Wizard Rock

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Synonyms: Wrock
See also: Filk, Trock
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Wizard rock, sometimes abbreviated Wrock, is a term for fan-created music about the Harry Potter universe. Less commonly, the term can be used to describe music in the canon that is made by wizards and witches, e.g. the Weird Sisters or Celestina Warbeck.

Characteristics

Wizard rock is, by definition, exclusively about the Harry Potter series or universe. Traditionally, songs are written in first person from the perspective of a certain character from the series. Bands often write songs exclusively from a single character's perspective and usually name the band after this character, a trend started by Harry and the Potters and Draco and the Malfoys. Thematically, songs range from humorous and parodical to serious and emotional. Musically, wizard rock incorporates (as the name suggests) elements of rock music, with additional punk, pop, and indie influences.

Also due to the influence of these early bands, creators of wizard rock are stereotypically traditional garage bands, though its has become increasingly common for individuals to produce wizard rock, whether traditionally or using software such as GarageBand. Music is typically self-produced and distributed on social networking sites, especially Myspace.com. Myspace is often credited as the reason wizard rock was able to gain such immense popularity, as it provided an easy way for the average person to upload and distribute music and allowed for people with similar interests to easily connect and communicate.

Many wizard rock bands also perform live, often in schools, libraries, and bookstores, as well as at fannish events such as conventions and release parties. At concerts, cosplay is common for bands and fans alike.

History

Switchblade Kittens (The Weird Sisters)

Though the beginnings of wizard rock is generally attributed to the formation of Harry and the Potters in 2002, the first recorded wizard rock song was written by the pop-punk band Switchblade Kittens two years earlier, released as a holiday download. It was called "Ode to Harry" and was written from the perspective of Ginny Weasley. The band performed it live on multiple occasions, including as "The Weird Sisters" (the name of a canonical wizarding band) at Nimbus 2003.

The band's recording contract would not let them write any more Harry Potter-based songs, but when their record deal fell through they released a full 13 song album in 2006 called "The Weird Sisters."[1]

Harry and the Potters

Harry and the Potters was the first and most influential wizard rock group, formed in 2002 by brothers Paul and Joe DeGeorge. The band was created an hour before their first live performance on June 22, when the bands scheduled to play at a concert in the DeGeorges' backyard failed to show up and the brothers were left to entertain the audience.[2][3] The next spring, with the forthcoming release of the fifth Harry Potter book, the brothers decided to dig up their Harry Potter-themed songs and record an album. Their self-titled first album was released on June 21, 2003, the same day as Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and Harry and the Potters were featured at a number of local release parties, playing five sets within a period of 24 hours.[4][5]

The band began to experience widespread popularity with the release of its second album, Voldemort Can't Stop the Rock, on June 29, 2004 and the extensive North American and European tours that followed.[5][2]

Subsequent Bands

In 2004, Matt Maggiacomo, who would eventually found The Whomping Willows, hosted a series of indie rock house party shows in his apartment and was introduced to Harry and the Potters by one of the local bands that attended. In April 2005, Maggiacomo invited Harry and the Potters to perform at an all-wizard rock show and, because Harry and the Potters was then the only active wizard rock band in existence, his friends Brian Ross and Bradley Mehlenbacher decided to create Draco and the Malfoys, a band designed to parody and "rival" Harry and the Potters.[6] Soon thereafter, Maggiacomo formed The Whomping Willows, and both he and Draco and the Malfoys contributed songs to A Magical Christmas of Magic, the first wizard rock compilation album.

Other bands soon followed, including The Remus Lupins and over 20 other bands by the end of the year.[7] As of August 2008, over 800 wizard rock bands have been created.[8]

Causes and Activism

Wizard rock activism is perhaps best chronicled by Wizrocklopedia in an article entitled "What’s the point?":[7]

At its most basic level, wizard rock celebrates and promotes literacy. Harry and the Potters, for instance, encouraged concert goers in the summer of 2006 to read some of their favorite books in exchange for toothbrushes (bearing their band name) with the receipt of a book report. Many bands recommend books in their blogs or on their websites, and the motto of The Remus Lupins is, “Fight Evil, Read Books.”
But wizard rock fans and creators are involved in other socially conscious endeavors as well. At their Yule Ball in December 2005, Harry and the Potters introduced attendees to their friends from the Harry Potter Alliance. Created by Andrew Slack of the Late Night Players, the HP Alliance seeks to motivate Harry Potter fans to take a stand against tyranny, genocide, global warming, and more, using parallels to the book series. Inept political leaders become the Minister and Ministry of Magic, while the oppressive and tyrannical are depicted as Voldemort and the Deatheaters [sic].
Political activism and Harry Potter are not two things that most people would think of as being hand in hand. But then, to most people, Harry Potter is a children’s book series. To the fans, however, the forces of evil represented in the books are not quite so different than those we currently face in the real world. There may not be dark wizards with unchallengable magical powers, but there are horrible people doing horrible things that use the same tactics as Voldemort and his Deatheaters [sic]. Prejudice and genocide, for instance, are commonplace in some parts of the world. A perfect example of this is the situation in Darfur, Sudan. It is something that many Harry Potter fans are involved in, thanks to Laura Thompson (of MuggleCast), who helped to create the website Operation Sudan.
The HP Alliance has encouraged fans to stop global warming, become active in protesting the genocide in Sudan, and save the Internet via petitioning the government in favor of net neutrality.
Wizard rock and the HP Alliance bring light to the fact that the challenges and horrors Harry faces are similar (if not reflective) of those that we face in the real world. The music and the fandom celebrate standing up for what is right, making a difference in the lives of others, and putting a stop to the evils in the world. This behavior is not only proof of how well loved the characters and story are, but it is also a testement (sic) to the significance and timelessness of the series as a whole.

Response

In 2006, the Wizrocklopedia, a wizard rock "news and entertainment" website, was created with the goal to "record the past, present, and future of all things related to wizard rock and ... shed more light on the movement itself,"[9] and RealWizardRock.com was created initially as a resource site for Harry and the Potters but grew into a massive lyrics database for songs by almost 100 wizard rock bands.[10][11]

In 2008, sisters Megan and Mallory Schuyler released the film The Wizard Rockumentary: A Movie about Rocking and Rowling, a documentary about the rise of wizard rock bands. It features interviews and performances by a number of bands, including Switchblade Kittens, Harry and the Potters, Draco and the Malfoys, and The Whomping Willows, as well as footage from Lumos 2006 and Prophecy 2007.[12]

Is Wizard Rock Filk?

Whether or not wizard rock can (or should) be considered filk has been a topic of discussion by both the general fan community as well as aca-fans. Melissa Tatum addressed the issue in her 2009 essay Identity and authenticity in the filk community, which appeared in the third issue of Transformative Works and Cultures. The question was also posed in 2009 in the filk community on LiveJournal; responses illustrate the wide range of opinions on the nature filk and what constitutes filk.

Copyright Issues

In 2004, Harry and the Potters received a cease and desist letter from Warner Bros. for breaking copyright laws. Paul DeGeorge and Warner Bros. representative Marc Brandon eventually reached an agreement that allowed Harry and the Potters to continue to sell their music online but restricted the sale of other merchandise to live shows.[13]

See Also

References

  1. Switchblade Kittens. Harry Potter and the Kittens of Switchblade. (Accessed 01 February 2011.)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Wikipedia. Harry and the Potters. (Accessed 10 July 2011.)
  3. Harry and the Potters' Myspace. Blog post: BOSTON & PROVIDENCE shows this week with Previously on LOST!. 09 June 2009. (Accessed 10 July 2011.)
  4. Sean Moeller, Daytrotter.com. Harry and the Potters: Promoters of Dental Hygiene And The Wizards Who Share Their Spinal Tap Moments With Dewey Decimal. 28 May 2006. (Accessed 10 July 2011 via Wayback Machine.)
  5. 5.0 5.1 HarryandthePotters.com. We Are Harry and the Potters: Discography. (Accessed 10 July 2011.)
  6. The Whomping Willows. Biography. (Accessed 10 July 2011.)
  7. 7.0 7.1 Wizrocklopedia. The History of Wizard Rock. (Accessed 10 July 2011.)
  8. Wizrocklopedia. Band Listings. 17 August 2008. (Accessed 10 July 2011 via Wayback Machine).
  9. Wizrocklopedia. About the Wizrocklopedia. (Accessed 15 August 2011.)
  10. RealWizardRock.com. Site History. (Accessed 15 August 2011.)
  11. RealWizardRock.com. More Bands! (Accessed 15 August 2011.)
  12. The Wizard Rockumentary: Production Schedule. (Accessed 15 August 2011.)
  13. Melissa Anelli. Harry, A History, p. 122. 04 November 2008. (Via "Harry and the Potters" Wikipedia article, accessed 10 July 2011.)