For Dune, Composer Hans Zimmer Created Beats That Were “Humanly Impossible to Play”

One of the most memorable parts of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune is the score created by composer Hans Zimmer. In a recent interview with Deadline, Zimmer shared his experience working with Denis and a “SWAT team of musicians” to pull the sound of Dune: Part One together.

Zimmer, who fell in love with Dune after reading Frank Herbert’s book when he was thirteen, was more than excited when Villeneuve asked him to take part in the movie adaptation. “When Denis whispered to me, had I ever heard of a book called Dune, [and] it was a dream that he had, it was sort of a dream that I had, too,” Zimmer told Deadline. “I reacted, I suppose, the way an excited puppy reacts, jumping up and down and being a bit stupid.”

Once he was on board, Zimmer knew he wanted to do something very different than what we’ve heard in sci-fi films past. “Somebody says, ‘Well, it’s some planet and it’s full of sand and the climate is terrible. What are we going to do? How are we going to go and sonically represent that?’ And it gets really interesting,” Zimmer explained. “There’s a language that’s different.”

“It was like, ‘Hey, hang on. Throw everything away. Throw everything out. Let’s go in and bend instruments.’ There are things in there that you’ve never heard before.”

The process involved Zimmer and his team inventing new instruments that played musical notes that “don’t actually exist” and had “rhythms which were humanly impossible to play,” generated by machines.

The result is an eerily alien soundtrack, with the female voice being the only recognizable instrument out of it. “That’s mainly my friend Laura Cutler or Lisa Gerrard or Suzanne Waters,” he said. “Those three became the power of the feminine in this movie, because Denis and I have this secret suspicion that really, Frank Herbert wrote a story where the female characters are driving the story forward. They are the power behind the whole story.”

Zimmer also shared that he and Villeneuve had a strong commitment to the source material and staying true to Herbert’s original story. “I think we both have that 13-year-old feeling about it; it meant something to us,” he said about himself and Villenueve. “All we’re trying to do is figure out a way of presenting it to you, presenting it to an audience, to invite you in and let you be part of our dream.”

Zimmer is currently working on Dune: Part Two, which is set to premiere on October 20, 2023.

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