December 1999 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

James NEWTON HOWARD The Sixth Sense OST   VARÈSE SARABANDE VSD-6061 [30:21]

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James Newton Howard's warm lyrical style is ideally suited to this tale of the supernatural in which a small eight-year-old boy "sees dead people." It is a film with a slow, quiet build-up, a slow burn with the main thrills and shocks reserved for the final reel. Newton Howard's score proceeds likewise and wisely concentrates on the feelings and vulnerability of the child; even through the more nightmarish sequences. The opening cue, 'Run to the Church' sets the overall tone with piano and strings predominant playing a theme of child-like innocence and pathos together with a chill feeling of lurking ghosts. This is continued over into 'De Profundis', prayer-like and mysterious, slow and quiet with strings and beautifully-phrased and suggestively-distanced horn motifs reaching and searching before the tone of the music darkens with low strings and nicely controlled synths suggesting the agonies of far off lost souls. Newton Howard's ghost music puts a very fresh spin on well-worn patterns, delivering many new 'fright-effect' ideas. He uses his electronics intelligently and imaginatively, blending them well with his orchestra, demonstrating a fine sense of volume and balance, and distance to maximise their effect. He uses his voices to good theatrical effect too. Take the men's chorus that opens 'Kyra's Tape', for instance; the basses suddenly sound dissonant, eerie, threatening, detached from the main chorus. Add tolling 'dead' sounding bells and high strings and you have a frightening atmosphere (which will ultimately warm considerably as the chorus fades and the strings descend into warmer regions.) Newton Howard's sense of theatre and his brilliant use of all the dimensions of the sound stage to maximise the scary tingle factor add considerably to the drama of the film and provide a satisfying listening experience away from the theatre.


Ian Lace


Ian Lace

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