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Dune: a guide to Hans Zimmer's BAFTA winning score

Director Denis Villeneuve’s film of Frank Herbert’s bestelling dystopian sci-fi fantasy has won itself a legion of fans thanks to its epic beauty. The stunning visuals are accompanied by a BAFTA-winning original score by composer Hans Zimmer, and it’s a match made in the stars.

A guide to the film dune's score
Published: March 14, 2022 at 10:39 am
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Director Denis Villeneuve’s film of Frank Herbert’s bestselling dystopian sci-fi fantasy has won itself a legion of fans thanks to its epic beauty. The stunning visuals are accompanied by a BAFTA-winning original score by composer Hans Zimmer, and it’s a match made in the stars.

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Dune is the perfect canvas for Hans Zimmer, who is no stranger to scoring high-quality science fiction films and is one of the best film composers ever. Interstellar is one of the best Hans Zimmer film scores, showcasing the composer’s prowess when it comes to evocative and atmospheric music. It remains a crying shame that he didn’t win an Oscar for his efforts, but there’s hope for Dune, which has also received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score this year.

Is Dune a better score than Interstellar?


It’s difficult to say, but with this new score, Zimmer perhaps goes a step further. While he maintains the kind of enveloping soundscape that so captivated audiences (and listeners) in the other score, there’s a heady energy to his music for Dune which makes it feel more urgent and emotive.

What does Dune sound like?


Everything but the kitchen sink is thrown into the mix, as Zimmer brings together orchestral forces, choir, percussion, guitars and the kind of atmospheric sound design we’ve come to expect from Zimmer (and modern film music in general). Like Interstellar, Zimmer employs the sound of an organ, though it’s by no means the star of the show here.

The people and planet of Arrakis are painted with stark and beautiful music, not dissimilar to some of Zimmer’s work in Gladiator – notable here is the use of the Duduk (a double-reeded Armenian wind instrument), which featured heavily in that 2000 ‘sword and sandals’ epic. Elsewhere, there’s a more industrial quality, featuring layer upon layer of sounds and textures that feel ultra-contemporary. The guitar motif employed isn’t too far away from Zimmer’s powerhouse sound for the recent Wonder Woman sequel.

Is the new music very different to the 1984 film of Dune?


Though there’s an element of rock to aspects of Zimmer’s music, it’s a far cry from that written by the US rock band Toto for the original 1984 film adaptation of the story. It’s main theme, known as the ‘Prophecy Theme’, was actually composed by Brian and Roger Eno, and it is really the best thing about it. Toto’s own music actually works well enough in the film, but it sounds pretty dated today with its keyboards, synths, guitars and kit percussion (check out ‘Desert Theme’ for example).

Is Hans Zimmer’s music for Dune available to buy?


Hans Zimmer’s music for Dune has been released on not one but three albums, all of which are available to stream and download. They are available on CD-R, which means they are essentially made to order (ie. the label, WaterTower Music, hasn’t produced a run of CDs). The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack showcases selections of the music as heard in the film, while The Dune Sketchbook features Zimmer’s original sketches and music for the film, like a sonic mood board. The Art and Soul of Dune, is even more curious as it features music to accompany the book of the same name, Zimmer offering up an even more dreamlike collection of pieces.

Dune – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

The Dune Sketchbook

Dune (1984) – Original Soundtrack Recording (Vinyl)

Dune (2021) – DVD

Dune (1984) – DVD

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Authors

Michael BeekReviews Editor, BBC Music Magazine

Michael is the Reviews Editor of BBC Music Magazine. He was previously a freelance film music journalist and spent 15 years at St George's Bristol. Michael specialises in film and television music and was the Editor of MusicfromtheMovies.com. He has written for the BBC Proms, BBC Concert Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Albert Hall, Hollywood in Vienna and Silva Screen Records.

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