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“Nimbus 2000”

from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Suite for Orchestra (2005)



John Williams (1932–)

Williams, J.
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John Williams changed the film world with his late 1970s scores for Jaws (1975), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), and Star Wars: A New Hope (1977). Drawing from the late-Romantic and early-twentieth-century idioms of composers like Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Holst, and Korngold, he brought lush, orchestral scoring back into vogue in an industry that had briefly turned to jazz, popular, and compiled scores.

By the early 2000s, Williams had written scores for many of Hollywood’s most successful blockbusters, and his torch had been carried forward by a whole generation of film composers. His collaboration with Chris Columbus on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) marked his third partnership with the director. It produced what became two of the most popular musical themes for the Harry Potter film franchise—Hedwig’s theme and the Nimbus 2000 (flying) theme. Both pieces emphasize the enchantment and curiosity at the core of the Potter stories through orchestration (Hedwig’s theme employs a celesta and the Nimbus theme focuses on woodwinds) and through harmonic progression (both themes rely on Neapolitan sixth, augmented sixth, and chromatic mediant chords—often signifiers of fantasy and illusion). This third movement of Williams’ suite on the film’s score makes the woodwind section the star of the show as the ensemble brings to life Harry Potter’s magical flying broomstick.

Program notes by:
Dr. Jessica Getman

Assistant Professor of Musicology/Ethnomusicology
California State University, San Bernardino

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