Since the Sixth Sense came out several years ago, people have been heartily singing the praises of James Newton Howard, and the work he has done on M. Night Shyamalan's films. After seeing The Sixth Sense for the first time, I was ready to jump on that very bandwagon until I bought the soundtrack CD and was, quite honestly, disinterested and rather bored for the majority of the time. Once the CD had ended, I found myself thinking "But it sounded so good in the movie..." As is the case with many "thriller" scores, the music from The Sixth Sense did not very readily stand alone without it's source. I felt very much the same way when I listened to "Unbreakable".
Then came "Signs", with it's creepy and pulsating opening titles, ringing in what I thought would finally be the breakthrough soundtrack CD from the Newton Howard-Shyamalan partnership. But for about 20 minutes after the opening titles, I again found myself singing the familiar refrain of "Gee, it worked so well in the movie, why not on CD?" Depsite my ho-hum attitude about the previously mentioned soundtrack CDs, I was, admittedly, very excited about the CD for The Village; And finally I was rewarded. What may or may not have made somewhat of a superficial difference was the fact that I bought the CD before I saw the movie (as of this moment, I have still yet to see it.) But what really differentiates between this CD and the trio that came before was, in fact, good music throughout, not just the opening and closing titles. An even greater asset (and to my surprise) was the solo work by young virtuoso violinist Hilary Hahn, whom I have had the pleasure of seeing in concert and meeting personally on many occassions; I had no knowledge of her presence on this project. Ms. Hahn, who is just 22 years old, arpeggiates effortlessly and glides across Mr. Newton Howard's soaring solo sections with a grace and poise that very few violinists twice or three times her age possess. Thematically, the score lacks an outstanding main theme (ie, Signs) but more than makes up for that with it's continuous beauty throughout. But fear not, despite the relatively short running time of the CD, there are quite a few pulse-pounding action cues mixed in to keep the listener on their toes. And what ultimately works best about this CD is the fact that there are no jarring stingers to wake the listener up, but instead we are given a score that glides seamlessly from pastoral, haunting beauty to driving rhythmic sections that will no doubt take on even greater meaning once the listener gets to see the moments in the movie that the music is meant to accompany. This is the soundtrack that we have been waiting for from this collaboration. As their relationship matures, so does the outcome, both musically and cinematically. I can say without hesitation that I am most looking foreward to their next project, and what will no doubt be afforded another great listening experience.