually comes up with a march that is far less "kitch" then its predecessor.  Finally, one of the true delights of the soundtrack is Christmas at Hogwarts (12).  While it begins with a bright, holiday fanfare, it dives into an eerie vocal duet before returning to the celebratory style.  Familiar?  Yes, but the overall experience is only dampened slightly by this.

Is Williams score for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone a hack job?  Whether it is or not, does it even matter?  Harry Potter is a solid, entertaining effort from John Williams and it will easily satisfy most of the composer's fans.  Coincidentally, the state of the industry seems to suggest that most "successful" film music composers have also been labeled "hacks" by one or another.  Jerry Goldsmith, Hans Zimmer, James Horner...and, yes, John Williams are best of the best and all have been put on trial for "Hackist" tendencies.  Their ability to "borrow" from other previous works is usually frowned on from a creative point of view, but from a pragmatic one, these men are brilliant, not to mention consistently employed!  When all is said and done, it is unlikely that fans will refrain from buying Harry Potter simply because it shares some common features with other Williams-scores. Their ability to enjoy the score will only be hampered by their own need for an all-new sound from the composer with each of his new projects. 

 

 


Track Listing and Ratings

 Track

Title Time

Rating

1 Prologue 2:12  *****
2 Harry's Wondrous World 5:21  ****
3 The Arrival of Baby Harry 4:25  ***
4 Visit to the Zoo
and Letters from Hogwarts
3:22  ****
5 Diagon Alley
and The Gringotts Vault
4:06  ****
6 Platform Nine-and-Three Quarters and The Journey to Hogwarts 3:14  ***
7 Entry into the Great Hall
and The Banquet
3:42  ****
8 Mr. Longbottom Flies 3:35  ****
9 Hogwarts Forever!
and The Moving Stars
3:46  ****
10 The Norwegian Ridgeback
and A Change of Season
2:47  ***
11 The Quidditch Match 8:28  ****
12 Christmas at Hogwarts 2:56  ****
13 The Invisibility Cloak
and The Library Scene
3:15  ***
14 Fluffy's Harp 2:38  ****
15 In the Devil's Snare
and The Flying Keys
2:20  ***
16 The Chess Game 3:48  ****
17 The Face of Voldemort 6:10  ***
18 Leaving Hogwarts 2:13  ****
19 Hedwig's Theme 5:09  *****
 

Total Running Time

73:27  
           


 

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - Experience-O-Meter

*The Experience-O-Meter displays the track to track listening experience of this soundtrack based on the 5-Star rating given to each track.  It provides a visual depiction of the ebbs and flows of the CD's presentation of the soundtrack.

 

Referenced Reviews
The Patriot  |  Star Wars:  The Phantom Menace

 

 

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