Dune – Hans Zimmer

Traditionally, I listen to a soundtrack album before watching a movie in the theater. This has also been the case for a recent blockbuster, and for which the music was composed by none other than Hans Zimmer. His music for Wonder Woman 1984 was quite a surprise for me, and I was hoping for that same effect from the music for Dune. Unfortunately, that hope was in vain, since the music is another example of Zimmer’s love for sound design. After seeing the movie in the theater, however, I knew I had to write a review.

I want to write about the music because, in my honest opinion, Dune is one of the best movies in recent years. The cinematography, the world-building, the acting, the story, all of it was superb, and the music was surprisingly better than I expected it to be, now that I have experienced it alongside the images. 

The main focus of the score is still sound design as can be heard, for example, in the first track “Dream of Arrakis,” but in the second track “Herald of Change,” you can hear the first theme on a duduk. This theme represents the main character Paul Atreides, who is not only the son of a powerful duke but also possesses mental powers and is seen as a prophet by many. The theme can also, in a way, be seen as the main theme, and returns in all kinds of forms on the score. The melody is not complex, but leave it up to Zimmer to create superb variations based on this theme’s melody. In “The One” you can hear a hint of the theme in a slower pace, creating an unnerving atmosphere. In “Leaving Caladan” the melody is played on an electric guitar, accompanied by other grand sounds Zimmer likes to use. In “Ripples of Sand” a female vocalist takes up the theme’s melody and sings it over a foundation of all kinds of electronic sounds. It should not be a surprise that the theme is used to conclude the album in “My Road Leads into the Desert.” 

When I explored the score further after having seen the movie, I noticed more thematic ideas. There is an interesting use of the bagpipes for the House of Atreides theme, which can be heard halfway in “Armada.” The witch-like women, the Bene Gesserit, are represented by whispers and cries from a women’s choir in the track “Bene Gesserit,” but there are probably many more thematic ideas to be found.

The last theme I want to highlight dominates the second half of the album, and I would like to call it the tragedy theme. A version of it is wonderfully sung by a male choir in the second half of “Blood for Blood.” In the tracks “The Fall” and “Holy War” the melody is performed by the lower strings. These versions of the theme create a beautiful contrast with the more synthetic sounds from Zimmer that can be heard throughout this score.

This movie was clearly a passion project for Zimmer. He already released a ‘Sketchbook’ version of the music in addition to the official soundtrack album, and another Dune related album with his music has been announced. I can hear there has been much thought put into the music, especially in how it should sound. I do, in my honest opinion, need the images of the magnificent movie – in my head or on a screen – to fully appreciate the music he has written for Dune. This is especially the case for the parts with prominent sound design. Within this framework, I do think it is a solid score, and since this movie is officially the first part of two, I am quite curious if the as of yet unannounced second part will live up to the first one.

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Tracklist

The highlights are in bold.

  1. Dream of Arrakis (3:08)
  2. Herald of the Change (5:01)
  3. Bene Gesserit (3:54)
  4. Gom Jabbar (2:00)
  5. The One (2:30)
  6. Leaving Caladan (1:55)
  7. Arrakeen (2:16)
  8. Ripples in the Sand (5:14)
  9. Visions of Chani (4:27)
  10. Night on Arrakis (5:03)
  11. Armada (5:09)
  12. Burning Palms (4:04)
  13. Stranded (0:58)
  14. Blood for Blood (2:29)
  15. The Fall (2:32)
  16. Holy War (4:20)
  17. Sanctuary (1:50)
  18. Premonition (3:30)
  19. Ornithopter (1:54)
  20. Sandstorm (2:35)
  21. Stillsuits (5:31)
  22. My Road Leads Into the Desert (3:52)

Total length: 1 hour and 14 minutes
WaterTower Music (2021)

Author

  • Anton is the editor-in-chief and founder of Soundtrack World. After writing about film music occasionally, he thought it was time to create his own site to celebrate music from film but also other media. Next to working on this website as a hobby Anton has a full-time job in IT and plays the tuba in a local orchestra.

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