For one of the very best films of 1999 (along with The Matrix), James Newton Howard wrote a score that matches the visuals and action on screen like a glove. The Sixth Sense tells the story of a young boy, brilliantly played by Haley Joel Osment, who has the ability to see dead people. This, of course, makes the boy terrified and his life a living hell. Until he gets to know the child psychiatrist Dr Malcolm Crowe, portraid by Bruce Willis, who decides to help the boy.
Howard's score is mostly very intimate and quiet, with orchestrations based on soft strings, piano and woodwinds, and focusing on sounds and texture more than thematic material. Although there are themes, they are not that memorable and easy to spot. The Sixth Sense really is a score that is easier to appreciate if you know what the music is written for, so it helps to have seen the film. And since the film many times are downright scary and frightening, so are parts of the score, such as the dark and tensed "Suicide Ghost". It opens with a loud bang and is followed by some atonal dissonant music, which is one of the reason the scene it was written for is one of the most frightening scenes I have ever seen. This is not music that will calm you down, if listening to it late at night. Actually, few scores manage to literally scare me, but Howard's score for The Sixth Sense manages to do just that.
The Varèse Sarabande release is quite short, being just over half an hour in length. And typically the score gets really interesting - if you look at it at a thematical point of view - at the very end of the CD. The final cue, "Malcolm is Dead", is a definite highlight, which builds to a wonderful emotional climax, performed by the entire orchestra, supported by subtle, wordless choir.