Church Worship

The Music Behind "The Passion"

  • Deborah Evans Price Contributing Writer
  • 2004 26 Feb
The Music Behind "The Passion"

How did you become involved? Who contacted you about doing the project?
John Debney: A life-long friend, Steve McEveety, called me in early October regarding the project. They were having issues with a previous composer, and Steve wanted to get my thoughts. When I realized that he was referring to “The Passion of the Christ,” I got very excited about the possibility of my involvement. I asked Steve if I might take the weekend and compose some music for Mel Gibson to hear. With no strings attached, I composed the trailer for the movie (showing in theatres now) and a few otherpieces. Mel seemed to like the direction, and a few hours later, I was invitedto participate.

Listen to samples of John Debney's work on The Passion Of The Christ here on!

How did you approach writing the score?
Debney: I had no pre-conceived notions about what the score should be. 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.

What particular images from the film had the greatest impact on you as you worked on this music?
Debney: I felt from the very start that the key focus of the film and the music was ultimately the experience of Mary, Jesus' mother. Through her eyes we see world-changing events unfold. Finding "Mary's Lullaby,” her thematic thread, was crucial. I believe that Mary had a hand in giving me her theme. I was rather stuck, yet through prayer, I came upon what is Mary's theme in the film. The flashback when Mary remembers Jesus falling down as a child is particularly powerful for me. The other [standout moment] might be the actual nailing to the cross.

How does the music add to the mood and tone of the film?
Debney: Music in film should always add an elegant accompaniment to the images. Restraint was key to this film, so when the music really gets big and emotional, we've earned it.You have some impressive credits. What made you want to do this project? I consider it a great gift and was so honored to be a part of this great film.

What was the appeal in working on this?
Debney: I can't imagine a more dramatic story to compose music to. It was challenging, yet very fulfilling.

Listen to music samples from The Passion Of The Christ or buy the official soundtrack CD here on!