The Transfigurations and Significations of ‘Hedwig’s Theme’ in an Expanding Transmedial World
Dan White, University of Huddersfield
Abstract: John Williams’ enchanting celeste motif from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Columbus, 2001) quickly came to represent all that is magical about not only Harry’s pet owl, but Harry himself, his new school and home, and indeed the wider wizarding world. Today it is among one of the most widely known and easily-hummed film themes in history, but on its journey over the last two decades it has been handled by a whole host of composers who have altered, evolved, and in some cases replaced it or destroyed it beyond recognition. This paper tracks this journey, looking firstly at the signifying role taken on by different parts of the motif and its handling by Williams in various settings, before analysing the different approaches taken to its adoption by subsequent film composers (Doyle, Hooper, Desplat and Howard). Here, small alterations in pitch and rhythm align with the gradual diatonicisation of the theme, before its eventual replacement with another theme by Desplat (‘Lily’s Theme’) in the opening titles of Deathly Hallows Part Two (Yates, 2011) and throughout the film. The uses of the theme by James Newton Howard in his scores for the Fantastic Beasts films (Yates, 2016-2022 and forthcoming) illustrate a tension between the need to tie the new series into the franchise and meet audience expectations while also making significant original contributions. The latter part of the paper then looks at examples of the theme’s use elsewhere in the transmedia universe of the canonical and non-canonical Wizarding World, including trailers, videogames, theme parks, studio tours, fan-made musicals, and its notable absence in the Cursed Child play. Here, the subtly different significations and uses of the theme come to the fore, all the while cementing its more general role as a shorthand for – and indeed gateway to – the wizarding world, and more specifically the homeliness that it (and Hogwarts) represents both for Harry and for fans of the franchise. The cultural resonance and prominence that the theme now enjoys is inextricably linked to the global success of the franchise itself, but arguably due in no small part to the magical essence of a theme created by one of the masters of modern Hollywood scoring.
Bio: Dr Dan White is Lecturer of Musicology at the University of Huddersfield, where he teaches on film music, popular music studies, fandom and identity, research skills and performance. His doctoral research focused on the music of fantasy film franchises and their multimedia access points, and his book on Fantasy Film Music will be published in 2023 as part of the Ashgate Screen Music series. He has also published widely on different aspects of this research, including an article in Music, Sound and the Moving Image on the opening sequences of the Lord of the Rings films and another in the French journal InMedia on music at Harry Potter tourist attractions, as well as an upcoming chapter on the music of the Jurassic Park franchise to be published in the Bloomsbury Jurassic Park Book (ed. Melia). Other research interests include minimalist impulses in film music, the music of children’s media, and the intersections of film music and fandom.
Scoring 'Africa': Film Music as Cultural Colonialism
Maria Fuchs, University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna
Abstract: "Africa" found its way into cinema as early as the silent film era, for example, as a topos in the various music libraries. Entries such as "cannibal," "jungle music," "wild music," etc. are indicative of the colonialist foreign designations in anthologies that were associated with the African continent and that set racist stereotyping processes in motion. The audiovisual clichés meant to suggest otherness, exoticism, and alterity can still be found in contemporary film and television today.
In the "Africanized" Heimatfilm (sentimental film, in regional settings), whose emergence is related to the success of the novel "The White Masai" (1998) and which is a subgenre of the German-Austrian Heimatfilm of the post-war period, typically white Europeans seek their professional or private happiness in "Africa". In the process, the African continent and its inhabitants are staged in a foreign way also in the soundtrack, and racist stereotypes and colonial ways of thinking are reproduced in the audiovisual representation.
In this lecture, I would like to use the example of this German genre of the "Africanized" Heimatfilm, which has been successfully broadcast on German television since the late 1990s, to question the neo-colonial sound practices not only on the textual level, but also on the level of the musical production of television itself. In doing so, I draw on Marc Slobin's (2008) as well as Mera's and Morcom's (2009) ideas about global perspectives on the soundtrack and aim to take up the debates of the intersections between ethnomusicology and screen music studies.
Bio: Maria Fuchs is a Senior postdoc at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, leading the FWF project "Soundscapes of 'Heimat': Musical Mapping in Heimat and Mountain Films (1930-1970)" and currently teaching at the University of Salzburg. Before she was an Erwin Schrödinger Fellow (postdoc) at the Center for Popular Culture and Music at the University of Freiburg. Her research focuses on popular and cross-media phenomena of music of the 20th and 21st centuries, especially on screen music and sound studies.
She is the author of the book Stummfilmmusik. Theorie und Praxis im 'Allgemeinen Handbuch der Film-Musik’ (1927), Marburg 2017.
Sound Scripts: Closed Captioning of Music and Sound as Transformative Practice
James Deaville, Carleton University
Abstract: In his book Reading Sounds: Closed-Captioned Media and Popular Culture, Sean Zdenek proposes that “the movie is transformed into a new text through the process of captioning it” (2015, 4). This paper explores the crucial roles of music and sound in the adaptive transformation of media texts enabled by closed captioning.
By virtue of its landmark consent decree from 2012, Netflix has ensured that captions “will be available on 100% of [its] on-demand streaming content” (“Netflix Consent Decree” 2012). However, its guidelines leave to the judgment of captioners the determination of which sounds—including music—are sufficiently “important” to require captions (Netflix 2014), despite updates from 2021. If “captions are interpretations, [and] captioning is not an objective science” (Zdenek 5), then the captioner for music and sound becomes an interpreter responsible for their prioritized selection and linguistic description, which represents an act of (re-)creation. (Kirk 2019, 47). Such transformation of media texts through adaptation depend on factors unique to the captioner, e.g. knowledge of music, experience with sound, and individual creativity (Ulmer 2019, 440)
My closer analysis of captioning as adaptive practice considers examples that postdate the most recent Netflix policies (2021). Thus I investigate the closed captions in selected episodes from Netflix Originals from 2022: Vikings: Valhalla (historical drama), Archive 81 (supernatural horror), and The Woman in the House Across the Street… (dark comedic thriller). Captioning can create alternative texts, and for the chosen examples I explore how the captioners used the opportunity for personal and creative expression. The study is informed by recent Vulture articles about sound captioning in Stranger Things and by interviews with gig-economy workers and industry professionals (Fresno et al 2020). I also draw on recent work in disability studies by Janine Butler (2019, 2020), who has conducted focus groups of members of the D/deaf and hard-of-hearing community to test options for making screen music visible to audiences.
Bio: James Deaville is Professor in the Music Program of the School for Studies in Art & Culture, Carleton University, Ottawa. He edited Music in Television (Routledge, 2010) and co-edited with Christina Baade Music and the Broadcast Experience (Oxford, 2016). Regarding music and media, he has published articles in American Music (2019), Journal of Sonic Studies (2012), and Echo (2005) and has contributed chapters to Routledge books on Twin Peaks (2021) and Star Trek (2022) and to collections Music in the Post-9/11 World (2007), Music, Politics, and Violence (2012), and Oxford Handbook of Music and Advertising (co-edited with Ron Rodman and Siu-Lan Tan, 2021). He is currently co-editing the Oxford Handbook of Music and Television with Jessica Getman and Ron Rodman (2023).