Culture & Criticism Since 2003
THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. Soundtrack. Integrity Music/Sony. In terms of classical music, it’s going to be pretty difficult for anybody to top this record in 2004. Like its namesake, the “The Passion Of The Christ” soundtrack is a remarkable record that has literally taken the nation by storm. As of March 3, the record was number one on both the Billboard and Contemporary Christian charts, while holding the number two position on the Internet chart. An auspicious beginning to say the least.
Passion, composed by John Debney, is a record that was presented with the task of measuring up to Mel Gibson’s magnificent film; in short, the music had to take the images on the screen and give them the real meat of voice. Many critics have said that “The Passion Of Christ” takes the suffering which Christ endured on the threshold of death and personalized it — making it human …almost comprehensible. When Jesus is nailed to the cross, Gibson wants us to feel every invisible morsel of pain and swim in his agony, stanching the blood of Christ with the arrows of our eyes, making his holy version of misery our very own.
And the film succeeds on this level, in part, because of Debney’s creation: “This score with its mix of ethnic authenticity and symphonic sweetness propels the brutal image[s] to a higher, almost lyrical plane,” says Gibson, who also did some vocal chants on the record.
The lines of these compositions (from “Flagellation” to “Crucifixion” to “Jesus is Carried Down”) simply soar — this is music meant to pull your heart out of the cocoon of its chest and pull your ass out of its chair, sharpening the hollow edges of the conscience, reintroducing you to private ideals of beauty and faith and compassion. Rest assured, there’s blood staining this music: It drips from the half whispered eye of every echo and dances down the mirrored fingertips of the skin, these crimson pearl drops through the torn and transparent wounds of Christ’s palms.
In the end, music is a sensory experience that overwhelms the doors of the mind as it opens up the hearts of human animals to deep mysteries of memory and identity. And at its best moments, music will move the soul to tears. The Passion of The Christ is just such a score.