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Section Header
Lady in the Water
Composed and Co-Produced by:
James Newton Howard

Conducted by:
Pete Anthony
Grant Gershon

Co-Produced by:
Thomas Drescher

Orchestrated by:
Jeff Atmajian
Brad Dechter
Jon Kull
Patrick Russ

Performed by:
The Hollywood Studio Symphony

The Hollywood Film Chorale


Release Date:
July 18th, 2006

Also See:
The Village
The Sixth Sense

Audio Clips:
Standard Clips:

1. Prologue (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

5. The Blue World (0:29):
WMA (193K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

8. Cereal Boxes (0:29):
WMA (191K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

11. The Great Eatlon (0:29):
WMA (191K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

Bonus Clip:

11. The Great Eatlon (Part II) (0:28):
WMA (191K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

Regular U.S. release.


Lady in the Water
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Buy it... if you're intrigued by the idea of James Newton Howard's darkly romantic writing expanded to the ultimate in complexly harmonic layers, memorable themes, and the balanced mix of superior orchestration and choral beauty.

Avoid it... if you're a sourpuss or a picklepuss, and you'd rather be clubbed over the head by far more simplistic scores.

Lady in the Water: (James Newton Howard) You really have to admire M. Night Shyamalan for speaking on behalf of the contemporary fantasy genre in Hollywood today. The world of the supernatural has been well represented by his wildly imaginative films, and while the horror genre has never been too far separated from his projects, his newest project, Lady in the Water, is more of a straight fable than his usual affair. Advertised as a "bedtime story," Shyamalan's first film for Warner Brothers introduces us to the Blue World, and the fascinating interaction between it and our own when an apartment building swimming pool mysteriously becomes the portal between them. The apartment manager discovers a young woman from the pool who is in fact a narf, a character from a bedtime story who is trying to make the journey back to the Blue World. Dangerous creatures exist in between the two worlds, and the narf needs the help of not only the manager, but of the unknown secret powers of all the tenants to assist her journey home. The tenants soon realize that they may all be part of the fable themselves, playing to the usual twists on reality that Shyamalan likes to explore in his films. One of Shyamalan's most trusted collaborators is composer James Newton Howard; their previous work together, The Village, earned Howard an Academy Award nomination for his score. The scores that Howard has written for those previous Shyamalan films have been intriguing and effective, ranging (compared to other composers' efforts) from average to very good. With Lady in the Water, Howard seems to have been inspired by the story of the fable to an extent well beyond the other collaborations, perhaps because of the romantic element of the tale. While maintaining similarities to the previous scores that Howard has provided for Shyamalan, Lady in the Water exceeds those others in intelligence, delicacy, harmony, and thematic integrity. In fact, in every regard, Lady in the Water is not only far more powerful and alluring than its predecessors, but is an outstanding stand-alone score.

It may not draw much attention to itself at the outset, but by the end of your first listen to Lady in the Water, you'll be hooked. This is a relatively rare occurrence in an age in which most scores of this complexity require two or three listening experiences to lure you in. Not here. Howard's score has everything you've ever wanted to hear from an intelligent fantasy score and has, in the process of bring the Blue World to life, become the best score of 2006 through the year's first half. There are several reasons why Lady in the Water is so enticing, and one of them is a direct reflection of the difference between the horror-influenced films of Shyamalan's past and the romantic fable at the heart of this project. Howard's score here is lush and harmonic in a dominant minor key, thematically rich and compelling for nearly every minute of its length. It's the first Shyamalan score that is truly hopeful at its core while still built upon the deeply textured and mysterious foundation that defines these Howard works. The title theme exists for the Blue World and is as magnificent during its performances by solo instrument as it is by the full ensemble and choir. Its simple, deliberate chord progressions are basic enough for an Enya song, but when orchestrated as well as it has been in Lady in the Water, that simplicity of harmony brings pure joy and easy recognizability during each of its uses. Most importantly, the Blue World theme is stated liberally throughout the score, ranging from very slight meanderings of its parts by celesta and piano in some cues to explosive full-ensemble pronouncements in robust, hair-raising fantasy fashion in other parts. Another enticing aspect of Lady in the Water is its plethora of secondary themes. Most dominant among them is a foreboding theme of evil that utilizes victorious, descending chord progressions with a ferocity suitable for any good Batman villain. Though Howard does offer some raging performances of this likewise-harmonic theme (including a whopper in "The Great Eatlon"), he intersperses it well in lighter cello and bass string tones during fluffier performances of the Blue World theme.

The effortless interaction between themes extends to a third one introduced by flute in "Charades" and expanded upon by the same instrument in "Officer Jimbo." This tender woodwind theme often floats with ease in fragments over other thematic statements. A love theme of sorts is introduced in "Ripples in the Pool," once again performed by woodwinds, and is reprised in the "End Titles." Other motifs and fragments appear throughout Lady in the Water, sustaining your interest in each of their variations. Holding them all together is perhaps an even greater reason for the success of the score: the constant movement of rhythm. There have been a handful of scores throughout the years that have perfectly captured the perpetual movement of water, and Lady in the Water joins that elite group. Whether on piano, celesta, harp, or string, there is a constant tingling of motion in the score. Even at his most soothing and reflective, Howard maintains a bed of rhythmic activity that intensifies when necessary for the "awe factor" of the specific scene. The rhythmic activity is often consistent under performances of several different themes within the same cue. One such example is in the addictive "Charades" cue, where tingling percussion joins the rhythmic movement in ways very similar to James Horner's nature-suggestive The New World, and three of Howard's primary themes elegantly mingle without interruption due to the rhythmic waves underneath. The orchestration and choice of instrumentation in specific cues is remarkable (the rambling harmonic piano is another Horner carry-over here), and the mix of the recording offers a perfect balance between the ethereal reverberation necessary for the fantasy genre and the attention to detail in each performance that serves as clear evidence of the score's intelligence. The superior handling of instruments extends to the more robust sequences of the score as well; Howard often mutes his trumpets in Lady in the Water, producing distinct similarities to Bernard Herrmann's Cape Fear in both the slight dissonance of the muted trumpets as well as the masterful use of lighter elements to capture the essence of swirling waters.

The complexity of the brass layers in the phenomenally climactic "The Great Eatlon" offers shades of John Williams' best action writing, and Howard even throws in one momentous gong hit at the end of a rousing statement of the theme of evil in that cue. Despite these positive stylistic similarities to other composers at times, Lady in the Water is still saturated with the musical mannerisms of James Newton Howard. He has a tendency to let rip with fantastic crescendos for the whole ensemble, and Lady in the Water has moments that will remind you of the creepy scene in Devil's Advocate when every person in the world has been erased, or of the climactic moment of realization at the end of The Sixth Sense. The chord progression in the latter half of "The Blue World," in fact, shares many similarities to the primary theme for The Sixth Sense. Fans who enjoyed the propulsive movement of the rhythms in Batman Begins will be appreciative that some of the forward-leaning churning here involves the same heavy strings at times. Luckily, Lady in the Water is mixed well enough to allow for a dominant bass presence without drowning out treble elements. Also present in this score is a handful of electronic texturing that has often accompanied Howard's work through the years; its contribution is somewhat minimal, however, limited in extended presentation to the latter half of "Ripples in the Pool." The prolonged dissonance heard in previous Shyamalan scores does exist in Lady in the Water, but is often a slight influence during otherwise harmonic statements. Only a few moments of dissonant hits are to be heard, and are often followed by a continuation of harmonic rhythms and themes that can continue for five minutes at a time. The piano is once again a central element for Howard's elegant side. Choral use in the score is mature as well, with the high female wordless vocals suiting the subject delightfully well. Howard rarely allows a full performance of the Blue World theme to go by without accompanying the ensemble with the choir. Less obvious is the lower choral accompaniment of the theme of evil, as in the opening cue.

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When you step back and appreciate Lady in the Water as a whole, you recognize that Howard has provided everything that you could ever want in a watery fable. It moves in waves like the pool, it has a magical element of fantasy in its instrumentation, it has loyal and memorable themes for every aspect of the story, and it builds up to one hell of a tumultuously satisfying climax. The opening cue teases you with hints of the major themes, as it should, and the end credits pulls away and leaves you with a shadowy reflection of what has just passed. With the exception of a few tracks, including the more fearful "Walkie Talkie" cue, as well as the latter halves of "Ripples in the Water" and "Giving the Kii," Lady in the Water is an easy and enveloping listening experience on album. And even in these few moments of electronic texture of dissonant crescendos, Howard always at least maintains your interest with his intelligent layers of sound. The handling of the themes, often in conjunction with one another or the rhythms below, is worthy of study alone. The performances by the 90+ orchestra players and 60 singers from Los Angeles are as precise and enthusiastic as those you hear from their counterparts in London. They recorded 70+ minutes of music for Lady in the Water, however only 42 minutes of that material was pressed onto the Decca album for the film. Missing from the album is a significant suite of the score's themes that was assembled for and recorded at the sessions, leading inevitably (given the quality of the score) to some scrambling by soundtrack collectors for that material on the secondary market. The album was instead populated with incorporated music originally by Bob Dylan; four cover songs of his material sufficiently mutilate the originals almost beyond recognition. Both "The Times They Are A-Changin" and "Every Grain of Sand" were altered in tone to suit a grim, watery atmosphere (whether through alteration of voice volume or through electronic manipulation of voice), while the latter two songs by "Silvertide" are largely unlistenable, harsh renditions. Don't let the songs (conveniently placed at the end) deter you from a short, but rewarding presentation of an outstanding score. In its vast complexity of layers, themes, and orchestration, Lady in the Water is the polar opposite of the concurrent Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest by Howard's good friend Hans Zimmer. Even within Howard's superior body of work, Lady in the Water is a definite highlight. ***** Price Hunt: CD or Download

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 62,085 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

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 Track Listings: Total Time: 59:40

• 1. Prologue (2:52)
• 2. The Party (6:40)
• 3. Charades (5:50)
• 4. Ripples in the Pool (1:49)
• 5. The Blue World (4:25)
• 6. Giving the Kii (1:49)
• 7. Walkie Talkie (2:08)
• 8. Cereal Boxes (2:33)
• 9. Officer Jimbo (3:31)
• 10. The Healing (4:03)
• 11. The Great Eatlon (4:41)
• 12. End Titles (1:43)
• 13. The Times They Are A-Changin - performed by A Whisper in the Noise (5:59)
• 14. Every Grain of Sand - performed by Amanda Ghost (4:15)
• 15. It Ain't Me Babe - performed by Silvertide (3:46)
• 16. Maggie's Farm - performed by Silvertide (3:36)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes a list of performers, but no extra information about the score or film.

  All artwork and sound clips from Lady in the Water are Copyright © 2006, Universal/Decca. 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 7/14/06 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2006-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.