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Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them: Music From The Motion Picture Picture
Vinyl | LP (12" album, 33 rpm)
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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Deluxe Edition)
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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is an all new adventure returning us to the wizarding world created by J.K. Rowling. Featured on the picture disc are two early recordings by James Newton Howard that helped shape the musical vision for the film. Arriving in New York for a brief stopover, Newt Scamander might have come and gone without incident... were it not for a No-Maj (American for Muggle) named Jacob, a misplaced magical case, and the escape of some of Newt's fantastic beasts, which could spell trouble for both the wizarding and No-Maj worlds. The 12 inch Picture Disc LP also features artwork from the film and is packaged in a clear plastic sleeve.
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The thing about Howard is that he isn't just some clever arranger who can clothe a theme in various styles but is able to get deep inside each and come out with music that is original and full of the spirit of the music. Soundtrack collectors are used to soundtracks of one or two themes and know this is a valid approach if the only intent is to give a film a signature tune. But in Fantastic Beasts, Howard has gone all out and created a score with multiple major themes, variants of themes and little momentary diversions and flights of fancy that show an endless wealth of invention. There's eerie music with a wordless children's chorus and a ragtime tune which is derived from the eerie theme. There's music of high adventure and action and music of darkness underlined by deep, rumbling bass notes.
There is some inspiration from his earlier scores. Peter Pan comes to mind with its use of harp and celeste with wordless vocals, both prominent here as key signifiers of magic. Wyatt Earp surprisingly comes to mind, not for its thematic material, of course, but the way he uses an orchestra to create really big music; not necessarily loud but big in its suggestion of vast spaces in this case of the magical realm and not the American West. There are some excellent minor themes as well. A jaunty melody with an English folk song air to it is used to indicate Newt's origins but would be at home in a Jane Austen film as well. At times the music takes off in a furious almost Slavonic way such as in The Demiguise and the Occamy where it is reminiscent of Franz Waxman's music for Taras Bulba. The score is also mindful to its setting and includes music that recalls the Twenties with jazz emerging out of ragtime with a theme that begins like a jaunty rag before slipping into a Cab Calloway kind of sound. Track 15, "Relieve Him of His Wand" etc. is a stunning tour de force of orchestral composition.
The producers of the disc (including James Newton Howard) wisely combined cues to prevent the choppy effect that separating every cue on a soundtrack album can create. They also cleverly arranged the two discs to make the first disc into a 75-minute long symphonic suite that is a pleasure to listen to. On the second disc with 25-minutes of bonus material you get any music that may have distracted from the experience of the first disc. This includes repetitious themes, some of the really creepy music and Blind Pig, the song by Australian singer Emmi (it's really good, but a sudden pop song would interrupt the orchestral flow of the first disc). One of the nicest tracks in the score ends it all, Kowalski's Rag, an extended take on the ragtime and jazz themes of the film.
The booklet lists an incredible 166 musicians on this soundtrack. It's unclear if they were all assembled as an orchestra at one time or if this represents different people playing at different times. If this is a single orchestra it's one of the largest assembled for any soundtrack .Mahler would have only dreamed of such an orchestra. The usual Hollywood soundtrack was played by 50 to 100 musicians ans soundtrack LP's were made later with about 30 musicians. Also, this does not include the jazz band or electronic effects. The booklet beautifully gives credit to everyone involved in this score, a well-earned tribute. Even if the orchestra was less than all 166 musicians, it is a very large and talented group.
James Newton Howard had been a session musician and had been a pianist and string arranger for Elton John's tour band for a number of years before taking up film scores. He has been nominated for an Academy Award for six of his scores but has never won. I nope that this score will win it for him because it deserves it.
I'm familiar with Newton Howard's work, so I knew this soundtrack would be excellent, but it exceeded my expectations. It ranges from sweeping beauty to melancholy subtlety to playful and rollicking. I particularly love the track that introduces us to the Niffler and Jacob. I often hum Jacob's theme. Love the Roaring '20's feel of it.
We hear a few hints of Harry Potter-related themes, but I was pleased that this soundtrack really stands on its own. I've had it on a continuous loop in my car for some time. I was disappointed that it didn't receive a nomination for an Academy Award.