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

If you have not yet seen the first install­ment of Denis Villeneuve’s reimag­in­ing of Dune, you will find no spoil­ers here, though if you’ve read Frank Herbert’s cult clas­sic nov­el and/or seen David Lynch’s film adap­ta­tion (or even the for­get­table TV minis­eries from 20 years ago), you are famil­iar with the sto­ry. You can, how­ev­er, hear Hans Zim­mer’s com­plete sound­track above. If you love it, and if film crit­ic Mick LaSalle is right, you’re in for a treat: “If you like the music here, you’ll prob­a­bly like the movie,” LaSalle writes in a San Fran­cis­co Chron­i­cle review. “If you hate it, you can’t pos­si­bly enjoy Dune.”

The film’s music is relent­less and cre­ates a “sense of some­thing strange and unfa­mil­iar,” mak­ing sure “we nev­er for­get we’re watch­ing an entire­ly alien uni­verse.” Vet­er­an block­buster com­pos­er Hans Zim­mer cre­at­ed this son­ic atmos­phere with stu­dio effects and non­tra­di­tion­al instru­men­ta­tion, though one famil­iar ele­ment remains, as he tells Indiewire:

I kept think­ing, wher­ev­er you are in the future, the instru­ments will change due to tech­nol­o­gy, and we could be far more exper­i­men­tal, but the one thing that remains is the human voice, which there is a lot of.

Those voic­es include that of singer Lisa Ger­rard, for­mer­ly of Dead Can Dance, who “came up with this lan­guage that is all her own. It could be from the future, it could be from a dif­fer­ent world.”

Zimmer’s approach almost mir­rors that of his first big break, the score for 1988’s Rain Man, of which he said in 2008, “The Ray­mond char­ac­ter does­n’t actu­al­ly know where he is. The world is so dif­fer­ent to him. He might as well be on Mars. So, why don’t we just invent our own world music for a world that does­n’t real­ly exist?” Villeneuve’s Dune gives us an entire inter­plan­e­tary civ­i­liza­tion for which to invent music that did­n’t exist before. “I felt like there was a free­dom to get away from a West­ern Orches­tra,” Zim­mer told The New York Times, in a major under­state­ment.

One piece of music, played as the Atrei­des fam­i­ly arrives on Arrakis, involved 30 bag­pipers, record­ed togeth­er in Edin­burgh while social­ly dis­tanced. “Along with syn­the­siz­ers,” writes The New York Times’ Dar­ryn King, “you can hear scrap­ing met­al, Indi­an bam­boo flutes, Irish whis­tles, a jud­der­ing drum phrase that Zim­mer calls an ‘anti-groove,’ seis­mic rum­bles of dis­tort­ed gui­tar” and “a war for that is actu­al­ly a cel­lo.” The result “might be one of Zimmer’s most unortho­dox and most provoca­tive” pieces of work, and a far cry from the music that accom­pa­nied David Lynch’s beau­ti­ful fail­ure of a film in 1984.

Zim­mer claims nev­er to have seen Lynch’s film nor heard the sound­track by soft-rock super­stars Toto, unwill­ing to com­pro­mise the Dune he’d been imag­in­ing since he first read the book. “I’ve been think­ing about Dune for near­ly 50 years,” he says. Lynch has been try­ing to for­get his film for almost as long. The dense, com­pli­cat­ed mess of an adap­ta­tion so con­fused film execs and test audi­ences that the stu­dio added intro­duc­to­ry expo­si­tion, above, and hand­ed out glos­saries to audi­ences at the first screen­ings (though not, pre­sum­ably, flash­lights).

The choice of super­stars Toto, of “Africa” fame, brought audi­ences of Lynch’s film a “lux­u­ri­ant and pecu­liar sound­track,” sup­ple­ment­ed by the Vien­na Sym­pho­ny Orches­tra and a com­po­si­tion by Bri­an Eno. But it also inte­grat­ed famil­iar 80’s rock touch­es (as in “Desert Theme,” above), giv­ing the alien world Lynch imag­ined both a famil­iar son­ic tex­ture and a dat­ed sound. Thir­ty-sev­en years lat­er, sci­ence fic­tion films need no such com­fort­ing appa­ra­tus to make them palat­able. As both Vil­leneuve and Zim­mer real­ized in their work on Dune, a film about a total­ly unfa­mil­iar future civ­i­liza­tion — even one filled with humans who look like us — can look and sound as strange as tech­nol­o­gy and imag­i­na­tion will allow.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

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

The Dune Graph­ic Nov­el: Expe­ri­ence Frank Herbert’s Epic Sci-Fi Saga as You’ve Nev­er Seen It Before

Watch the First Trail­er for Dune, Denis Villeneuve’s Adap­ta­tion of Frank Herbert’s Clas­sic Sci-Fi Nov­el

Why You Should Read Dune: An Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion to Frank Herbert’s Eco­log­i­cal, Psy­cho­log­i­cal Sci-Fi Epic

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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