30 Minutes of Harry Potter Sung in an Avant-Garde Fashion by UbuWeb’s Kenneth Goldsmith

potter ubu

Last month, we fea­tured poet, pro­fes­sor, and WFMU radio host Ken­neth Gold­smith singing the the­o­ry of Theodor Adorno, Sig­mund Freud, and Lud­wig Wittgen­stein — heavy read­ing, to be sure, but there­in lay the appeal. How dif­fer­ent­ly do we approach these for­mi­da­ble the­o­ret­i­cal texts, Gold­smith’s project implic­it­ly asks, if we receive them not just aural­ly rather than tex­tu­al­ly, but also in a light — not to say goofy — musi­cal arrange­ment? But if it should drain you to think about ques­tions like that, even as you absorb the thought of the likes of Adorno, Freud, and Wittgen­stein, might we sug­gest Ken­neth Gold­smith singing Har­ry Pot­ter?

Per­haps the best-known mod­ern exem­plar of “light read­ing” we have, J.K. Rowl­ing’s Har­ry Pot­ter books present them­selves as ripe for adap­ta­tion, most notably in the form of those eight big-bud­get films released between 2001 and 2011. On the oth­er end of the spec­trum, with evi­dent­ly no bud­get at all, comes Gold­smith’s 30-minute adap­ta­tion, which you can hear just above, or along with his var­i­ous oth­er sung texts at Pennsound. Here he sings, with ever-shift­ing musi­cal accom­pa­ni­ment and through some oth­er­world­ly voice pro­cess­ing, what sounds like the final nov­el in the Har­ry Pot­ter series, Har­ry Pot­ter and the Death­ly Hal­lows.

“She tells a good sto­ry” — thus has every adult Har­ry Pot­ter-read­er I know explained the appeal of Rowl­ing’s chil­dren’s nov­els even out­side of the chil­dren’s demo­graph­ic, espe­cial­ly as they await­ed Death­ly Hal­lows’ release in 2007. Hav­ing nev­er dipped into the well myself, I could­n’t say for sure, but to my mind, if she tells a good enough sto­ry, that sto­ry will sur­vive no mat­ter the form into which you trans­pose it. The Pot­ter faith­ful hold a vari­ety of opin­ions about the degree of jus­tice each movie does to their favorite nov­els, and even about the voice that reads them aloud in audio­book form, but what on Earth will they think of Gold­smith’s idio­syn­crat­ic ren­di­tion?

Update: Ken­neth shot us an email a few min­utes ago and filled out the back­sto­ry on this record­ing. Turns out the sto­ry is even more col­or­ful than we first thought. He writes: “I was a DJ on WFMU from 1995–2010. In 2007, J.K. Rowl­ing released the sev­enth and final Har­ry Pot­ter and the Death­ly Hal­lows. Pri­or to the book’s release the day I went on the air at WFMU, some­one had leaked a copy to the inter­net, enrag­ing Scholas­tic Books, who threat­ened any­body dis­trib­ut­ing it with a heavy law­suit. I print­ed out and sang in my hor­ri­ble voice the very last chap­ter of the book on the air, there­by spoil­ing the finale of the series for any­one lis­ten­ing. Dur­ing my show, the sta­tion received an angry call from Scholas­tic Books. It appears that their whole office was lis­ten­ing to WFMU that after­noon. Noth­ing ever came of it.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Down­load Two Har­ry Pot­ter Audio Books for Free (and Get the Rest of the Series for Cheap)

The The­o­ry of Wal­ter Ben­jamin, Lud­wig Wittgen­stein & Sig­mund Freud Sung by Ken­neth Gold­smith

Read Online J.K. Rowling’s New Har­ry Pot­ter Sto­ry: The First Glimpse of Har­ry as an Adult

How J.K. Rowl­ing Plot­ted Har­ry Pot­ter with a Hand-Drawn Spread­sheet

Take Free Online Cours­es at Hog­warts: Charms, Potions, Defense Against the Dark Arts & More

The Quan­tum Physics of Har­ry Pot­ter, Bro­ken Down By a Physi­cist and a Magi­cian

Cel­e­brate Har­ry Potter’s Birth­day with Song. Daniel Rad­cliffe Sings Tom Lehrer’s Tune, The Ele­ments.

Har­ry Pot­ter Pre­quel Now Online

Col­in Mar­shall writes on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Comments (3)
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  • Janet Haapar says:

    No, no! Don´t want it to be the End of it! Layed down on the floor on a mohair­blan­ket and start­ed lis­ten­ing w/a smile on my face. Love that Music! Sud­den­ly I felt like a Child. Can´t remem­ber my par­ents ever read fairy­tales for me but now Iknow what it would feel as. Some­where after the emer­ald paja­mas I Went up, got a cup of hot tea and a slice of applepie and con­tin­ued lis­ten­ing. Such a won­der­ful alive voice!

  • Deh! says:

    Even when con­vert­ed to music, you can’t move away from the fact that Rowl­ing man­aged to cre­ate one of the dullest fran­chise in the his­to­ry of movie fran­chis­es. Seri­ous­ly each episode fol­low­ing the boy wiz­ard and his pals from Hog­warts Acad­e­my as they fight assort­ed vil­lains has been indis­tin­guish­able from the oth­ers. Aside from the gloomy imagery, the series’ only con­sis­ten­cy has been its lack of excite­ment and inef­fec­tive use of spe­cial effects, all to make mag­ic unmag­i­cal, to make action seem inert.

    Per­haps the die was cast when Rowl­ing vetoed the idea of Spiel­berg direct­ing the series; she made sure the series would nev­er be mis­tak­en for a work of art that meant any­thing to anybody?just ridicu­lous­ly prof­itable cross-pro­mo­tion for her books. The Har­ry Pot­ter series might be anti-Chris­t­ian (or not), but it’s cer­tain­ly the anti-James Bond series in its refusal of won­der, beau­ty and excite­ment. No one wants to face that fact. Now, thank­ful­ly, they no longer have to.

    >a‑at least the books were good though


    The writ­ing is dread­ful; the book was ter­ri­ble. As I read, I noticed that every time a char­ac­ter went for a walk, the author wrote instead that the char­ac­ter “stretched his legs.”

    I began mark­ing on the back of an enve­lope every time that phrase was repeat­ed. I stopped only after I had marked the enve­lope sev­er­al dozen times. I was incred­u­lous. Rowling’s mind is so gov­erned by clich­es and dead metaphors that she has no oth­er style of writ­ing. Lat­er I read a lav­ish, lov­ing review of Har­ry Pot­ter by the same Stephen King. He wrote some­thing to the effect of, “If these kids are read­ing Har­ry Pot­ter at 11 or 12, then when they get old­er they will go on to read Stephen King.” And he was quite right. He was not being iron­ic. When you read “Har­ry Pot­ter” you are, in fact, trained to read Stephen King.

  • Salva says:

    Har­ry Pot­ter web series full episode in a app

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