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The Passion of the Christ
Album Cover Art
2004 Integrity
2014 La-La Land
Album 2 Cover Art
Composed, Lyrics Co-Written, and Co-Produced by:

Orchestrated by:
Brad Dechter
Mike Watts
Frank Bennett
Jeff Atmajian

Conducted by:
Nick Ingman

Co-Produced by:
Mel Gibson

Lyrics Co-Written by:
Lisbeth Scott

Ensemble Vocals by:
The London Voices
The Transylvania State Philharmonic Choir

Solo Vocals by:
Tanya Tsarouska
Shankar and Gingger
Aaron Martin
Shannon Kingsbury
Ahmed El-Eshmer
John Debney
Mel Gibson

Choir Conducted by:
Terry Edwards
Labels Icon
Integrity Music / Sony Music
(February 24th, 2004)

La-La Land Records
(December 2nd, 2014)
Availability Icon
The 2004 Integrity/Sony album was a regular U.S. release. The expanded 2014 La-La Land Records album is limited to 10,000 copies and available primarily through soundtrack specialty outlets for an initial price of $25. It was not offered through wide commercial channels until March of 2015.
Nominated for an Academy Award.
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Decorative Nonsense
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Availability | Awards | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... if you are willing to wade through a significant portion of unpleasant, worldly ambience to reach the intense and impressive payoff at the end of this gruesome cinematic depiction of religious fantasy.

Avoid it... if you prefer a loving musical celebration of Jesus Christ's life or have a distaste for bloated, self-important music that could be considered a Christian propaganda tool as much as the film it accompanies.
Review Icon
WRITTEN 2/20/04, REVISED 2/1/15
The Passion of the Christ: (John Debney) Not much more needs to be said about the offensively graphic 2004 fantasy spectacle, The Passion of the Christ. It is a project that, when combined with his bigoted, drunken rants during a traffic arrest not long after, would forever overshadow actor-turned-director Mel Gibson's career and turn away many potential industry collaborators. The graphic depiction of Jesus Christ's last twelve hours of life was as controversial as any film had been in a decade, and questions of merit were raised about whether the polarizing effect of the film was really necessary. The violence of the interpretation is so grotesquely realistic that members of theatrical audiences were reported to have vomited in the isles and staggered out of the cinema in disgust. Christian organizations were predictably pushing advertising for The Passion of the Christ alongside the studio's $25 million of a marketing budget aimed at stimulating religious groups into flooding America with talk of the project. Whether you are a born-again Christian or a die-hard atheist, The Passion of the Christ is at the very least a lengthy topic for debate over the supper table, and with the musical score for the film so closely tied to the efforts of the film, its evolution is worthy of equal debate. Gibson's production suffered from a serious case of indecision when it came to its music; with Gibson attempting for an ultra-accurate, original-language portrayal of Jesus' death, the first reported idea was to have no musical score at all. Then he turned to Canadian composer Jack Lenz to assemble and apply only worldly instruments heard at the time in basic structures. While a small portion of Lenz' source-like material did eventually make the final cut of the film, Gibson realized that the story's emotional impact was simply not sufficient without at least some kind of traditional orchestral score, though he fought the idea through most of the post-production of the project. Looking for answers, Gibson's waffling led to rumors that James Horner was interested in the project. Then, talk involved romantic female composers such as Lisa Gerrard and Rachel Portman, who, in hindsight, would have had no chance to compose what Gibson would eventually decide upon for his film's musical identity. Portman did indeed have the job until her pregnancy caused her to bow out gracefully.

The assignment of salvaging the music for The Passion of the Christ eventually went to Hollywood utility man John Debney, a "fix-it" composer fresh off of Bruce Almighty and Elf, two scores that were quite typical in his comedy-dominated scoring career. Another devout Christian himself, Debney has attributed prayer for receiving some of the inspiration for this score. Much light-hearted discussion resulted when Debney admitted that he blamed technical difficulties during the recording and editing of this score on the forces of Satan, even claiming to run out into the parking lot to confront his demons in these regards. Any number of references to End of Days could work here. Speculation about whether or not the composer has become ostracized from some corners of the largely secular industry has ensued since. No matter your opinion about Debney's sanity or religious beliefs due to these silly revelations, at least it conveyed a sense of the composer's own passion for the project. The important and relevant element of Debney's career has been his versatility, especially on short notice, and he is well respected by studios for providing serviceable, quick music for any kind of topic. Debney also seems well adjusted to the idea of stepping in and producing the exact sound requested by his employers without bickering over the approach demanded from him. In this case particularly, Debney was an excellent (although still surprising) choice for the project; The Passion of the Christ is easily the most intriguing and widely known of his scoring assignments to date. While film music collectors will always favor Cutthroat Island from a technical and enjoyment standpoint, The Passion of the Christ earned the composer his only Oscar nomination (and it's hard to imagine that he lost the award by a wide margin) and has remained his most commonly referenced work. Debney received the job in October, 2003 after Portman's departure, and he was so thrilled by the prospect of being involved with the project that wrote some sample material for Gibson that was ultimately used in a trailer for the film. In fact, it was the pounding, militaristic, and ascending "resurrection theme" in that early trailer, repeated in similar form for the film's subsequent advertisements, that indeed got him hired despite some hesitation by Gibson. Despite the director's acceptance of this music for the trailers, though, he was still skeptical about the use of full-scale orchestral and choral music in the actual film.

Debney was not certain that he could avoid being fired in his early days of emphasizing a more balanced approach to the music of The Passion of the Christ. Thus, he maintained an open mind. "I had no pre-conceived notions about what the score should be," Debney states. "I did know that the filmmakers liked an eclectic approach to the music, not wanting to make the score too literal or conventional. The result, I believe, is a nice blend between some very powerful, more traditional music, as well as some very interesting ethnic and contemporary textures." More than in any case in recent memory, the soundtrack for The Passion of the Christ cannot easily be separated from the film, for the popularly accepted version of the story of Christ, despite its countless flaws in historical accuracy, is so very well known. So even if a person were to attempt to evaluate Debney's The Passion of the Christ as a piece of standalone music, without any regard for the film it accompanies, then that evaluation would sorely miss the intent and context it embodies. Many film music fans argue that this is the case for nearly any film, but with The Passion of the Christ, it is a clear reality. Part of this necessity to consider film and score together is caused by Debney's uncanny ability to do his job well, and he has certainly succeeded here. He accomplished his task so well for the intended, adoring audience that the score's best sections have become a popular concert piece for Debney. In fact, he led a 2010 performance of the score with a 500-member choir and a full orchestra in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, a monumental occasion for any composer. Most people who recall this score do so because of its grandiose portions, highlighted by the resurrection theme's several driving variations. But listeners often forget that this score, on the whole, is actually quite unpredictably rendered and minimally constructed for most of its length. The majority of the finished project contains an ambient blend of vague worldly tones contributed by Lisbeth Scott, Pedro Eustache, L. Shankar and Gingger Shankar, and a host of other specialty performers of vocals and ancient wind and string instruments. Most of the length of the work is absent any lyricism whatsoever, with the spirit of the surviving Lenz material expressed with simply some beefier string backing or other slightly emphasized background power as the score meanders through its many conversational sequences. The harmonious, thematic payoff in the latter stages of the score is a reward for what is mostly a challenging listening experience for the first hour.

The highlights of the score for The Passion of the Christ, those full ensemble portions that took Gibson some time to appreciate and approve, are hugely orchestral, with layered choirs, flighty flutes and female vocals, authentic instruments from the era, and an array of electronic elements to provide accents and rumbling bass to the soundscape. It is largely conceived music for the ultimate in pious fantasy, worthy of a lord or god indeed, and the intense passages of rhythm and lyrical statements of harmony carry with them the weight of a heavily burdened topic. The original album arrangements of the score are less contemplative and favor the renditions of the action material, interestingly, with strongly propulsive sequences extending throughout the presentation and featuring choral statements over broad orchestral sweeps, very bass-heavy synthesizers, and relentless drums. There are parts of The Passion of the Christ that sound like they were inspired by The Prince of Egypt in instrumentation, although the pounding action cues seem better compared to Hans Zimmer's Gladiator, which also defined Romans as the evil-doers. When awe is necessary, Debney's score is immense, even during dialogue-respecting underscore that often features a distant, powerfully beating drum and a rumbling cymbal to accentuate each pivotal statement by Jesus himself. Sequences of lyrical beauty may be few and far between, but they are outstanding when allowed; a notable but brief show of lyrical love exists in the flute work at the center portions of "Crucifixion," a welcome break from the score's constant pressures despite its strangely Irish tone. One has to make the inevitable comparison to another Christ-related score that was, ironically, be released to theatres at the same time as The Passion of the Christ. Even though it debuted during the previous year, Jeff Danna's The Gospel of John provides a similar glimpse into the life of Jesus, but with an entirely different intent and focus. The score for The Gospel of John is eloquent and romantic, beautiful and loving in its operatic interpretations of Jesus' life. Debney's The Passion of the Christ has all of the exact same kind of instrumental and choral ensembles, but with a completely different approach in its tone. This is where talk about context in Gibson's film becomes necessary; you can listen to The Gospel of John for hours and not associate it necessarily with any overtly religious idea. This is not so with The Passion of the Christ. Debney has said that "restraint was key to this film, so when the music really gets big and emotional, we've earned it," and yet, the work is saturated with troubling and agonizing passages reflective of the grisly events portrayed on screen.

Ratings Icon
Average: 2.97 Stars
***** 4,023 5 Stars
**** 1,214 4 Stars
*** 3,074 3 Stars
** 2,939 2 Stars
* 3,308 1 Stars
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So now Lent is over...
Bad Christian - March 31, 2018, at 8:16 p.m.
1 comment  (385 views)
2CD set is the ultimate edition...
Michael - April 17, 2016, at 1:09 a.m.
1 comment  (611 views)
Really? "Nothing loving about this music for Jesus"?
Clint Morgan - July 26, 2011, at 2:50 p.m.
1 comment  (1053 views)
The Passion music   Expand >>
Katja Samuelsson - April 16, 2009, at 12:44 a.m.
2 comments  (2708 views)
Newest: October 9, 2009, at 11:28 p.m. by
Richard Kleiner
yeah well...   Expand >>
flo - March 6, 2007, at 9:46 a.m.
8 comments  (4782 views)
Newest: August 11, 2011, at 12:04 p.m. by
Richard Kleiner
Passion of the Christ
Al Kukitz - April 19, 2005, at 3:48 a.m.
1 comment  (2318 views)

Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
2004 Integrity/Sony Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 54:09
• 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)
* contains "Night Sky" by Jack Lenz/Vocals by Tanya Tsarouska
** traditional
*** composed by John Debney and Jack Lenz
**** composed by John Debney and Shankar and Gingger
2014 La-La Land Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 134:07

Notes Icon
The insert of the 2004 album includes extensive credits, but no extra information about the score or film. That of the 2014 La-La Land album contains extensive notation about both. The publicity for the film and score also seems keen on bloating the topic's importance by referring to the film as The Passion of The Christ, incorrectly capitalizing the second "the." A heathen English major who puts ketchup on her communion wafers brought light to this error.

A full list of solo artists:

• Ron Allen: Flute
• Chris Bleth: Duduk and World Winds
• John Debney: Vocals & Synth Programmer
• Ahmed El-Eshmer: Vocals
• Pedro Eustache: World Winds
• Mel Gibson: Chants & Vocals
• Shankar and Gingger: Vocals and Double Violin
• Karen Han: Erhu
• Jan Hendrickse: Bamboo Flute
• Shannon Kingsbury: Vocals
• Aaron Martin: Vocals & Synth Programmer
• Levon Minassian: Duduk
• Naser Mousa: Oud
• Lisbeth Scott: Lyrics and Vocal Coaching
• Martin Tillman: Electric Cello
• The Transylvania State Philharmonic Choir: Voices
• Tanya Tsarouska: Vocal Solos
Copyright © 2004-2021, Filmtracks Publications. All rights reserved.
The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from The Passion of the Christ are Copyright © 2004, 2014, Integrity Music / Sony Music, La-La Land Records and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 2/20/04 and last updated 2/1/15.
Remember, organized religion exists to scare and control primitive people.
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