Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Soundtrack, Jeremy Soule, 2002
The Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets soundtrack is easily the best of Jeremy Soule’s five scores for the franchise. It also benefits from a better album presentation than Soule’s other Harry Potter soundtracks. Only eight minutes of notable material are missing from the album release, which thankfully excises a lot of ruminative underscore. In fact, Chamber of Secrets is Soule’s most satisfying fantasy soundtrack. Yes, that’s a big claim to make, considering his work on franchises like The Elder Scrolls and Guild Wars. But Chamber of Secrets achieves a consistency of quality that Soule’s more bloated scores don’t accomplish. He doubtlessly deserved his 2004 win of the BAFTA Games Award for Best Original Music for Chamber of Secrets.
Soule’s designation as “the John Williams of game music” has always had more to do with hyperbole and facile comparisons than with actual musical parallels. For example, Soule seems almost entirely disinterested in the elaborate thematic structures that shape so many of Williams’ works. However, there’s no denying that at his best, Soule is able to create a lavish orchestral sound broadly reminiscent of John Williams’ works in the science fiction and fantasy genre.
It was this similarity in sound that landed Soule the gig on the first five Harry Potter games. On the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets soundtrack, he shows why he’s the right man for the job. Soule gets the necessary mix of adventure, menace and child-like wonder just right. He crafts the perfect soundtrack for a quest that is light-hearted, but not without dangers and dramatic encounters, set in a colourful world both homely and of immense scale.
All these impressions come together on the album’s opening track “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Title Theme”. The cue successfully evokes the requisite sense of both magic and majestic sweep essential to a Harry Potter score. A substantial choral component gives the music unexpected heft and scope, before the orchestration pulls back to solo piano only. With impressive ease, Soule shows his aptitude at handling these swift, fluid changes of orchestration and mood. At the same time, it’s obvious Soule has found his individual musical entry point to the world of Harry Potter, never coming off as a mere Williams rip-off.
What’s most refreshing about the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets soundtrack is its light touch, and a feeling of affability and charm that is utterly delightful. It also helps that the variety on display on “Title Theme” is present throughout the entire soundtrack. For example, the requisite comedy elements appear on “Washing”, which merrily bounces along without ever turning cloying or childish. In a similar vein, “House Point Theme” has great fun contrasting regal fanfares with tuba-driven, oompah-style humour. In the soundtrack’s liner notes, Chamber of Secrets‘ audio manager Nick Lavier claims that Soule “doesn’t seem to be able to […] very easily […] write light, playful music.” However, based on the winning evidence presented on this soundtrack, it’s an issue that Soule successfully overcame.
At the other end of the spectrum are the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets soundtrack’s action pieces. Despite the odd less than spectacular cue, they manage to outgun the battle tracks on pretty much all of Soule’s other fantasy scores. A comparison with his work for the same year’s The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind proves insightful. By comparison, Chamber of Secrets’ action cues are far more attractive, with no place for stale ostinato staccatos. They also have a real sense of rhythmic elasticity, never content to rest in one spot for long as the whole orchestra contributes to the light-footed compositions.
Most importantly, there’s a real sense of urgency and verve that turns even short tracks like “Draco” into energising interludes. It’s hard to overstate how much a live orchestra’s vivid sound brings to these compositions. For example, the full-throated, rasping sound of the brass section on “Draco” is immensely satisfying.
Many other tracks contribute to the variety of textures and moods that makes the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets soundtrack such a winning work. Take “Flying”, which shows Soule at his most spirited and effervescent. Here, the music truly cuts loose, unable to contain its excitement at the wide-open skies ahead. Then there’s “Willow Level 3”, a beautifully contoured string adagio with Wagnerian overtones that displays Soule’s classical inclinations. “Spell Atmos” and its calm solemnity and mystical gestures feel like a test run for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. The cues’ feeling of otherworldly wonder and gazing finds its charmingly unassuming counterpoint in the gorgeously meandering “Day”. The composition’s hazy, sustained woodwind chords set against piano and celesta are something to savour. It’s a rare moment of absent-minded daydreaming that later Harry Potter scores with higher dramatic stakes don’t allow for.
- 01 - Harry Potter and the Chamber Of Secrets Theme Jeremy Soule 2:23
- 02 - The Burrow Jeremy Soule 2:16
- 03 - The Washing Machine Jeremy Soule 0:58
- 04 - Fighting Imps Jeremy Soule 1:09
- 05 - Diagon Alley Jeremy Soule 1:04
- 06 - Stealth Pursuit Jeremy Soule 1:00
- 07 - The Leaky Cauldron Jeremy Soule 0:55
- 08 - Hedwig Jeremy Soule 2:14
- 09 - Fighting the Whomping Willow Jeremy Soule 2:08
- 10 - Return to Hogwarts Jeremy Soule 1:26
- 11 - Day Follow Jeremy Soule 1:29
- 12 - Day Wander Jeremy Soule 1:03
- 13 - Hogwarts Neutral Jeremy Soule 1:03
- 14 - Happy Hogwarts Jeremy Soule 1:06
- 15 - Fred & George's Shop Jeremy Soule 0:45
- 16 - Day Jeremy Soule 2:07
- 17 - Broom Lesson Jeremy Soule 1:09
- 18 - Flying Jeremy Soule 1:48
- 19 - House Points Theme Jeremy Soule 1:00
- 20 - The Library Jeremy Soule 1:16
- 21 - Spell Atmos Jeremy Soule 2:14
- 22 - Quidditch Anthem Jeremy Soule 1:03
- 23 - Bumping Slytherin Jeremy Soule 0:48
- 24 - Searching for Aragog Jeremy Soule 1:04
- 25 - The Chamber of Secrets Jeremy Soule 0:59
- 26 - Harry Potter and the Chamber Of Secrets (Alt.) Jeremy Soule 4:37