Hans Zimmer interview: ‘Dune’ composer

“‘Dune’ was the dream I had since I was a 13-year-old kid,” admits acclaimed composer Hans Zimmer. The Oscar winner tapped into his long standing love of Frank Herbert’s seminal science fiction novel to provide an arresting sonic landscape for Denis Villeneuve’s big screen adaptation. Watch the exclusive video interview above.

Zimmer conjured a movie in his head when he read the book as a teen, a vision that remained ambitious and untarnished as the years went by. The composer purposefully refrained from viewing other adaptations of the material. “It was so important to me that this vision I had in my head wouldn’t be blunted,” he explains. When Villeneuve approached him and asked if he had heard of the book, Zimmer felt an instant connection. “I knew just by the way he was asking, knowing him, that he was making the same movie that I was making in my head,” reveals the composer. It was a match made in heaven, or at least Arrakis.

SEE Denis Villeneuve interview: ‘Dune’ director

The composer set to work and discloses that he began to “build instruments from scratch.” It was a bold move, but as Zimmer explains: “the book, the story, the material took me right back to the recklessness of a 13-year-old.” His quest was to find the soundscape of the future, of a time where noble houses rule distant planets and space travel is possible. “When you think about it,” says Zimmer, “a musical instrument is always a piece of technology of its time.”

To score “Dune,” with its mysterious spirituality and surreal dreamscapes, he had to craft instruments “that weren’t of our time.” So the self-described “synthesist” leaned into the abstract qualities of the dreams which feature prominently in the film to find his sound. The human voice, a “vital” component which Zimmer believes is one of the only aspects of music which time wouldn’t change, is perhaps the only recognizable Earthly instrument. The rest of the otherworldly score is crafted via music makers of his own design. “By being abstract in the instrumentation, it helped,” suggests Zimmer. “It helped that you didn’t have the safety net of a violin.”

SEE Joe Walker interview: ‘Dune’ editor

“There’s very little dialogue in ‘Dune,’” explains Zimmer, “but there’s a lot of internal dialogue.” The lack of spoken word in the film allows the composer’s score to take a central storytelling role, while also being tasked to give the audience context as to the inner life of characters. “Part of the music’s job,” he notes, “is in conjunction with the actors, to always make you aware that there is more going on in their mind than is necessarily expressed in words.”

For the composer, this means that the movie, and his music, is also meant to be experienced on a big screen. “There’s things you can feel on the big screen when your eye takes time to wander across the expression on a character’s face,” states Zimmer. In those moments, his score helps guide the viewer towards a deeper, unsaid meaning. Zimmer lays it out simply but elegantly: “there are things you can’t express in words.”

Zimmer is an 11-time Oscar nominee, with nominations for: “Rain Man,” “The Lion King,” “The Preacher’s Wife,” As Good as it Gets,” “The Thin Red Line,” “The Prince of Egypt,” “Gladiator,” “Sherlock Holmes,” “Inception,” “Interstellar,” and “Dunkirk.” He won for “The Lion King.” This year his music for “Dune” and “No Time to Die” have made the Oscar shortlist for Best Score.

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UPLOADED Feb 8, 2022 7:30 am