Dune: Hans Zimmer on the composition of the otherworldly score of the sci-fi epic

After five installments, IGN’s Path to Dune concludes this week with our exclusive interview with Dune composer Hans Zimmer on what a good sci-fi movie score should do, capture the right sound for Dune. and the work he’s already started on. Dune, part two.

In a recent Zoom conversation with IGN, Zimmer explained the essential function that any sci-fi movie score must perform :, and using colors that may not have existed before. Because literally you are being asked to create a world. Between its appearance and its sound, you create the world.

Zimmer said the sci-fi highscores for him were, in no particular order, Blade runner, Extraterrestrial, Star wars, and Forbidden planet, and he also shared his admiration for the score of Gattaca. His love for John Williams’ Star Wars score was not without some observations from his young self, however.

“I remember when I was a kid, and that’s absolutely not a review, it was just a childish observation to go see Star Wars, and like those letters, those words keep floating above your head. and, a galaxy in the distance, and you hear trumpets, and cellos, and conventional instruments, and I was like, ‘Shouldn’t these instruments be weird and alien, and shouldn’t they be from here too? another galaxy? ‘ So my convention was that the only thing I wanted to keep pure [in Dune] was the human voice. Actually, I didn’t keep it pure, that’s hogwash. I did unspeakable things there. But for me, I really felt that we had the opportunity to go build a world, invent a world, and be consistent and committed to this kind of idea. We were sort of going to go where maybe no one had been before.

Zimmer said he worked closely with sound designer Mark Mangini to ensure the film’s score and overall sound design reflects this shared sound that represents director Denis Villeneuve’s Dune. Zimmer also cited two musicians, in particular with whom he collaborated closely on the creation of the score Dune, musician / sculptor / welder. Chas Smith and Guthrie Govan, which he called “one of the greatest [living] guitarists. ”

The challenge with all of his associates, Zimmer said, was “we kept hearing things in our heads that were impossible to describe and impossible to do. He added that the creation of the score was “just people working on the edge of, on the precipice of what is possible.”

Zimmer synthesized all of the percussion in the score and introduced anachronistic elements, such as bagpipes, which seemed at odds with a sci-fi score but worked for Dune. (Bagpipes are played at the same time in a ceremony at the Atreides House, reflecting the fusion of feudalism and futurism inherent in the world of Dune.)

A lifelong fan of Frank Herbert’s landmark 1965 novel, Zimmer deepened his understanding of the book and what and who the story was really about to determine what would define his score: “What Was Inside My Head.” [from reading the book] it was the idea which, for me, brought me back, that really Dune is a very cleverly disguised novel, by which, you think that the hero is Paul Atreides whereas really the women are the strong characters of the novel. So what I always have, even as a teenager, what I always heard were female voices. And Denis kind of steered me towards our spirituality of those voices, not religious, but that there is a spirituality in the elements of that.

Along with the Fremen, the Atreides family, and the Bene Gesserit, Zimmer sought “a way to connect them secretly and in a more spiritual way.” So it was very important to me, for example, even when Lady Jessica is not on screen, that somehow the music still has a female voice somewhere, even buried, that she be always with herself.

Ultimately, however, it was Dune herself – the desert planet Arrakis – that dictated what Hans Zimmer’s Dune soundtrack would look like:, the desert wind, which is sort of a huge inspiration. and a huge way of doing, ‘Oh, wait a sec, everyone has to live in this environment … Everyone is going to be affected by the sound of the real planet itself.’ ”

Zimmer admits, however, that Dune’s score isn’t all about spirituality and nature. “At the same time, of course, it’s a pretty uncompromising score and it barks you, then it bites you. It’s not one of those dogs that just barks. One aspect of the score that both bites and barks at the same time is the bombastic music of the evil House Harkonnen, which, according to the Frankfurt-born composer, “is basically just my deepest, darkest, blackest heart, and go from there. And all it takes is a German and a fuzzbox to do that one.

While a sequel to Dune – which is billed as the first part and only tells roughly the first half of Herbert’s novel – isn’t a given, that hasn’t stopped Zimmer from working on it. already.

“I wrote an hour and a half of new music. I see Denis a lot as a friend and right now I see Denis, and he could deny it, but my friend Denis really needs some inspiration because he’s writing the second part. So rather than sending him bottles of booze, which would probably work, I keep sending him pieces of music that might inspire him, and that might lead him in certain directions. So I wrote another hour and a half of music, which looks forward rather than back if you know what I mean. And these are just experiences, and these are just little symphonic poems, little things to see if it resonates in any way with the story, because Denis and I have a deep love for this story and for this book. I was so crazy that when I was a teenager, reading the book, I didn’t watch the David Lynch movie, because I had made my own movie in my head and I never saw the series TV or none of that, and I’ve never heard the music. But when Denis started to tell me about it, he started to describe the movie I had made in my head, which became a very easy collaboration.

Dune film stills

For more on the upcoming sci-fi epic, check out our Dune review as well as our previous Path to Dune downtime exclusives the scene of Gom Jabbar, Atréides House, the Fremen, Harkonnen House, and design the makeup and costumes of the villains.

Dune opens in the United States on October 22, October 21 in the United Kingdom and Australia on December 2.

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