"Welcome to Hogwarts: Entering the Story through Wizard Rock" by Anne Collins Smith

Published in Time Lords & Tribbles, Winchesters & Muggles: The DePaul Pop Culture Conference: A Five-Year Retrospective, edited by Paul Booth and Isabella Menichiello, May 2017.

According to Peter Lamarque and Stein Haugom Olsen in Truth, Fiction, and Literature, readers take an active role in the practice of fiction. "An integral part of responding to fiction involves a reader's imaginative supplementation of the explicit content of the fictive utterances.… Much of the pleasure of reading fiction derives from the imaginative 'filling in' of character and incident." [Lamarque & Olsen, 90] As part of the practice of reading fiction, readers may adopt what Lamarque and Olsen call an "internal perspective," which means that "readers project themselves into imaginary 'worlds' and observe them, as it were, subjectively from the point of view of an observer or participant." [Lamarque & Olsen, 153] As such, readers become "travellers in worlds of the imagination." [Lamarque & Olsen, 153]

Some fictional worlds are easier to enter than others. Jonathan Lewis observes that "children's classics often offer readers the possibility that if they get caught in the right wind or walk into the proper mirror, wardrobe, or the right train platform, they will somehow cross both the fictive barrier and the thresholds into these magical worlds." [Lewis, 44-45] The Harry Potter series is especially conducive to this kind of imaginative entrance. After all, any one of us who grew up in a Muggle household might suddenly discover, like Harry or Hermione, that we have hitherto unsuspected magical powers. We can hope that any trip to the mailbox will reveal a yellowish parchment envelope addressed in emerald-green ink, with the Hogwarts seal on the back.

This open invitation to enter the story finds a warm response in one of the subgenres within the multifaceted world of Wizard Rock, pop music written, performed, and enjoyed by Harry Potter fans. The idea of music based on fantasy and science fiction universes is not a new one; for decades, fans (including myself) have enjoyed "filk" music ranging from original science fiction in musical form to commentaries and extrapolations based on their favorite books or shows. Despite the obvious similarities, Wizard Rock evolved separately from filk and displays some intriguing differences.

Many Wizard Rock performers take on the role of canonical characters and sing from their point of view; popular examples include Harry and the Potters, Draco and the Malfoys, and the Moaning Myrtles. However, some groups take on their own new identities as non-canonical characters who participate in the story.

The Parselmouths, for example, write and perform as a couple of delightfully bratty Slytherin girls who recount their own adventures at Hogwarts. In "Who Are These Boyz?" we get to follow them on a predictably disastrous double date with Crabbe and Goyle, which they agree to in the mistaken belief that it's the only way to stop these annoying boys from repeatedly asking them out. A year later, in "Freaking Ask Me to the Yule Ball," they demonstrate increased confidence and maturity by deciding not to worry about being invited to the Yule Ball, proclaiming, "I don't need no stinking date to dominate this ball!" Listeners can share their adventures—and their confidence.

The Gryffindor Common Room Rejects strike an especially sympathetic chord with listeners who are still in school in their bouncy piece, "Before OWLs," in which the narrators fret about upcoming exams and how hard the courses at Hogwarts are for students who are not especially brainy. "Professors just don't understand, I'm not Ravenclaw for a reason!" In a more serious piece, "The Wisdom of Luna," the narrators describe their initial dismissal of Luna Lovegood as someone not worth taking seriously, and their gradual realization of the value of Luna's alternate perspective. Listeners can all put themselves in the place of these unnamed characters, finding cause to commiserate and rejoice.

The Basilisk in your Pasta also take on the personas, and describe the adventures, of non-canonical characters. In their song "Muggletown," students who were born and bred in the Wizarding World sneak out of Hogwarts after curfew to sample the forbidden delights of a Muggle pub. Those of us listening can enjoy a whole new perspective on our own world as an exotic locale filled with curiosities, and chuckle as the witches are baffled by cell phones, whiskey, and televised Quaffle-less sports. 

Clearly the Wizard Rockers themselves adopt Lamarque and Olsen's "internal perspective" and project themselves into the wizarding world. Moreover, in doing so, they create works into which their own readers—or in this case, listeners—can enter. When we enjoy these songs, we are invited to enter the Wizarding World through secret tunnels not marked on the original Marauders' Map. What's more, we enter them in a special way, not merely by reading/listening, with all the responsibilities that activity entails, but also by singing along. We may sing along at the top of our lungs at a live Wizard Rock concert; we may sing in a normal register to the Wizard Rock coming from our car stereo, or we may sing along silently inside our heads to the Wizard Rock playing on our office computer. However we sing along, we sing ourselves into the story.

The Basilisk in Your Pasta. "Muggletown." I Ate My Frog (Again). Wizard Rock EP of the Month Club, 2008.

Gryffindor Common Room Rejects. "Before O.W.L.S." and "The Wisdom of Luna." Still Recruiting. Wizard Rock EP of the Month Club, 2008.

Lamarque, Peter, and Stein Haugom Olsen. Truth, fiction, and literature. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2002.

Lewis, Jonathan. "If Yeh Know Where To Go: Vision and Mapping in the Wizarding World" in Scholarly Studies in Harry Potter: Applying Academic Methods to a Popular Text. Ed. Cynthia Whitney Hallett. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2005.

Parselmouths. "Who Are These Boyz?" Illegal love potion. Wizard Rock EP of the Month Club, 2007.

Parselmouths. "Freaking Ask Me to the Yule Ball." Pretty in Pink (and Green). Cheap Rent, 2008.

Return to Dr. Anne Collins Smith's page.