Passion of the Christ

Passion of the Christ

4.5 16
by John Debney
     
 

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The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson's controversial telling of the final hours of Jesus' life, is so graphically brutal that many moviegoers may not take notice of the film's score at all. But there surely is a score, and it's a testament to the talents of composer John Debney (Elf, Bruce Almighty) that his music skillfully underpins the film'sSee more details below

Overview

The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson's controversial telling of the final hours of Jesus' life, is so graphically brutal that many moviegoers may not take notice of the film's score at all. But there surely is a score, and it's a testament to the talents of composer John Debney (Elf, Bruce Almighty) that his music skillfully underpins the film's dramatic grip without becoming a distraction from the compelling story. Debney rightly realized that for a story of such searing intensity, an equally forceful score would be (pardon the term) overkill, yet his atmospheric and evocative music admirably stands on its own. He makes use of only a few elements, recombining them in continual variation and to beautiful effect: Haunting drones, exotic flutes and reeds, wordless vocal cries, beating drums, and soaring strings feature in track after track of ethereal, entrancing music. Of course, there are moments of great power, too, particularly as the film draws near its tragic conclusion. "The Crucifixion" begins with low strings and builds to a grand orchestral climax that flows into an ardent hymn-like theme. Likewise, "Raising the Cross" combines deep, throbbing drums with a wordless chorus accented by distant vocal cries, while piercing calls from an otherworldly horn punctuate "Jesus Is Carried Down." "Resurrection" presents an opportunity for musical word-painting, and appropriately, an upward-climbing theme in the strings and voices joins with pulsating drums at this culminating point in the tale. It's a potent moment on a soundtrack that drives home the enduring story of The Passion of the Christ with subtlety, eloquence, and beauty.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Thom Jurek
The test of the mettle of any original soundtrack, particularly where an original score is present, is whether that music stands on its own apart from the film that inspired it. Composer and multi-instrumentalist John Debney's score for Mel Gibson's controversial film The Passion of the Christ is such an offering. It succeeds as a coherent, moving, well-executed musical statement whether or not one has seen the film. Nearly 55 minutes in length, it seamlessly flows from beginning to end, creating aurally panoramic soundscapes and textural vistas with masterful employment of percussion, folk instruments from many traditions, and Eastern-tinged harmonics. Solo and choral voices encounter the tension of an outside narrative, resolve, and even transcend it. The music here is not visionary, however, and that is not necessarily a criticism. It owes a great debt to Peter Gabriel's truly visionary soundtrack/score to Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ. Gabriel, of course, made liberal use of Near Eastern scalar inventions as well as traditional melodies and harmonies that were not his own. But he combined them with startling sound effects and masterful pairings of seemingly disparate talents, coming up with something out of time and space. It was inevitable given his own path as a musician obsessed with the music of the world enough to found a label to showcase it. Debney has seemingly followed a similar path; his use of Indian master violinist and vocalist L. Shankar (who was also featured prominently on Gabriel's Passion) and singer/double-violinist Gingger Shankar is evidence in and of itself, and his reliance on the earlier score for notions of pace, dynamic, and color are problematic if one is looking merely for originality. But Debney could not help but make use of Gabriel's score (though he should have at least thanked him in the credits) -- it is far too influential and far-reaching not to -- any more than Gabriel could help making use of the folk musics of antiquity for his. Debney's deft appropriation of classical strategies from the early 20th century and his wonderfully taut choral elements that shape-shift across history from Gregorian chant and Eastern Orthodox Byzantine liturgies as well as the operatic requiem masses of Mozart, Verdi, and John Rutter are also stellar choices not merely for the effect of movement and emphasis, but also have a profoundly meditative quality to them. Debney also furthers the use of the aboriginal tropes first introduced by Gabriel in that he fully integrates them into his Anglo and Celtic maxims. Debney's core is a haunted work, one that resonates with conviction, devotion, and taste. The seemingly dissonant strains are there to provide the authenticity and universality of the human voice as it beholds and meditates upon the subjects in his serial segments. It is a stunner, one that will offer those who choose to encounter it a far-reaching and deeply affective listening experience that is as aesthetically beautiful and unsettling as it is evocatively familiar. Highly recommended.
Entertainment Weekly - Scott Paulin
With it's chiefly meditative tone, Debney's music may even strike some listeners as more spiritually genuine than the brutality it ameliorates on screen. (B)

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Product Details

Release Date:
02/24/2004
Label:
Sony
UPC:
0827969204627
catalogNumber:
92046

Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

John Debney   Primary Artist,Vocals
Mel Gibson   Vocals,Chant
Lakshminarayana Shankar   Vocals,Double Violin
Ron Allen   Flute
Pedro Eustache   Woodwind
Karen Hua-Qi Han   Erhu
Nick Ingman   Conductor
Martin Tillman   Electric Cello
Gavyn Wright   Concert Master
London Voices   Choir, Chorus
Lévon Minassian   Duduk
Chris Bleth   Woodwind,Duduk
Aaron Martin   Vocals
Ahmed el-Asmer   Vocals
Jan Hendrickse   Bamboo Flute
Gingger   Vocals,Double Violin
Shannon Kingsbury   Vocals
Naser Mousa   Oud
Terry Edwards   Choir Director

Technical Credits

Mel Gibson   Producer
Isobel Griffiths   Choir Contractor
Jack Lenz   Composer
Shawn Murphy   Score Mixer
Lakshminarayana Shankar   Composer
Mike Watts   Orchestration
Simon Rhodes   Engineer,Orchestration
Brad Dechter   Orchestration
Wolfgang Amadeus   Engineer,Scoring Engineer
Frank Bennett   Orchestration
Jeff Atmajian   Orchestration
Peter Afterman   Executive Producer,Soundtrack Executive Producer
Pat Sullivan   Mastering
John Debney   Composer,Producer,Score Consultant
Dan Savant   Contributor
Lisbeth Scott   Composer,Lyricist,Vocal Coach
Aaron Martin   Score Consultant
Jake Jackson   Engineer,Pro-Tools
Bruce Davey   Executive Producer,Soundtrack Executive Producer
Traditional   Composer
Michael Bazzi   translation
Father Bill Fulco   translation
Stephen McEveety   Executive Producer,Soundtrack Executive Producer
Lola Debney   Score Consultant
Gingger Shankar   Composer

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