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Label: Hollywood Records – 2061-62368-2 Format: CD, Album Country: US Released: 2002 Genre: Classical, Stage & Screen Style: Score, Contemporary
For decades strange, intricate symbols have appeared pressed into farm fields across the globe. Enormous, puzzling messages from an extraterrestrial civilization--or an incredibly elaborate hoax staged by... whom? Those are the questions that drive M. Night Shyamalan's narrative, but as in the director's other thrillers (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable), the answers aren't always where you expect them. As he's done for Shyamalan's previous films, composer James Newton Howard creates a musical undercurrent of mystery and unease, with nervous arpeggios and sullen, swelling strings ratcheting up throughout the score's unsettling first half. The film is dotted with apparent visual homages to past sci-fi films, and moments of Howard's orchestral score have occasional parallels with the more action-oriented passages of John Williams's landmark Close Encounters score. But there's more than brooding atmospherics, tension-building, and the occasional booming crescendo here. A sense of gentle spirituality gradually evolves as well (largely via the composer's sensitive use of minimalist techniques), with Howard's music ultimately achieving a quiet, satisfying sense of resolve that's missing from all too much of Hollywood's hollow dramatic thunder. --Jerry McCulley
Top customer reviews
Howard crafts his soundtrack using ingenious variants on a three-note theme that is even eerier when listened to sans video than during the movie itself. It is astonishing how powerfully a soundtrack like this evokes the fear and anticipation of the movie's plot line.
The bulk of these tracks set your teeth on edge, making the occasional harmonic resolution akin to a warm bath or jumping off a bridge and discovering that they remembered to attach the bungie chord after all.
The composer's weapon of choice for this gloriously conceived assassination of good feeling is the humble flute. Howard takes a page from 'Tubular Bells' to pull it off, triumphantly chipping away at security with this simple wind pipe.
SIGNS is one amazing anthology of tightly themed and emotive music. It's a brilliant listen even without reference to its fun parent, the movie.
It's based on a simple three-note motif, an enormous amount of emotion is wrapped around those three notes. The main title is a fantastic thrill, and from there it's a slow moody buildup to a moving conclusion when it finally turns towards the positive. A much more entertaining listen than many horror/suspense scores, though one does have to watch out for some aggressive musical hits (in the middle of track 4 and immediately at the beginning of 11 and 12) that can hurt one's ears if the volume is set loud enough. James Newton Howard was apparently told to channel Bernard Hermann and this score does that in the best possible way, an homage but not a copy, one that stands as a classic in its own right. The buildup throughout the score is so tense and the climax such a release that I always want to go back to the beginning the moment it ends.
The drawback is that this isn't a great release of this score; only 45 minutes or so, not quite in score order, and it's been out of print for a while. The major cues are there, but if it were given a rerelease as a complete score by some small film music company I'd probably buy it.
The leitmotif is presented by the strings whenever the aliens or the circles are shown, and it's repeated throughout the CD without boring the listener. The main title is amazing, but the best tracks on this album are the two parts of 'The Hand Of Fate', where Howard goes beyond the final scene where Gibson's character come face to face with an extra-terrestrial.
Thanks to scores like "Signs", I have come to respect James Newton Howard as a film score composer because, in my opinion, this is one of the best movie soundtracks of 2002.
The music, by James Newton Howard, is eerie, atmospheric, and yet has room for some very emotive material too. The opening track is right out of a Hitchcock film with the music assaulting the audience with a 3 note motif that reminds me of the Close Encounters "beacon"- only a heck more aggressive. It's a music figure that runs throughout the score, giving it a sense of continuity that so many other soundtracks from this summer lack.
The showpiece tracks on this CD are "The Hand of Fate" parts 1 and 2. They underscore some of the most pivotal and engaging scenes from this outstanding film. Some might think of Goldsmith in the way Howard presents his modernist ideas while other sections recall the minimalist musings of John Adams' Harmonium.
Regardless of the inspiration, this soundtrack is a welcome addition to my collection and a breath of fresh air for all film score fans yearning to be excited and moved by a summer soundtrack.