Occasionally I like to listen to movie soundtracks and scores. It gives a sort of peek behind the movie magic curtain because the music in films does so much to encourage the viewers to feel the right emotion at the right time. I can feel like I’m watching a movie as I go about my daily business. When I heard that there was an album coming out where (the Emmy®- and Grammy®-winning composer and nine-time Oscar® nominee) James Newton Howard reimagines the music from the movies of M. Night Shyamalan called Night After Night, I was intrigued. The album came out on October 20th and features all-new recordings of Howard’s evocative film music. Included on Night After Night are excerpts from Howard’s stirring scores that became part of the identity of eight of Shyamalan’s supernatural, mind-bending films.
There are 21 songs on the album. Three each for Signs, The Village, the Sixth Sense, and the Happening. Four for The Lady in the Water, two for Unbreakable, two for The Last Airbender (including a piano solo), and one for After Earth. While some of these movies were better than others, it cannot be argued that the music wasn’t top quality in all of them.
When I listened to the album 3 pieces stuck out to me. Two of them were from Signs, one being The Cornfield and the other After You Were Born. In The Cornfield clarinets, strings, and horns build possibility and suspense with occasional guitar strings being plucked to great effect. Piano (played by soloist Jean-Yves Thibaudet) and flute jump in to build tension with a staccato beat that slowly fades away into horns and more dissonant piano. A trumpet plays a long clear note, and the piano continues with its exploration of possibilities. In After You Were Born, the piano drives the beautiful piece. Softly drums and clarinet enter. Strings are added to the tense music. Off-beat piano and strings play while strings swell underneath, raising the stakes. There is a feeling of building hope and possibility, not just horror. The song is a dance between the piano and the strings, swirling and twirling.
In Morning from The Village violin (played by soloist Hilary Hahn) starts plaintive and sad. Strings and horns come in like the rise of dawn as the violin continues its song. Piano joins in, simple, telling a story, powerful, beginning to move. A violin rejoins with the piano in a lovely melody, with strings swelling and buzzing in the background. The piano intensifies becoming more complicated and resounding with the mournful violin. The song builds and then just as quickly fades out.
The songs are all relatively short, none of them feel like they drag on for too long. They all feel like they are telling a story and make me want to go back and rewatch some of the movies such as The Village and Signs. I might even have to give The Last Airbender a chance and see if it was as bad as everyone said. I won’t be rewatching The Happening, however. That was one of the worst films I’ve ever sat through in a theater with a goofy twist in the end. Arguably, the music in M. Night Shyamalan’s films is why they are as successful as they are, with the music driving their (sometimes) mind-bending reveals and twists. This album is worth a listen and should be included in your spooky music playlists!