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The Sixth Sense
Composed, Co-Orchestrated, and Produced by:
James Newton Howard

Conducted by:
Pete Anthony

Co-Orchestrated by:
Jeff Atmajian
Brad Dechter
Robert Elhai

Varèse Sarabande

Release Date:
August 24th, 1999

Also See:
Devil's Advocate

Audio Clips:
1. Run to the Church (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (243K)
Real Audio (151K)

5. Suicide Ghost (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (243K)
Real Audio (151K)

10. Kyra's Tape (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

11. Malcolm is Dead (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (244K)
Real Audio (152K)

Regular U.S. release.


The Sixth Sense

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Buy it... only if the music that James Newton Howard has provided for M. Night Shyamalan films has never let you down, because The Sixth Sense is one of the most understated of the collaboration.

Avoid it... if you expect the score on album to convey more than just the few fantastic highlights that you hear in the film itself.

The Sixth Sense: (James Newton Howard) So many films attempt to perfect the "gotcha" scenario and so few actually succeed. The Sixth Sense put writer and director M. Night Shyamalan on the mainstream map for good because the 1999 film's twist of story is so well executed that even hardened veterans of the theatre may not have seen the ending coming. Bruce Willis plays a child psychologist who attempts to assist a young boy (Haley Joel Osment in his breakout role) with his ability to see and interact with ghosts and, along the way, views his relationship with his wife (and the world) in a frightening new perspective. Composer James Newton Howard's collaboration with Shyamalan would continue to yield fruit for many years to come and, in retrospect, The Sixth Sense seems rather generic and conservative by comparison. Of the several mainstream horror, suspense, and fantasy scores that Howard produced for Shyamalan over their first ten years together, The Sixth Sense is arguably the least interesting standalone score. It is, however, an example of music that works very well in the film. This is definitely a score meant to be partnered with its visuals, for less than ten minutes of it translates into a compelling (or even interesting) listening experience. The restraint with which Howard allows the story to unfold is remarkable; only when necessary does he develop the score to levels that match specific action in the picture. His work is constructed much like the film's story, revealing fragments of what will eventually be the great "revelation cue" that dominates the work at the end. So much of the score is aimed at preparing the listener for that final five-minute cue (and even just 30 seconds within it) that the payoff might not be worth a short album with little to grasp on to before that finale. Since the film is largely conversational, however, this technique works.

The score can be broken down into three sections: the thematic material for Willis' character, the traditional horror strikes for the film's few outwardly scary scenes, and the significant lengths of ambience for the conversational scenes in between. The majority of music on album consists, naturally, of these long, drawn-out sequences of barely audible atmosphere. This material is largely harmonic, though its extremely restrained volume makes it only marginally interesting. Some sequences function more as eerie sound effects rather than music. In the bridges between this slight plucking on the strings (and meandering piano) and the pulsating dissonance of the violins for suspenseful situations, there are moments during this score that have hints of Devil's Advocate and Flatliners. Sudden, electronically-aided thumps and whines of the ensemble exist in "Suicide Ghost," "Hanging Ghosts," and "Kyra's Ghost" (obviously the scenes in which the boy is frightened by his ability to see them), though these techniques are pretty much standard for the genre. The magic of The Sixth Sense rests in a few key moments in the score, with the cues of thematic development for Willis' lead character existing four times on album but contributing significantly to only two scenes in the film. This same phenomenon would happen in The Village (in which two gorgeous performances of the title theme on violin stood out far beyond the remainder of the score, albeit a superior one to The Sixth Sense in its remaining material). The harmonic cues here have the same somewhat gothic tendencies of other Howard scores for the genre (especially in the seemingly sampled vocal effects for several cues in the second half of the score), even reminding in progression of John Debney's eventual score for Dragonfly. The theme used for Willis also seems to envelope the strained love story.

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This theme for Willis is barely touched upon in "De Profundi" before experiencing hints of fuller development in "Malcolm's Story" and "Tape of Vincent." It finally reaches its comfortable resolution in "Malcolm is Dead," which follows a Devil's Advocate-like crescendo of revelation (and a really powerful one at that) with two minutes of further exploration. "Tape of Vincent" and "Malcolm is Dead" are the aforementioned two cues that steal their scenes in the film, mostly because they express the theme's underlying rhythm in its most menacingly resounding form. The surprisingly tender theme itself is a cross between Mark Mancina's Return to Paradise title theme and Howard's own closing to The Interpreter, the latter using a significant chunk of "Malcolm is Dead" for inspiration. There also exists a sub-theme on clarinet, used in "De Profundi" and "Tape of Vincent," that is reminiscent of Jerry Goldsmith's Poltergeist score, perhaps an unwitting emulation by Howard (or maybe not). On album, the score lulls you into a feeling of false security before cranking up the tension in its middle portions. With low volumes and an unsettled balance in tonality, it entices the listener to jump ahead to the final few cues. In most cases, this diminishes the impact of a score's setup, though with The Sixth Sense, the final cue really is all you would need with which to represent this score on a Howard compilation. The title of that cue is an unforgivable spoiler of the film's plot, however, ruining the careful setup of the film for anyone who has not yet enjoyed it. Someone at Varèse Sarabande really needed to change that cue title to something less revealing. Overall, the music for The Sixth Sense is easy to respect, but without the thematic splendor or instrumental creativity that Howard would provide for subsequent Shyamalan films, it stands as more of a functional work rather than an inspiring standalone piece. Price Hunt: CD or Download

    Score as Written for Film: ****
    Score as Heard on Album: **
    Overall: ***

Bias Check:For James Newton Howard reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.35 (in 56 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.34 (in 62,060 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.52 Stars
Smart Average: 3.35 Stars*
***** 1398 
**** 1193 
*** 1215 
** 673 
* 375 
  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
  rubas cubas -- 9/5/06 (3:02 p.m.)
  rubas cubas -- 9/5/06 (3:01 p.m.)
  N.R.Q. -- 7/17/06 (5:34 p.m.)
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 30:15

• 1. Run to the Church (1:20)
• 2. De Profundis (2:24)
• 3. Mind Reading (2:43)
• 4. Photographs (0:53)
• 5. Suicide Ghost (1:33)
• 6. Malcolm's Story/Cole's Secret (4:03)
• 7. Hanging Ghosts (2:31)
• 8. Tape of Vincent (3:27)
• 9. Help the Ghosts/Kyra's Ghost (4:28)
• 10. Kyra's Tape (2:00)
• 11. Malcolm is Dead (4:47)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes no extra information about the score or film.

  All artwork and sound clips from The Sixth Sense are Copyright © 1999, Varèse Sarabande. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 8/26/99 and last updated 6/9/08. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1999-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.