Hooper writes new themes for Potter

By • May 8, 2007

The darkness of the upcoming Harry Potter film will be reflected in the film’s score, which was recently recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London. Film Music Weekly spoke with composer Nicholas Hooper about the score for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

When Warner Bros. confirmed that Nicholas Hooper was the composer hired to score the new Harry Potter film, the soundtrack community was taken by surprise. But for anyone who is aware of the films director David Yates has done before, including the TV movies The Girl in the Café and Sex Traffic, the choice of composer was a natural one. Yates and Hooper have worked together on numerous projects. Still, it’s somewhat unusual that a director is able to retain his composer relationship when doing a transition to the world of big studio blockbusters.

“David Yates and I talked very carefully about how we should approach Warner Bros,” says Nicholas Hooper.
“First of all, we put together good examples of work I had done on other projects for the producers in England. In consultation with them, we then put together a palette of ideas for different aspects of the film which we then presented to Warner Bros. This was accepted, and included one or two bigger musical ideas which eventually got used in the final score.”
During March and April, Hooper and his team recorded almost two hours of music at Abbey Road Studios in London. Peter Cobbin, a score mixer whose previous credits include the Lord of the Rings trilogy, recorded the Chamber Orchestra of London (around 90 players) as well as choir and electronics.
“Worth particular note was a huge Taiko drum from Japan, suggested by my agent Darrell Alexander – it makes a deep sound you can actually feel,” says Nicholas Hooper.
Following in the footsteps of original Harry Potter composer John Williams, the composer used the well-known “Hedwig’s Theme” in his score, first in the film’s opening and then subsequently at particular dramatic moments.
“We all felt that it was essential that we use John Williams’ beautiful and haunting theme as it is so strongly identified with the films,” says Nicholas Hooper. He continued, “Having worked closely with David Yates for many years, we have always tried to push the boundaries of what we do, and have often worked well in advance of the film being completed. This produced a score which grew and developed organically with the film.”

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix has already been described as a darker film than its predecessors. This is also reflected in the score for the film.
”The themes of the film itself demanded a lot of fresh and different material. Two of the main themes developed were the ‘Umbridge Theme’ and the ‘Possession Theme’,” explains Nicholas Hooper. “Professor Umbridge is a new central character in this fifth story, and is an apparently fluffy but cruel and increasingly mad witch who is planted in the school by the Ministry of Magic. The theme reflects her character in an insistent, irritating way and was great fun to write – should be a hit with ring tones! The ‘Possession Theme’ is the story of Harry’s gradual possession by Voldemort, who convinces him that Sirius Black, his godfather, is being tortured. It appears in various forms, at times slow but mainly with a sense of panic, and often getting faster and faster. This searing theme was enormously rewarding to write.”

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix premieres worldwide on July 17. Cast members include Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham-Carter, Robbie Coltrane and Ralph Fiennes. Among Nicholas Hooper’s scoring team members on the project were Alastair King, who conducted the orchestra and choir, and orchestrators Geoff Alexander, Julian Kershaw, Bradley Miles and Simon Whiteside. The soundtrack album is scheduled to be released by Warner Bros Records on July 10.

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