What do we know about Hans Zimmer’s Oscar winning film score for Dune?

Nyamka Ganbold

What do we know about Hans Zimmer’s Oscar winning film score for Dune?

Nyamka Ganbold

Tibetan war horn, Armenian duduk, or Scottish bagpipes made out of guitar; flutes, throat singing, metal scraping combined with synthesizer - very unusual sounds accompanied with strong, beautiful female vocal singing in an unknown language - this is the extraordinary, one of a kind film score telling the story of the sci-fi movie “Dune” from director Denis Villeneuve. And behind these unique sounds and music is the famous German film composer Hans Zimmer. A masterpiece made in collaboration with many great artists has just won the Oscar for Best Film Score 2022.

But the journey to the birth of this original music started a long long time ago.

Hans Zimmer was 18 years old when he first read Frank Herbert’s sci-fi novel “Dune”. Ever since, he has imagined the sounds of the foreign planet. The sound of sand, spice and sandworms. So it was like destiny calling when Denis Villeneuve asked Hans Zimmer in 2017,  right after finishing their work together on “Blade Runner 2049”, to score his film adaptation of the novel.

He revisited his youth and wanted to write a score with the same excitement the teenage boy had when he first read the book.

In fact, Zimmer even turned down an offer to work on Christopher Nolan’s film “Tenet” so he could completely focus on “Dune”.

“I’ve been thinking about ‘Dune’ for nearly 50 years. So I took it very seriously.”

So what was left was to put the 50 year old thoughts into action and music. It wasn’t actually so hard to start since both the composer and director knew immediately what they wanted to have as sound in the film. And one thing was to implement the femininity in the music.

“One of the major themes of the book was the power of women,” Zimmer says. “We were dealing with a culture that was extraterrestrial. I felt that the only thing that should be pure — and even that shouldn’t be quite pure — was the voice. I was trying to do the inner voices of the characters, without using words.”

explains Zimmer.

And as for Denis Villeneuve, he wanted the film to sound as spiritual and feminine as possible.

Beside the female characteristic,  Hans Zimmer wanted to make new sounds and bypass the western orchestral ones. He remembers watching all these sci-fi movies and their great scores, and that they all have this massive, epic orchestra in them. Hans Zimmer wanted to do something else, or rather create something new.

“He did tons of experiments. He created even instruments. He kept saying to me that the music is not from our world. He needs to come from another time another planet. Those sounds can’t been heard before.”

talks the director Villeneuve about the composers approach.

I wanted the audience to come with us on this journey to this planet and to this world, which seems huge and vast. And then realise it’s all about the small and tiniest emotions.

To find and conjure those new sounds Hans Zimmer did research in the desert itself. He spent some time in Monument Valley and the desert in Utah and Arizona to observe the rocks, sand and listen to how the wind howl sounds, even how the sand feels in your teeth.

This research and experience inspired him to come up with completely new sounds, inventing new instruments or playing the instruments in a completely different way.

“I ended up forever making sounds, making instruments, getting people to learn how to play instruments in a different way. The one thing that we’ve felt would be truthful to any culture would be the voice. So the score is based on many female voices. And then developed our own language.”

Of course the composer couldn’t do this all alone. As a matter of fact he likes to surround himself with incredibly brave, talented people, so they lead him in the direction he is aiming to go automatically. And working on Dune was no different. He collaborated with a huge team and band of talented people all round the world.

“I ended up forever making sounds, making instruments, getting people to learn how to play instruments in a different way. The one thing that we’ve felt would be truthful to any culture would be the voice. So the score is based on many female voices. And then developed our own language.”

Even Joe Walker, the Editor of “Dune”, confirms this massive collaboration:

“He had recording being made all around the world for months. You could tell that his team had been living the extreme studio tied lifestyle, editing together thousands of samples and recordings.”

So combining his research in the desert and the design of new sound, he created this whole new universe of music which gave the movie its own language.

One might wonder where all these unusual ideas come from. There were no hallucinogens involved during composing.

“Weirdly, I’m the only rock ’n’ roller who never did any drugs.” reassures Zimmer

And when Hans Zimmer talks about his Oscar winning film score, he describes it as emotion:

“I wanted the audience to come with us on this journey to this planet and to this world, which seems huge and vast. And then realise it’s all about the small and tiniest emotions. Just like the desert is made out of great sands the music is made out of great notes. So rather than being a massive blanket of sound this is different. This is moving emotion.”

The soundtrack of Dune was released in three albums, and according to the composer there is even more material ‘for the second part of the film’. One can definitely tell that Hans Zimmer is not lying when he says he has been thinking about the sound of Dune for 50 years.

What do we know about Hans Zimmer’s Oscar winning film score for Dune?

Nyamka Ganbold

role
social media & community
age
favorite movie

Tibetan war horn, Armenian duduk, or Scottish bagpipes made out of guitar; flutes, throat singing, metal scraping combined with synthesizer - very unusual sounds accompanied with strong, beautiful female vocal singing in an unknown language - this is the extraordinary, one of a kind film score telling the story of the sci-fi movie “Dune” from director Denis Villeneuve. And behind these unique sounds and music is the famous German film composer Hans Zimmer. A masterpiece made in collaboration with many great artists has just won the Oscar for Best Film Score 2022.

But the journey to the birth of this original music started a long long time ago.

Hans Zimmer was 18 years old when he first read Frank Herbert’s sci-fi novel “Dune”. Ever since, he has imagined the sounds of the foreign planet. The sound of sand, spice and sandworms. So it was like destiny calling when Denis Villeneuve asked Hans Zimmer in 2017,  right after finishing their work together on “Blade Runner 2049”, to score his film adaptation of the novel.

He revisited his youth and wanted to write a score with the same excitement the teenage boy had when he first read the book.

In fact, Zimmer even turned down an offer to work on Christopher Nolan’s film “Tenet” so he could completely focus on “Dune”.

“I’ve been thinking about ‘Dune’ for nearly 50 years. So I took it very seriously.”

So what was left was to put the 50 year old thoughts into action and music. It wasn’t actually so hard to start since both the composer and director knew immediately what they wanted to have as sound in the film. And one thing was to implement the femininity in the music.

“One of the major themes of the book was the power of women,” Zimmer says. “We were dealing with a culture that was extraterrestrial. I felt that the only thing that should be pure — and even that shouldn’t be quite pure — was the voice. I was trying to do the inner voices of the characters, without using words.”

explains Zimmer.

And as for Denis Villeneuve, he wanted the film to sound as spiritual and feminine as possible.

Beside the female characteristic,  Hans Zimmer wanted to make new sounds and bypass the western orchestral ones. He remembers watching all these sci-fi movies and their great scores, and that they all have this massive, epic orchestra in them. Hans Zimmer wanted to do something else, or rather create something new.

“He did tons of experiments. He created even instruments. He kept saying to me that the music is not from our world. He needs to come from another time another planet. Those sounds can’t been heard before.”

talks the director Villeneuve about the composers approach.

I wanted the audience to come with us on this journey to this planet and to this world, which seems huge and vast. And then realise it’s all about the small and tiniest emotions.

To find and conjure those new sounds Hans Zimmer did research in the desert itself. He spent some time in Monument Valley and the desert in Utah and Arizona to observe the rocks, sand and listen to how the wind howl sounds, even how the sand feels in your teeth.

This research and experience inspired him to come up with completely new sounds, inventing new instruments or playing the instruments in a completely different way.

“I ended up forever making sounds, making instruments, getting people to learn how to play instruments in a different way. The one thing that we’ve felt would be truthful to any culture would be the voice. So the score is based on many female voices. And then developed our own language.”

Of course the composer couldn’t do this all alone. As a matter of fact he likes to surround himself with incredibly brave, talented people, so they lead him in the direction he is aiming to go automatically. And working on Dune was no different. He collaborated with a huge team and band of talented people all round the world.

“I ended up forever making sounds, making instruments, getting people to learn how to play instruments in a different way. The one thing that we’ve felt would be truthful to any culture would be the voice. So the score is based on many female voices. And then developed our own language.”

Even Joe Walker, the Editor of “Dune”, confirms this massive collaboration:

“He had recording being made all around the world for months. You could tell that his team had been living the extreme studio tied lifestyle, editing together thousands of samples and recordings.”

So combining his research in the desert and the design of new sound, he created this whole new universe of music which gave the movie its own language.

One might wonder where all these unusual ideas come from. There were no hallucinogens involved during composing.

“Weirdly, I’m the only rock ’n’ roller who never did any drugs.” reassures Zimmer

And when Hans Zimmer talks about his Oscar winning film score, he describes it as emotion:

“I wanted the audience to come with us on this journey to this planet and to this world, which seems huge and vast. And then realise it’s all about the small and tiniest emotions. Just like the desert is made out of great sands the music is made out of great notes. So rather than being a massive blanket of sound this is different. This is moving emotion.”

The soundtrack of Dune was released in three albums, and according to the composer there is even more material ‘for the second part of the film’. One can definitely tell that Hans Zimmer is not lying when he says he has been thinking about the sound of Dune for 50 years.