December 31, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments


Original Review by Joseph W. Bat

Is it really any surprise that one of the most successful book series and now film series has made its entry into the video game domain? Of course we are talking about Harry Potter. Author JK Rowling never thought her book would be as successful as it is or make its way onto the big screen and she probably didn’t think it would be a video game either, but since every film there has seen a video game adaptation. Since the first video game, composer Jeremy Soule had written award winning music till Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which was arguably the best music he had written for the video games. This time around, composer James Hannigan has written the music for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. For a very good reason, the music here has been receiving more attention than previous efforts – read on to find out.

Lush woodwinds and strings start with “The Story Begins”, a nice short prologue piece. The first track is really just a tease and nothing you wouldn’t hear in previous Harry Potter video game scores. It is in the second track “Titles” where we finally get to hear what we have been waiting for in the Harry Potter video game scores – John Williams well known Hedwig’s Theme. The familiar eight notes are announced boldly by the brass and taken over by Hannigan’s material, which has a very fleeting sound. This magical and wondrous approach is the same John Williams took with the first two Harry Potter film scores and is a wonderful nod. Things become darker with heavy chorus singing and end on a huge final note with Hedwig’s Theme. It is one of the best uses of Hedwig’s Theme. In “Cho and Harry” and “To Catch An Owl – Short”, we are presented with one of the major themes that appears throughout. It has a very bitter sweet and charming sound and is one Hannigan reworks from sounding very innocent and being playfully upbeat.

Our first taste of some action writing is in “The Inquisitorial Squad” and it is one of the highlights. Huge fast brass and outbursts from the orchestra really give the sense of urgency and conflict. While listening to this, you begin to wonder – why isn’t anything like this on the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix film soundtrack? In Nicholas Hooper’s film score the theme for Professor Umbridge captured the annoyance of the character well. The music for her in the game is first heard in “Dolores Umbridge” and shares the approach with sporadic performances and awkward orchestration. The second big action writing appears in “Death Eaters” and is considerably darker, with heavy percussive writing and a large scale singing chorus. It is fair to say the later films do not focus on exploration as much as before, which is one of the main focuses of the games, so much music is written simply for this. We hear this in such cues as “Life in Hogwarts” and “Welcome to Hogwarts”, which contains more usage of Hedwig’s Theme on the lighter and playful side. More can be heard “Exploring”, “Walking the Grounds”, and “Navigating Hogwarts”. Playful and big action writing that merges Hedwig’s Theme into the action is used to great effect in “Wand Combat” and also in the fantastic climatic “Dumbledore and Voldemort”.

One can easily hear the approach of using the familiar John Williams sound for this score. Harry Potter is essentially a coming of age story and what John Williams captured best was the obvious magic and mystery of Harry Potter, but also the journey of Harry growing up. The music for the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix video game is fantastic and enjoyable enough to warrant multiple listens, which is one of the problems with Hooper’s film score. There is so much material to like and the score has one of the best uses of Hedwig’s Theme. James Hannigan has not only written the best music in the video game series, but he has surpassed Nicholas Hooper’s film score. That’s right, this is better than the film score. I really hope someone over at Warner Bros. is listening to this score. Let’s face it, while Hooper’s score has some nice moments, overall it is very average and only serviceable. If you enjoyed John Williams and Patrick Doyle’s approach for the films – you will enjoy James Hannigan’s for the video game.

Note: The music reviewed is Hannigan’s own promo release, not the final soundtrack. The track order and some music may change, and due to licensing issues all material referencing John Williams material will unfortunately not appear on any possible future released soundtrack.

Rating: ****½

Track Listing:

  • The Story Begins (0:45)
  • Titles (1:59)
  • Cho and Harry (0:48)
  • To Catch An Owl – Short (1:47)
  • The Inquisitorial Squad (2:00)
  • Dolores Umbridge (2:22)
  • Death Eaters (4:16)
  • Life At Hogwarts (2:24)
  • Welcome to Hogwarts (2:04)
  • Wand Combat (2:33)
  • A Task In Hand (1:58)
  • Evading Filch (2:17)
  • The Dark Arts (1:45)
  • Courtyard Frolics (1:35)
  • The Invisibility Cloak (1:04)
  • Fred and George (1:20)
  • Stealth and Scurrying (1:49)
  • The Department of Mysteries (2:20)
  • Exploring (2:12)
  • A Gathering of Friends (1:09)
  • Walking the Corridors (1:16)
  • Navigating the Grounds (1:25)
  • Darkness Falls (3:00)
  • Beware Umbridge (1:02)
  • A Sense Of Urgency (1:44)
  • The Room of Requirement (0:34)
  • Occlumency With Voldemort (2:00)
  • Dumbledore and Voldemort (2:23)
  • Menu One (1:13)
  • The Room of Rewards (1:04)

Running Time: 54 minutes 08 seconds

Electronic Arts [Promo] (2007)

Music composed by James Hannigan. Conducted by Allan Wilson. Performed by The London Philharmonic Orchestra and Pinewood Singers and The Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra . Original Harry Potter themes by John Williams. Album produced by James Hannigan.

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