Terms such as "Quidditch" and "Muggles" have essentially become part of everyday lexicon due to the "Harry Potter" series. Yet the weirdest and most unexpected addition to the world-o-Potter, one with magic schools, talking photos and violent trees, may very well be something as simple as a song.
Midway through "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 1," the characters Harry Potter and Hermione Granger share a dance. The music for the movement comes from an artist whose work has been steeped in lechery, sin and redemption, characteristics not necessarily associated with a holiday-season family blockbuster. Yet there was "O Children," from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, playing a dominant role, with Cave's baritone of heartache at the fore.
How and why music supervisor Matt Biffa came to Cave's "O Children" is relatively simple, and no doubt similar to how many have discovered Cave's fire-and-brimstone rock and darkly haunting ballads: A breakup.
"I was separating from my wife at the time," Biffa said Tuesday from his London home. "I came across ‘O Children’ in 2004 and I hoarded it. I knew it would be a great song for something, but I didn’t know what. I had forgotten all about it and started listening to it because I was splitting up from my wife. I was really terrified that we were going to hurt our little boys, who were 1 and 3 at the time. So it was like a love letter to my kids."
Lyrically, "O Children," which is featured on the 2004 album "Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus," largely plays out like a song of atonement. The moment it comes in "Deathly Hallows" is one in which Harry and Hermione are struggling to carry on with the quest, looking for some sort of strength to emerge from their friendship. Cave's songs have an ability to walk a line between numerous emotions, and cuts such as "Into My Arms" could work equally well at a wedding or a funeral.
"Exactly," said Biffa. "There was something really uplifting about that 'O Children,' with lyrics like 'rejoice / lift up your voice,’ and all that stuff. I was thinking of my kids. The lyrics are saying, ‘Forgive us for what we’ve done.’ It started out as a bit of fun, but then there’s weeping. It was horribly on the nose for me. At the same time, it was giving me hope. It’s not the same as writing a song for my children, but this is the closest I can get."
Selling it to director David Yates wasn't much of challenge, although the filmmaker still had his music supervisor jump through numerous hoops. Remembered Biffa, "David called and said, ‘I think this song is just right, but is there anything better?’"