passionofchristpick of the monthA Tapestry of Sound

The Passion Of The Christ Original Soundtrack
Expanded Tenth Anniversary Edition 2014

Composer: John Debney
Lyrics: Lisbeth Scott and John Debney
Musicians and Vocalists: John Debney, Lisbeth Scott, Pedro Eustache, Mel Gibson, Shankar and Gingger, Jan Hendrickse, Levon Minassian, Martin Tillman, London Voices, Studio Orchestra and The Transylvania State Philharmonic Choir
Sony Music Entertainment Limited Edition Release (2014) 26924-13292
Two discs: Disc One, 17 Tracks and Disc 2, 14 Tracks, Total: 31 Tracks
Running Length: 132 Minutes


The film project by actor/director Mel Gibson on the life of Christ using Aramaic language of the time, turned into a monumental success for both the film and the soundtrack. It has been ten years and the Academy Award nominated soundtrack is being re-released with added tracks of music that didn't make it to the film, such as alternate endings for scenes.


And just who is the composer of this soundtrack? John Debney (son of Disney producer Louis Debney) and I may be one of the few critics who liked his soundtrack for “Cutthroat Island,” plus liking that film. That aside, Debney has made quite a mark for Dakota Fanning’s “Dreamer,” Edward Asner’s “Elf,” Robert Downey Jr.’s “Iron Man 2,” Kevin Costner’s sports film, “Draft Day” and for an Emmy nomination for the music of  "Hatfield's and McCoy's."


Included in this Tenth Anniversary Edition is a booklet on the composing of the soundtrack, hunt for unusual instruments to give a “world music” flavor, and search for musicians to play the instruments. On two selections, there is a cacophony of sound representing ravens on “Simon Is Dismissed” and a rooster in “Crucifixion.”  Then, we come to the percussion section. This is in a class by itself from marking Satan, “Satan Appears” to “Kids Taunt Judas” to “Judas Hangs Himself” to “Resurrection.” There is an urgency whenever percussion is heard, as though to let the audience know there will be no waiting now for this period of history.


Mel Gibson, the director, actually sang the "despair" on Disc 1, Track 8, “Judas Hangs Himself.” Vocalist Lisbeth Scott sings for Mary with anguish in her voice. Choral music is in the background as in “Jesus Is Carried Down.“ Instruments such as a duduk, double violin, bamboo flute, cello, Spanish dulzaina, erhu and oud are placed at special moments as in “The Olive Garden,” “Judas Hangs Himself,” “Pilate’s Truth” and “Song of Complaint.” 


The music for “Passion of the Christ” has a Middle Eastern mood, whether it be moderate in texture or heavier in dramatic intent. Some selections are longer, as in eight minutes for “Scourging,” thirteen minutes for “Crucifixion” and eight minutes for “Resurrection.” Each of these selections could be a short tone poem of drama, by themselves. Totally, this soundtrack  blends scenes of music together to form a map, telling the story, in sound of the last day of the life of Christ.


For fans of the film, which starred Jim Caveziel, who is now in TV's "Person of Interest," this is over two hours of listening to the mood of that time, over 2000 years ago---a tapestry of sound.


Copyright 2015 Marie Asner


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