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Adding orchestral score to Harry Potter - Voldemort & Dumbledore's duel

This was done as the assignment for Film Scoring Practice on facebook, but I finished early and thought someone might like it, or have some thoughts, or both.



This was scored as a self-contained clip so those who haven't seen the film need only know: it's a good wizard and bad wizard having a scrap, and the scene originally had no score barring very minor touches towards the end.

Those who have seen the film knows the context of the scene and probably agrees that music, especially like this, is pretty inappropriate! Hard to improve on the scene as it stands.

This is actually my first real experience at scoring to picture, so my notes follow regarding sync points, explanations etc.

(There's some elements I would add or make more prominent if writing for performance but which don't come through well with my samples - fast woodwind runs, for example, or strings. I was in the limbo of writing soundtrack but writing it for the strengths of my midi library and ability to use it. A lot of it would stay the same if I get this recorded, but some of it would be elaborated on.)

So clearly I went for the exciting/dramatic feel, as if this is the culmination of a soundtrack that already exists with the use of themes and recurring motifs (and since it's taken five films for these guys to meet and fight, why not strut it a little?). I used a few sync points:

0.03 - wide shot of the duel. Fast, dissonant trumpet-led rhythm changing into some heroic themes and driving ostinatoes.
0.26 - Voldemort's fireball. Tempo and mood change as Dumbledore thinks "oh SNAP this isn't good". Horn bends, strings, some subtle choir, harp and woodwinds.
0.39 - Dumbledore slashing the fire snake. Shift to building rhythmic tension. Snare & cymbal, low brass and strings, with horns and trumpets stabbing over the top.
1.01 - Dumbledore knocking Harry back. The battle changes tone for the shift to delicate yet ominous celeste, winds and strings (originally I wanted it to be less rhythmic and more muted fitting Voldemort being underwater) leading to:
1.11 Voldemort's glass-blaster (™). Brass sfz as the duel essentially ends.

I was obliged by the minimal score in the clip to incorporate the changes; the point where Dumbledore shields them shifts to C minor and I added bass drone on double bass, tuba, bass trombone with a high violin part fading away. Prior to this, the glass flying towards them is over E - which fortunately is the root of the whole piece so seemed natural - and I added drones, some mark tree twinkles and celeste/glockenspiel passages. Some moderate score is in the clip at the end but by that point I was done!

Some of the syncs were happy accidents. Harry getting knocked over at 1.01 was just a coincidence but it fit the rhythm. I had to raise or lower the tempo to make certain parts fit - 0.26-0.39 is a good example. I also had to slip a 3/4 at the end there to make it mesh with the change at 0.39. The move to ominous Bb as Fudge's poster is destroyed was another nice, but accidental, sync.

In retrospect I might change the very start, but I think it works as it accompanies Bellatrix escaping and makes a contrast to the jarring beginning of the duel. It also allows that theme to reprise later with the flying glass. Originally, 0.03-0.26 was different and I think more boring - that section survives at 0.22-0.26.

Any thoughts welcome, I could easily end up recording this piece at some point.

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Hey Dave, I'm also working on this, but haven't finished yet and I don't want to post my music on top of your thread. 

I liked this a lot, especially the beginning which captures the opening mood well. 

One thing I think you could have emphasized more is the emotional switches between Voldemort and Dumbledore's dominance in the battle.  After all, Dumbledore is protecting Harry (our hero and force for good) and Voldemort is pure evil.  Yet I don't get a sense that the music has a dog in the fight.  That is, the music describes the action well, but I don't feel the emotional underpinnings of who it is we want to win here.

Specifically, after Dumbledore slashes the fire snake, he seems to have the advantage all the way through 1:11, when Voldemort pulls his glass-blaster out of nowhere (all trademarks copyright of original owners).  During this section, you have the music settling down a bit, but I actually think it should be building as the audience feels there might really be a chance this time for good to triumph finally over evil ("almost getting Voldemort" being a theme throughout the movies). 

You identify the glass-blaster as "the end of the duel", but dramatically, I think this is the most pivotal point with the highest tension.  For a while we thought Dumbledore might have the best of Voldemort, but Voldemort surprises us by showing the almost completely overwhelming power he has at his command.  This is a major turn, IMO, as the situation is now quite dire for Harry (since not only does Dumbledore no longer have the upper hand, but maybe he can't actually protect Harry from such a tremendous force).  As Voldemort sends the glass shards, there is a lot of possibility this might be the end of Harry (the hero of the franchise).  That Dumbledore pulls out a final protection and Voldemort gives up (for now) should come as a relief.

Anyway, my two cents on this one.  I did have fun with it and sounds like you did, too.

My first thoughts were: "but they aren't fighting outside in the sun" and "where are the dragons?". Too exciting and not enough foreboding, methinks. Second half is excellent, though - the way the music fades sort of suggests that this is not quite over yet (which is true if you know what the next scene is).

"One thing I think you could have emphasized more is the emotional switches between Voldemort and Dumbledore's dominance in the battle.  After all, Dumbledore is protecting Harry (our hero and force for good) and Voldemort is pure evil.  Yet I don't get a sense that the music has a dog in the fight.  That is, the music describes the action well, but I don't feel the emotional underpinnings of who it is we want to win here."

I completely agree, I was leaning toward the possibility but dismissed the time it would take (as well as requiring an entire preceding score to really do it well!) I suppose I do it to some extent with broad strokes - my take on the duel stages is 1) evenly matched with Dumbledore a little stronger so Voldemort breaks, 2) Voldemort the upper hand as Dumbledore's actually shocked, 3) Dumbledore on top as he handles the snake, does the water thing and then deflects the . . . dark shadow thing tM attack, 4) Voldemort owns wholesale with Glass Blaster and only gives up conventional fighting when Dumbledore shields. My stages of music going with that were then 1) Dissonant frantic action with heroism 2) Suspense and tension 3) martial, unrelenting assault 3b) building tension 4) Menace and defeat.

So I sort of do it by my standards, but nowhere near as well as is possible.

I was indeed wrong saying "end of the duel". As you said, it's the culmination of V's power, but it effectively ends the fighting part of the duel on a despairing note, and that means bass trombone.

The other consideration is that I'm just scoring it as a fight. If you come in with the franchise baggage, which is hard not to do, it won't fit as well. Ideally I would have scored the whole film and had hero and villain themes to mesh together during the duel :D

Anyway, glad you basically like it, looking forward to hearing yours soon!

John Driscoll said:

Hey Dave, I'm also working on this, but haven't finished yet and I don't want to post my music on top of your thread. 

I liked this a lot, especially the beginning which captures the opening mood well. 

One thing I think you could have emphasized more is the emotional switches between Voldemort and Dumbledore's dominance in the battle.  After all, Dumbledore is protecting Harry (our hero and force for good) and Voldemort is pure evil.  Yet I don't get a sense that the music has a dog in the fight.  That is, the music describes the action well, but I don't feel the emotional underpinnings of who it is we want to win here.

Specifically, after Dumbledore slashes the fire snake, he seems to have the advantage all the way through 1:11, when Voldemort pulls his glass-blaster out of nowhere (all trademarks copyright of original owners).  During this section, you have the music settling down a bit, but I actually think it should be building as the audience feels there might really be a chance this time for good to triumph finally over evil ("almost getting Voldemort" being a theme throughout the movies). 

You identify the glass-blaster as "the end of the duel", but dramatically, I think this is the most pivotal point with the highest tension.  For a while we thought Dumbledore might have the best of Voldemort, but Voldemort surprises us by showing the almost completely overwhelming power he has at his command.  This is a major turn, IMO, as the situation is now quite dire for Harry (since not only does Dumbledore no longer have the upper hand, but maybe he can't actually protect Harry from such a tremendous force).  As Voldemort sends the glass shards, there is a lot of possibility this might be the end of Harry (the hero of the franchise).  That Dumbledore pulls out a final protection and Voldemort gives up (for now) should come as a relief.

Anyway, my two cents on this one.  I did have fun with it and sounds like you did, too.

They're wizards! Wizards are exciting! Tbh I thought I had made it at least partially foreboding. Thanks. Are you referencing other films and scores and I'm just being dense?

Greg Brus said:

My first thoughts were: "but they aren't fighting outside in the sun" and "where are the dragons?". Too exciting and not enough foreboding, methinks. Second half is excellent, though - the way the music fades sort of suggests that this is not quite over yet (which is true if you know what the next scene is).

I watched a few more times. Yeah, I think there is *some* foreboding there... but the chord change at 0:14 kills it! This one screams "we are on an adventure here folks" to my ears. As for references, I didn't have anything in particular in mind, but now that I think of it, the picture that initially popped into my head would be somewhat connected to How to train your dragon or some such. Now, if you listen to fragments, the connection doesn't exist at all. But that one chord change sets the tone for me. It stands out too much IMO.

Again, I understand and completely agree. Those chords scream "HERO, COMIN' THROUGH" but that was my purpose even if it many sense it doesn't fit. HTTYD is one of my favourite scores. I'll take that :)

Hey Dave, I posted mine here: https://youtu.be/8NdCQQSDvLA.  I'll post it in the FB group tomorrow if you want to comment there.  Cheers, John

Hats off to you for this– I think it could be difficult to score for something for which so many of us have clear musical associations with (given the famous score that goes along with the movie).  There's a lot of nice things here, with cohesiveness of harmony and some interesting tritone relationships in keys.  The use of thematic material is nice and helps make it sound more cohesive.  I'll go on to nitpick, but hopefully you find something useful in these tips– they're just suggestions that hopefully are useful.  

I agree with a lot of the comments in terms of it potentially being more foreboding with the battle.  Something you could try is more action with fast moving strings, perhaps some rising and falling crescendoing string tremolo thing or string passagework (probably in lower registers of the strings).  Perhaps moving from a lower register to a higher register as the battle intensifies could also be a thing to try?  Just some thoughts and suggestions!  

The suspended moment with the fireball is nice, and I like the pitch bend effect as the fireball happens, although I'm not completely convinced by the transition to this moment at 0:27, and I think it's because of the buildup that happens before 0:23 where it goes back again a little instead of continuing to build up.  Also, the attack at 0:34 going back to the quieter place– not sure how I feel about that, but it feels a bit sudden, especially since it goes back.  

Perhaps you could try changing key, timbre, and/or register more dramatically when Dumbledore makes the water sphere and engulfs Voldemort?  Also, at 0:52 with Voldemort breaking out and causing the glass explosion, I would definitely reflect that moment as an explosion in the music.  I like the celesta sound after the glass starts shattering.  One thing you could also try is something with high string harmonics, possibly something like descending artificial harmonic glissandos, natural harmonic glissandos throughout the strings, harmonic pizzicatos (natural works better for that), or something else– these are just suggestions!  You could also try combining things like these harmonic ideas with something like high piano, glockenspiel, or crotales.  Just some ideas– I think something like this would provide contrast and work nicely with the shattering glass sounds.   

I know you haven't scored after that, but a couple of string harmonics combined with a low pedal string tone or low pedal in the brass (with something like a practice mute) could be really effective for the section after, with the fine glass settling as Voldemort disappears.  Some air sounds in brass could be nice too, potentially, but that's a place you wouldn't want to overscore.  

Anyway, these are just some thoughts that I had while listening and I hope they're helpful.  

Thanks a lot, Lara. I basically agree with all your suggestions for additional colours and techniques, especially since you often use them so fluently yourself. Not all of these would have occurred to me, but the truth is that writing for performance is easier than achieving the same thing in midi and I got lazy (writing a flute trill is the work of a moment, flute trill in midi requires keyswitches and automation etc). And things that would sound great live sound weak, and so I don't write them. String tremoloes at least were definitely a consideration, but I didn't get round to it. These are my excuses.

However, there's a good chance I'll get this recorded sometime, and I should probably treat it as a palette for your suggestions, especially as I've not tried most of them in my own sessions yet - string harmonics and glissandi as a sort of sound design are a case in point.

When you say "air sounds" - is that how it sounds, unpitched breathing through the instrument? Or what is it?



Dave Dexter said:



When you say "air sounds" - is that how it sounds, unpitched breathing through the instrument? Or what is it?

I think your comment might have broken :)

Lara Poe said:



Dave Dexter said:



When you say "air sounds" - is that how it sounds, unpitched breathing through the instrument? Or what is it?

It is fantastic! All is very organic and have a great impact, energy with it.
Few thinks i wanted to admit are:
- from 0:10 to 0:18 - This main melody can be feel to much major and even simple said 'happy' ? I know what you wanted to achieve, this great position od Dumbledore, enormous and powerfull wizard with all of his strength, but with atmoshphere of all scene i think it's too much, this think breaks immerse and drama of all.
- from 1:01 to 1:11 - is done beautifully! The tension about their fight is developed in higher level - shows, that the fight isn't over and the spectator know, that something can happend right away! Great job!
- from 1:11 - sforzando ruined this last moment of menace. This part of music isn't synchronized emotionaly with visual aspects of the scene - we see great, last attack, harry's face full of fear. We wait for this epic Voldemort's assault - but music just slows down and didn't increased that feeling, spectator can feel a little bit torn, incoherent(?) with what he see.

But the harmony, arrangement, orchestration is just amazing! Great job Dave! :) I really like it!

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