Hear Brian Eno’s Contribution to the Soundtrack of David Lynch’s Dune (1984)

Though released just a few weeks ago, Denis Vil­leneu­ve’s Dune seems already to have gar­nered more crit­i­cal acclaim than David Lynch’s 1984 adap­ta­tion of the same mate­r­i­al. This com­par­i­son is, of course, unfair: Lynch was work­ing under dif­fer­ent con­di­tions in a dif­fer­ent time, not to men­tion with a marked­ly dif­fer­ent cin­e­mat­ic sen­si­bil­i­ty. And in fact, Lynch’s ver­sion of the ambi­tious, saga-launch­ing nov­el by Frank Her­bert does have its fans, or at least view­ers will­ing to praise cer­tain of its aspects. Lovers of 1980s music, for exam­ple, val­ue its score com­posed by the vir­tu­osic rock band Toto — with the excep­tion, that is, of a track from Bri­an Eno, Roger Eno, and Daniel Lanois.

Bri­an Eno in par­tic­u­lar is cred­it­ed with pop­u­lar­iz­ing ambi­ent music, and “Prophe­cy Theme,” heard on the Dune sound­track album as well as in the film itself, con­jures up an atmos­phere as effec­tive­ly as any oth­er piece of his work in the genre. “David flew me to Los Ange­les to see Dune,” Eno recalls in New York Times inter­view about his recent­ly released com­pi­la­tion Bri­an Eno (Film Music, 1976–2020), which includes the track.

It wasn’t fin­ished then. And I don’t know whether his inten­tion or his hope was that I would do the whole sound­track, but I didn’t want to, any­way. It was a huge project, and I just didn’t feel like doing it. But I did feel like mak­ing one piece for it, so that’s what I did.”

Dune was indeed a for­mi­da­ble under­tak­ing, and one that ulti­mate­ly proved too big for Lynch. Some fans would argue, even after the suc­cess­ful first install­ment from Vil­leneuve, that it’s too big for any film­mak­er. But the world Her­bert cre­at­ed, one both sweep­ing and uncom­mon­ly detailed, has inspired many a cre­ator to pro­duce impres­sive work for projects both real­ized and unre­al­ized. Per­haps it counts as a missed oppor­tu­ni­ty that the lat­est Dune film, with its appar­ent clean-slate approach to pre­vi­ous attempts at adap­ta­tion, did­n’t com­mis­sion a score from Eno, whose sig­na­ture son­ic tex­tures could nice­ly have com­pli­ment­ed Vil­leneu­ve’s instinct for the sub­lime. But then, a stu­dio can’t go far wrong with Hans Zim­mer either.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear Hans Zimmer’s Exper­i­men­tal Score for the New Dune Film

Bri­an Eno Once Com­posed Music for Win­dows 95; Now He Lets You Cre­ate Music with an iPad App

The Glos­sary Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios Gave Out to the First Audi­ences of David Lynch’s Dune (1984)

The Dune Col­or­ing & Activ­i­ty Books: When David Lynch’s 1984 Film Cre­at­ed Count­less Hours of Pecu­liar Fun for Kids

A Side-by-Side, Shot-by-Shot Com­par­i­son of Denis Villeneuve’s 2020 Dune and David Lynch’s 1984 Dune

Bri­an Eno Reveals His Favorite Film Sound­tracks

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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