Hollywood came to Miami Friday night when Academy Award-winning composer James Newtown Howard presented an incredible program of his movie scores and then sat down for conversation with famous director M. Night Shyamalan on the stage of the Adrienne Arsht Center to explore movies, music, and how they work together.
The unique concert event, entitled From the Dark Knight to the Hunger Games: The Movie Music or James Newton Howard also featured clips from the movies keyed to the scores and performed by the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra. There was also a bonus in the form of a performance by Shelly Berg. In addition to being one of the country’s finest pianists, Berg is also dean of the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami, where the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra now resides, and for which Howard is the new artistic director.
As Howard is one of Hollywood’s most prolific composers, there was lots to listen to and to watch. The program featured music from three of the films he’s scored for Shyamalan; The Sixth Sense, The Village, and Signs; as well as excerpts from his other scores written for Snow White and the Huntsman, The Hunger Games, Pretty Woman, the Dark Knight, Water for Elephants, and King Kong.
But what made the evening truly special was when the Academy Award-nominated filmmaker joined Howard on stage and the two proceeded to discuss the importance of music to a movie – Shyamalan says it’s about 50 percent– as well as how movies are scored, and give insights into their collaborative process, all the while ribbing each other in the affectionate style of the close friends they have become.
The pair began by reminiscing how they had first began working together on The Sixth Sense, with Shyamalan recalling what he believed was the pivotal moment in their relationship. “I felt that something he had written was not quite right but I wondered what he would think about this kid director telling him that,” recalled Shyamalan, who was 29 when the movie was released. The two went over to the piano, and Shyamalan told Howard to tell him how he felt about the work. “I remember we stared at each other and I thought to myself, ‘Either our relationship ends right now, or it’s for life.’ Happily Howard went back to the piano and wrote what turned out to be one of Shyamalan’s favorite parts of the score. As for Howard, he turned to Shyamalan and said, “I was in awe of you. I knew from the start that you would make me work in ways that I never had before. This is why I say that working with you really changed the way I write music.”
Since then, the two men have delighted in working together but it’s a challenge because Howard is so “immensely talented,” says Shyamalan. “James is just an unending pool of incredible ideas so have to say at some point, ‘that’s the one! That’s the one we’re going to use and we have to stick to it. We can’t use the whole Crayola box like we want to; we have to use Burnt Sienna and that’s it,'” says Shyamalan. And then he turned to Howard and said, “In Hollywood when you’re with the wrong people, it’s hard to be an artist and to be happy. To have one of my best friends as my closest collaborator is the reason I’ve been able to make movies for so long.”
At the start of the program, Berg noted to that, inexplicably, such an extraordinary program hadn’t been a sell-out. “The next will be,” he predicted. No argument here.
More info: Frost School of Music, Arsht Center