Review – Dune Soundtrack Comes From Another World
While the Dune movie is not yet released in all countries, the entirety of Han Zimmer’s mysterious and mesmerizing score is available for streaming! For those of us anxiously awaiting Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation, this soundtrack is one way to experience the emotion and grandeur of the film, even when we can’t (yet) see it with our own eyes.
Renowned composer Hans Zimmer (Lion King, The Dark Knight, Interstellar) is a long-time fan of Frank Herbert’s classic novel. He turned down the offer to score Christopher Nolan’s Tenet when Villeneuve approached him about composing the music for Dune. Listening carefully to the movie’s soundtrack makes it clear that Zimmer is not only a creative genius, but a true fan of Herbert’s book.
Dune Movie Score
The Dune Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is an experience is that is both uncomfortable and exhilarating. It transports the listener to a completely foreign world. It is a dramatic departure from traditional orchestral film scores, but the striking differences are what make it so extraordinary. There are sounds you have never heard before, however they feel integrated and cohesive.
The full album is available in this YouTube playlist, as well as to stream or download from your favorite music services (links follow). Review continues below.
The first track, “Dream of Arrakis”, opens with waves of disorienting electronic tones and percussion that evoke feelings of an uncertain future. Track seven, “Arrakeen”, builds tension with an accelerating “heart-beat” note that transforms into what resembles the pulse of helicopters (in this case, ornithopters). Contrast that with the foreboding strings and vocal cadence of “Night on Arrakis”. The final track, “My Road Leads into the Desert”, evokes excitement and wonder as it foreshadows the mystery that lies ahead in second part of story.
To be fully immersed in this album, it demands to be experienced on high-end speakers or headphones. This is the first official soundtrack Hans Zimmer produced in the Dolby Atmos format, which may be the last reason you need to buy that new Atmos-certified speaker system. Trust me, it’s worth it.
Creating Celestial Sounds
Zimmer seamlessly blends the emotional depth of the human voice with the anxious intensity of electronic and orchestral elements. The story of Dune takes place 20,000 years into the future, so the composer built new instruments to produce sounds that could really exist in that setting. These 22 tracks cover a lot of territory and listeners, who take the time to fully explore them, are richly rewarded. There are a few moments when I can hear elements of my favorite Zimmer film score Gladiator, but the majority of these tracks are light years from ancient Rome.
In this short feature (four minutes), the composer and filmmakers share behind-the-scenes insights into the creation of the otherworldly soundscapes. Transcript is available further below.
In conclusion, Zimmer has achieved some truly epic world-building with his soundtrack. Some listeners may put on this album to relive Villeneuve’s movie, while others may use it to expand on their own film score experience. No matter from what perspective you’re approaching it, this is a journey worth multiple listens.
Here’s the full transcript from the video:
Denis Villeneuve: When i decided to do Dune, I wanted really to create a new soundscape and was in need of a composer. I asked Hans Zimmer if he knew the book, and Hans answered was that it was probably one of his favorite books of all time and it was one of his biggest dreams to score Dune, so his answer was a big yes.
Hans Zimmer: It was always more about the conversation, because i knew the book so well, he knew the book so well, we knew our subject. so now it was figuring out how we were going to interpret something that we truly loved and admired.
Mary Parent (producer): Hans and Denis worked very closely together. Part of what I love about the score is how unfamiliar it is. It’s incredibly exotic, it’s emotional, it’s intense, it is wholly original, and very specific to the film.
Zimmer: We’re telling a story in multi-dimensional ways and we’re using voices and a language that you don’t understand and at the same time, somehow you understand it emotionally.
Villeneuve: He did tons of experiments, he created even instruments. He kept saying to me “that music is not from our world, it needs to come from another time, another planet.” Those sounds cannot be have been heard before.
Zimmer: I then ended up you know spending forever making sounds, making instruments, getting people to learn how to play instruments in a different way. The one thing that we felt would be true through any culture would be the voice, so the score is based on mainly female voices and then we developed our own language.
Joe Walker (editor): He had recordings being made all around the world, for months, and you could tell his team were just living that extreme studio town lifestyle, editing together thousands of samples and recordings.
Zimmer: If you surround yourself with incredibly brave, reckless, and talented people, they’ll lead you into new directions automatically. I always know we’re on the right path when somebody goes “this might be the worst idea you’ve ever heard.”
Villeneuve: And spent months defining sounds, creating new sounds, searching, pushing the envelope to be reflected. And doing tons of experiments and crazy experiments, with crazy instruments. It’s quite a privilege for me to work with such an artist. One of the most inspiring and powerful artistic encounter in my life is the one with Hans Zimmer, so to have the chance to work with him on Dune is like one of the big privilege of my life.
Zimmer: I want the audience to come with us on this journey, to this planet, and to this world, which seems huge and vast unfathomable, and then at the same time realize that it’s all about the smallest and tiniest emotion. Just like the desert is made up of grains of sand and the music is just made up of grains of notes. So rather than it being a massive blanket of sound, this is different, this is moving emotion.
Parent: This is saying a lot, but i think it’s one of the best scores that Hans has ever written. It really kind of touches you inside, it makes you feel something.
And there’s still more music to look forward to! As previously reported, Hans Zimmer composed three soundtracks for Dune. The third soundtrack, The Art and Soul of Dune, was created as a companion piece for the eponymous making-of book, written by executive producer Tanya Lapointe. Both the art book and its music album come out on October 22, with the latter available to download for free (see link for details).
October 22 is the date when the movie will premiere in the United States, both in theaters and streaming on HBO Max. For the latest information on all confirmed countries, see our full list of Dune: Part One release dates.