The Spice Must Flow

October 21, 2021

Hans Zimmer Describes Scoring DUNE in Variety Interview

– Randall D. Larson

Writing in Variety, film music journalist Jon Burlingame has interviewed composer Hans Zimmer about his score for DUNE, which is releases to theatres and HBO Max tomorrow. Director Denis Villeneuve’s epic version of the classic Frank Herbert novel, the third film iteration of the book following David Lynch’s 1984 movie and John Harrison’s 2000 miniseries (which then extended the saga through CHILDREN OF DUNE in 2003), 2021’s epic DUNE benefits from the director’s carefully-paced filmic style while sticking close to Herbert’s book, while taking advantage of captivating modern visual effects capabilities and securing a uniquely crafted score by Hans Zimmer.

The score is “a distinctly environmental approach in capturing the essence of the planet Arrakis (aka Dune), its various denizens both human and other, and the time period (20,000 years in our future) in which the story unfolds,” as I wrote in a review of Zimmer’s DUNE score in my October Soundtrax column. “This mix of topographic, expansive, linguistic, and religious sonic elements to identify and shape the world the film explores enables the music to really embody the grain, the character, and the impression of this place.” Zimmer’s score is musical spice to Villeneuve’s cinematographic rendition of Herbert’s epic science fiction.

“Unlike most Zimmer scores, ‘there is no orchestra anywhere,’ he insists,” Burlingame quotes Zimmer. “Even something that sounds like brass could be an electric guitar or electric cello, manipulated electronically. Unusual woodwinds like the Armenian duduk or Scottish bagpipes occasionally peek through, but many sounds are from specially commissioned instruments and new synthesizer modules.’

Burlingame continues in his Variety article: “The composer was unable to specify themes or sounds for characters or locales. ‘As I worked, it became more and more abstract,’ he says. ‘I never saw it as scenes. I saw everything as a totality. It’s an electronic score, not an orchestral one, but in a peculiar way it’s one of the more organic scores I’ve done.’ ”

The composer is already at work designing his score for Villeneuve’s DUNE, Part Two, which is expected to be greenlit in the near future. The spice must flow.

Read Jon Burlingame’s full Variety interview here.

Related story: Read my earlier story which describes the three different soundtrack albums that have been released with Zimmer’s DUNE music: Dune Sketchbook, Dune Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, and The Art and Soul of Dune, here.

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