Wild About Harry

Wild About Harry

I’m well aware that I’m missing out on one of the most significant cultural phenomena in my lifetime: Harry Potter. I have not read any of the books, and I have not seen any of the movies. Before you opine about all the fantastic fun I’m missing, there are plenty of other things I’ve missed out on thus far in my life: e.g., the novels of Trollope, the operas of Mercadante, the Hermitage, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Sopranos.

So while I might never get around to J.K. Rowling’s mega-selling prose or the blockbuster motion pictures that it has spawned (I’ve learned a long time ago never to say never definitively), I’m delighted and admittedly a tad envious of its mesmerizing appeal to people, and not just the overzealous fans.

It’s hard to walk around in an American city and not see a poster for the latest film, although that’s mostly a result of an endless supply of Hollywood advertising revenue. However, media moguls don’t throw money away that freely: if the movies weren’t raking it in at the box office, the ads wouldn’t be quite as ubiquitous. But that’s not all, in an era where reading is allegedly on the decline, everywhere I go folks are also reading the new final installment of the book which only hit the stores on Friday. This has to be the best example of viral advertising I’ve seen yet.

What could we do to effect a similar response for something in the new music scene, with more modest financial resources at our disposal? Perhaps someone could write a work in seven installments spread over several years using the same basic thematic material, doing so in such a way that it could easily be adapted for a variety of ensembles. Make it appear to be for children (maybe include children’s voices), but do it in such a way that adults will not feel condescended to if they perform it or listen to it. Vow never to compose anything else again. Maybe hold back a recording or a score until midnight on a specific summer date. Good luck.

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8 thoughts on “Wild About Harry

  1. rtanaka

    Um, advertising methods are good and all, but what about its content? I’m not too familiar with Rowling’s works, but seems like the stuff that appeals to wide age groups (like Pixar films and such) become succesful because they deal with universal issues that everybody can relate to on some level.

    Speaking of successive installments, the last few years I’ve been studying Bartok’s Mikrokosmos pretty extensively. I think it’s a great example of something that has an appearance of simplicity but it contains a great deal of sophistication.

  2. Kyle Gann

    Well, as someone who’s read about 30 of Trollope’s 47 novels, I highly recommend that you try The Way We Live Now – his absolute best, and then you’ll know whether you want to read any of the others. I love Trollope because, unlike in Dickens, there are no black or white characters; every villain has a lovable side, every hero and heroine is riddled with weaknesses. He was also fascinated by people who were unable (throughout 400 pages) to make up their minds. His phenomenology of indecision is astonishing. It’s great comfort reading, shedding light on human nature on almost every page, even when the plot is predictable.

  3. Colin Holter

    I love Trollope because, unlike in Dickens, there are no black or white characters; every villain has a lovable side, every hero and heroine is riddled with weaknesses.

    Just like Harry Potter.

  4. philmusic

    Besides the obvious wish fulfillment –“Harry your a wizard!” Harry Potter is a cliff notes version of the entire western history of myths and legends.

    That’s efficiency.

    Phil’s Page

  5. SonicRuins

    It’s not just the US. I’m halfway around the world and you can’t walk a block without seeing some Harry Potter poster or ad for the 7th book.

    Then again, I can’t walk a block in Taipei without seeing a Starbucks either…

  6. mryan

    One lesson to be learned . . .
    One lesson to be learned: Rowling started off with a good idea and acceptable writing skills. Where many authors might have crashed on their sophmore novel, she instead got better. By about the 4th book, Rowling was getting to be quite a good writer. This last book was one of the most enjoyable reads I’ve had in years. She’s taken a “lightweight” subject and infused it with all manner of “heavyweight” material. I was at first very skeptical of the series, but am now a fan.

    So what’s valuable in this for us new music types? Well, one thing among several I can think of: Don’t rest on your laurels, always give your best and your newest work will always be your best.

  7. jbunch

    And unlike Harry Potter where there is a character called Sirius, Stockhausen actually beliees he’s from the star Sirius. Hmm…maybe J.K. Rowling should write the libretto for Stockhausen’s next opera?


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