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The Harry Potter Canon

"Ah, music ...A magic beyond all we do here!"
-- Dumbledore (PS7)

Music

A powerful magic often associated with healing and lifting the spirit.

References from the canon

  • Dumbledore's Chocolate Frog Card lists chamber music as one of his interests (PS6), and on the night of Harry's Sorting Feast he led the school in song, calling music "a magic beyond all we do here" (PS7). Dumbledore had a pet phoenix named Fawkes whose song and tears had healing powers (CS12, CS17), and his patronus was a phoenix, as well (DH20, JKR).
  • Tom Riddle/Voldemort called Fawkes a mere "songbird" when he appeared in the Chamber of Secrets, but the music of the Phoenix song was "eerie, spine-tingling, unearthly" and had a physical effect on Harry: "it lifted the hair on Harry's scalp and made his heart feel as though it was swelling to twice its normal size" (CS17). When Harry and Voldemort dueled in the Little Hangleton graveyard, the phoenix feather twin cores of the wands connected to create a golden thread, then a golden dome of light surrounded by phoenix-song, reverberating inside Harry and reminding him of Dumbledore (GF34).
  • A magical harp was used by Voldemort-possessed Quirrell to put Fluffy the three-headed dog to sleep so he could get to the trap door which led to the Philosopher's Stone (PS16). When Harry followed, he used a flute carved by Hagrid that made a single note "like an owl" (PS12) to put Fluffy back to sleep (PS16).
  • The golden-egg clue for the Second Task of the Triwizard Tournament could only be heard underwater. When Harry opened it in the Prefect's bathtub, the "eerie voices" of merpeople sang a song-riddle (GF25). The merpeople sang again at Dumbledore's funeral, a "song of loss and despair," yet strangely comforting (HBP30).
  • The beautiful female creatures known as Veelas are able to enchant men with their singing (FB). When Harry heard the Veelas singing at the Quidditch World Cup, first his mind went blank as if under the Imperious Curse, then he suddenly wanted to do something impressive, such as "jumping from the box into the stadium" but Hermione stopped him (GF8). Veela song apparently has no effect on women.
  • Peeves the Poltergeist enjoyed making up songs, such as "Oh Potter You Rotter" (CS11), and when the suits of armor at Hogwarts were enchanted to sing Christmas Carols, Peeves would hide inside to add his own rude lyrics (GF22).
  • Fleur Delacour says that choirs of wood nymphs serenade the students of Beauxbatons at Christmas (GF23).
  • There was an enchanted musical box at Grimmauld Place that played a "faintly sinister, tinkling tune" rendering everyone weak and sleepy (OP6).
  • The Countercurse for Sectumsempra used by Snape to heal Draco was an "incantation that sounded almost like song" (HBP24).
  • The Hogwarts Sorting Hat was known to sing songs as warnings to the school from time to time, according to Nearly Headless Nick (Op11).
  • When Ilvermorny Wizarding School was attacked by Gormlaith Gaunt in the 1600s, she spoke a Parseltongue word meaning "wand sleep" to render Isolt Sayre's Basilisk wand useless so she kill the sleeping family. But the same word awakened the Horned Serpent cores inside the wands of Isolt's adopted boys, and their wands emitted a "low musical note" which alerted the brothers to the dangerous Gormlaith lurking outside (Pm).
Music

Commentary

Notes

Music and magic are connected in many stories, legends, and myths.

The Greek Sirens were beautiful enchantresses who lured sailors to wreck their ships with their singing. The hero Odysseus told his men to tie him to the mast of the ship until they had passed the island of the Sirens so he could avoid the temptation of jumping overboard. The phrase siren song still means something desirable but dangerous, much like the Veelas who nearly made Harry jump to his death just to impress them.

Many tales about Mermaids from the Arabian Nights to Disney's The Little Mermaid" incorporate singing by merpeople to lure either victims or lovers.

Writer C.S. Lewis imagined his character Aslan, the "Great Lion," creating the world of Narnia by an incantation of singing and roaring, and the music affects the listener very much the way Phoenix song affects Harry:

“In the darkness something was happening at last. A voice had begun to sing. It was very far away and Digory found it hard to decide from what direction it was coming. Sometimes it seemed to come from all directions at once. Sometimes he almost thought it was coming out of the earth beneath them. Its lower notes were deep enough to be the voice of the earth herself. There were no words. There was hardly even a tune. But it was, beyond comparison, the most beautiful noise he had ever heard. It was so beautiful he could hardly bear it.”
- C.S. Lewis (The Magician's Nephew)

The lovely song of the immortal Phoenix falls into the same literary tradition as the real bird known as the Common Nightingale which was especially beloved as an inspiration for 19th century Romantic writers.

  • In Hans Christian Andersen's story "The Nightingale, a Chinese Emperor replaces his favorite pet bird for a mechanical one, letting the wild bird go back to the forest. The mechanical bird breaks down over time, and the Emperor's health fails. But when Death comes for him, the real bird comes back to "sing to him of hope and trust," which brings the Emperor back to life.
  • Poet William Wordsworth wrote "O Nightingale! thou surely art/ A creature of a "fiery heart"/ These notes of thine--they pierce and pierce;/ Tumultuous harmony and fierce!"
  • John Keats wrote in "Ode to a NightingaleOde to a Nightingale" "Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!"
  • A famous British Song from 1939 called A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square had the lyrics "That certain night, the night we met,/ There was magic abroad in the air,/ There were angels dining at the Ritz / And A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square."

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