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Playing with audio.
Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.

MP3 Night Shyamalan

Is there such a thing as a musical spoiler? Spoilers, of course, are details from movies, books and so forth that one learns in advance of experiencing the source first hand. Movie spoilers are perhaps the most notorious. On one side of the aisle, you have rabid fans foaming at the mouth for a mere glimpse of future visions of Darth Vader (yes, the title of the next Star Wars film was revealed last week, here) or Batman (yes, the Batman Begins trailer is now up on the web, here — as with Star Wars, a year in advance of theatrical release). On the other, you have self-cloistering theatergoers who’d rather not know the ins and outs of the plot of a film for which they’re destined to pay the equivalent of minimum wage. If you savor the identity of Rosebud, you’re in the latter camp.

And if there’s a pop filmmaker whose films purposefully teeter on the fulcrum of surprise, it’s M. Night Shyamalan, whose Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, in particular, were probably most enjoyed by the least informed members of their audiences — in fact, his Hitchcock-like sensibility has turned many a foaming-mouth fan into a self-cloistered one, at least in regard to his films.

Thus, the arrival tomorrow, July 30, of a new Shyamalan film, The Village, means another game of hide and seek with the major media. The first preview was characteristically vague: images of a remote, rural town, with echoes of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” and of Shyamalan’s previous film, Signs; foreboding dictums (“Never enter the woods,” “Let the bad color not be seen”), hinting at a story, but divulging next to nothing (and peculiarly reminiscent of the high-minded laws that dictated another 2004 summer would-be blockbuster, I, Robot).

If the tease is the thing, then one particular promotion of The Village makes perfect sense: a remix of a track from its score has been made available for free download online. The score is by James Newton Howard, who has composed for the majority of Shyamalan’s movies, and the remix is by Synchronic, whose brief bio credits the “network of skilled composer/producers” with gigs on various movie-promotion campaigns, and other scoring and music-supervision roles. The remix is four-plus minutes of sedate orchestral bed, some understated but virtuoso solo violin, and an overlay of downtempo beats, with a young girl’s voice occasionally chirping those darn dictums. The combination is thoroughly enjoyable, a neo-romantic take on Enigma’s quasi-Gregorian recipe: the high-culture source material, the clubby mix, the self-consciously mysterious vocal. The only sour note is that spoken vocal, which kinda makes the whole thing sound like a commercial (though, in all fairness, that’s exactly what it is). Overall, the promotion is inspired: since we’re experiencing the Synchronic remix before we experience the original Howard score, we don’t know what is the message, and what is the filter. (It’s also worth noting that The Village debuts in theaters on the same day as another remix of sorts, director Jonathan Demme’s update of The Manchurian Candidate.)

Then again, if you’re a diehard Shyamalan fan, you may hesitate before downloading this free song. Perhaps you don’t want to hear the village bell toll (D’oh! — was that a spoiler?) until the theater darkens. If you dare, you can access the MP3 file here.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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