Soundtrack Review: "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"

Having not yet seen Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, I go into this review at a definite disadvantage.  A movie’s soundtrack is designed as an accompaniment to what is happening on screen, and yet listening to this soundtrack I am forced to separate the music from the image and formulate an opinion as to the success of the album.  Taking this into account, I found composer Nicholas Hooper’s work to be adequate but nothing more

It’s possible that his work here is perfectly suited for the emotional beats on-screen but on it’s own there isn’t a whole lot of substance to be found.  This is definitely an improvement over his own work on Order of the Phoenix, which isn’t saying much.  He brings back a couple of musical cues from that film, but as a whole, appears to be going for a more subdued and subtle approach.

The first three soundtracks in the Harry Potter franchise were composed by soundtrack icon John Williams and comparisons are inevitable.  Williams’ work on those films (especially the first and the third) was comprised of big, sweeping themes which transported the listener into the world of the films.  The tracks were memorable and felt as magical as the films themselves.  In the Half-Blood Prince soundtrack, I found myself repeating several tracks in an attempt to retain what I had just listened to.  People will definitely not be walking out of the theater humming anything from this film.

We’ve reached a point in the franchise where the story is much darker.  As such, the music needs to be darker.  Hooper definitely succeeds on this front.  There is an air of desperation throughout.  Obviously, there is tragedy in this film.   As stated above, the music is subtle, but the tragedy is felt.  I really think that the music will work better when paired with the movie than on its own.

This isn’t to say that nothing works on its own.  Four or five tracks really shine.  There are a couple of action cues that prove relatively exciting, although frustratingly short.  There is also an intriguing track towards the end that incorporates fractured and disjointed dialogue incorporated into the music.  It is one of the few truly unique moments in the soundtrack.

The disc runs slightly over an hour and contains 28 tracks.  While my reactions overall run slightly negative, I really find myself wishing for more.  Every track is so short that I wasn’t able to get into any of them as much as I would have liked.  I’m sure there is much more music in the actual film and I really look forward to hearing what was missing.

I’m also very excited to discover how the music complements the movie itself.  I’m sure Hooper’s work does exactly what it needs to do in the film.  I just hope that when he begins writing the score for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, he is able to create something worthy for what is sure to be an amazing finale to an amazing franchise.

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