The Passion (soundtrack) by Kyle Eastwood & Michael Stevens

 

 

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The Passion of the Christ by John Debney

Faith and Film Music - The Music and the Meaning

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Passion of the Christ (Soundtrack) by John Debney

The Passion of the Christ
Composed by John Debney
Sony Classical Records (2004)

Rating: 8/10

Buy The Passion by John Debney  from Amazon.com

 

Listen to this soundclip of The PassionBearing the Cross

Listen to this soundclip of The PassionResurrection
 

More clips from The Passion of the Christ at Amazon.com

 

“...it is a testament to Debney’s skill that his numerous non-Western melodic and instrumental choices are as engaging as they are to pop music aficionados. ”

John Debney's Passion
Review by Cap Stewart


I witnessed a unique occurrence after seeing THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. During the end credits, no one made a noise. There was no talking, laughing, or even whispering. Everyone filed out of the theater without a word. Such was the effect the movie had on its audience. The film had—and has—left an indelible cinematic mark.

Originally, Mel Gibson considered having the final cut of THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST devoid of any subtitles or underscore. But after realizing these elements would help move the story along, he finally decided on John Debney as his composer—an intriguing choice, seeing as how Debney had written more comedy scores than anything else. Many wondered if Debney could handle the dramatic material. As a Catholic, his heart echoed the sentiments of the film’s message, but could he bear the weight of this assignment? Would the burden prove to be too much?

As it turns out, Debney was up to the task. The music to THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST is a truly eclectic mix: ethnic instrumentation (with numerous cultural influences), brooding atmosphere, synthesizers, pounding rhythms, and various choral performances. Somehow, it all works.

Much of the soundtrack—most of the first half, in fact—consists of atmospheric meanderings. Two standout tracks during this first half of the score are “Bearing the Cross” (track 2), during which we are introduced to many of the score’s principal elements, and “Peter Denies Jesus” (track 4), where we hear the main theme for the first time. Most of the engaging thematic material is reserved for the second half of the album, beginning with “Mary Goes to Jesus” (track 9). This track begins softly with a mournful (yet almost soothing) female vocalist, joined first by the strings and then the rest of the London Voices in an emotional power punch that prepares us for the rest of the score.

The dramatic anchor of the album is “Crucifixion” (track 11). Twice in the first three minutes, the choir and percussion elements dramatically build and then subside. As the first nail pierces Christ’s flesh, Debney utilizes a beautiful melody performed on strings. Someone not familiar with the material might mistake this for a love theme. Then again, “mistake” isn’t the best word. Gibson wanted Debney to create a musical juxtaposition for this scene, representing the redemptive nature of the crucifixion. The music underlies the idea that Jesus was not forced to die—he chose to die. The dark beauty behind Gibson’s brutal and horrific cinematic images shines through in Debney’s composition. (The subsequent piercing of Christ’s side is also accompanied by a beautifully haunting string motif—found ninety seconds into track 14.)

The final track, “Resurrection,” offers an appropriately triumphant finale to the score with the choir performing the main theme accompanied by energetic percussion. While it is not melodically or instrumentally similar to any of Danny Elfman’s famous film score finales, Debney’s finale provides the same artistic and emotional weight. The last two minutes of the track are more subdued, leading to a quiet and sober conclusion to the album.

Some of the cues from THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST have been compared (and not unfairly) to the work of Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerard in GLADIATOR. Also, the cue “Raising the Cross” (track 12) almost sounds as if it came out of a Jerry Bruckheimer production. Nevertheless, these similarities in no way reduce Debney’s work to the level of “hack job.” His use of ethnic instrumentation is varied to a large degree. Furthermore, it is a testament to Debney’s skill that his numerous non-Western melodic and instrumental choices are as engaging as they are to pop music aficionados. (If you disagree, just look at the financial success of the soundtrack album.)

In his 2004 Tracksounds interview, Debney made the following comment: “I would say this [score]…would probably express most clearly who I am and what I believe. It has certainly been the hardest thing I’ve done and yet the most rewarding.” Our sentiment is similar: THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST is a rewarding listen. It may take a while for the melodic material to kick into high gear, but the soundtrack’s overall score gets bumped up a few points for the sheer power of the album’s second half.

 

Rating: 8/10

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Track

Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 The Olive Garden 1:56  **
2 Bearing the Cross 3:42  ****
3 Jesus Arrested 4:37  **
4 Peter Denies Jesus 1:58  ***
5 The Stoning 2:25  **
6 Song of Complaint 1:33  **
7 Simon is Dismissed 2:25  **
8 Flagellation/Dark Choir/Disciples 5:54  **
9 Mary Goes to Jesus 2:47  *****
10 Peaceful but Primitive/Procession 3:36  ***
11 Crucifixion 7:38  *****
12 Raising the Cross 2:13  ****
13 It is Done 3:37  ***
14 Jesus is Carried Down 4:39  ***
15 Resurrection 5:04  *****
  Total Running Time (approx) 54 minutes  

 

 
   

 

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