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How 'Dune' Composer Hans Zimmer Created the Oscar-Winning Score

"Something I wanted to always do. Invent instruments that don't exist. Invent sounds that don't exist." Hans Zimmer, 'Dune' composer, gives his in-depth analysis and insider's look at how the score was created for Denis Villeneuve's 2021 film.

Released on 03/17/2022


Maybe in the future, we will not have regular beats.

Maybe we will have actually progressed as human beings

that we don't need disco beats to enjoy ourselves.

It could be something much more advanced.

And why are they electronic?

Because I like making drum sounds.

[Intense Drumming Music Begins]

I'm Hans Zimmer,

and this is how we created The Score For Dune.

I read the book as a teenager when I was 14 years old

and I loved it.

I never saw the David Lynch version,

I never saw the television version,

nor did I hear the music,

because I had a sort of a vision and a sound in my head.

My challenge was not being a grownup,

not trying to be the man who's done a lot of movies,

but to regress in a way

and become the reckless 13-year-old teenager.

And write as a 13-year-old teenager.

I think it was more challenge to everybody else,

my behavior, but I loved it.

I remember as a 13-year-old going and

seeing science fiction movies and going:

Why do all these science fiction movies

have European orchestra?.

Orchestral sounds, romantic period, tonalities about them.

[Strong Classical Music Begins]

[Galaxy Music Plays]

[Suspenseful Music Plays]

[Triumphant Music Plays]

[Tense Music Plays]

We're supposed to be on a different planet,

different culture.

We're supposed to be in the future.

[Spiritual Music Plays]

[Helicopter Drones]

All of this was done in the time of COVID,

which was oddly liberating to a certain degree,

because we could all work in our own environments

and we could communicate constantly.

Part of the band was in London and

part of the band was in Vienna.

So it was truly an international way of working

[Planes Roaring]

In Inception, you know,

people talking about the Braam sound,

the low brass.

[Strong Bass Chords Play]

I made the sound, but that means nothing.

Chris wrote the sound in his screenplay to Inception.

It was his way of showing time slowing down.

We booked a studio for the next day with 10 brass players,

and we had a piano in the middle of the room

with a brick on the sustained panel.

So the brass would play into this piano

and all the strings would be vibrating -

And that's the sound of Inception.

Something I wanted to always do.

To invent instruments that don't exist.

Invent sounds that don't exist.

For instance, I worked with a chap called Chas Smith.

He's either a great sculptor,

or he's either a great musician.

And he builds these sculptures that you can either

hit, or you can bow, like a violin or a cello,

but then there's another part to it,

which is where it gets very complicated.

He has basically built himself, in Northern California,

a house, which is a musical instrument.

A lot of those sort of metal being excited

in unconventional ways.

[Intense And Dark Music Plays]


So I had this framework of exotic

synthesized or built instruments.

I remember saying to Tina Guo, my cellist,

I want your Cello to sound like a Tibetan war horn.

[Strong Music Grows]

[Machine Groaning]

I don't even know if there's a Tibetan war horn,

but she got the image.

We built the sort of electronic chamber resonators.

Really ultimately, all of that is just a frame

for the one thing that I thought was more important

than anything else in the world,

which was the human voice.

The one thing that would not age,

the one thing in the future would still be valid.

[Eery And Electronic Droning]

It's only one voice.

It's a chap called Michael, fantastic singer.

We had a language written out by a linguist.

[Electronic Droning Continues]

It's just about technology.

If you use a compressor, if you overuse it,

it feels like you're slamming your head against

the door frame.

You take a while to recover.

So the compressor takes a while to recover,

you know, when you slam Michael's voice into it.

So by taking each syllable apart and

stretching it out and leaving gaps,

I could then go and slam every syllable

and make every syllable sound incredibly

dangerous and violent.

[Droning Continues]

I had, of course,

completely transformed his voice into something

that was more like a cannon ball heading you in the head.

And I played it to Denise Morrison experiment.

And Denise's reaction was:

Oh, could be an interesting way to start the movie..

[More Eery Droning]

By putting that voice there as opposed

to hearing the beautiful fanfare of European orchestra,

you instantly knew we were going to tell you a story

that was dark and mysterious and different,

and you couldn't quite work out

was this human or was it beyond humanity?

You want to invite your audience on an adventure.

You want to invite them on a journey.

You have to do it right in the beginning.

You have to say: I's not going to be quite what

you imagined.

It's going to be different.

It's going to be interesting.

And I did that on Lion King with my friend Lebo,

where suddenly in a Disney movie over black,

you hear this amazing chant from Africa.

[African Chant Begins]

And you instantly know it's not going to be

princesses in the conventional sense.

The movie is driven in its own sort of secret way,

by the female characters.

It might not be your main characters,

but they are certainly the underlying strengths

to everything that you experience.

And so I met Loire Cotler, who is an extraordinary vocalist.

Tina wants to do Interstellar,

Lisa wants to do Gladiator, probably.

And we'll also do Dark Phoenix Dunkirk with Loire.

Oh [Bleep] yeah!

This ladies and gentlemen, is the heroic Loire Cotler.

When you are asked to do something that is not

in the traditional parameter of what you would

think the voice could do,

and then you say yes to doing something that,

in your words, is reckless. [Chuckles]


Amazing things start to happen.

But, Loire's history is that she does a particular type

of singing, which is highly unusual.

Can you do a bit of the rhythmic stuff.

Oh, sure!

[Sings Rhythmic Beats]

We were talking about that Dune has its own rhythm.

So it's obvious that I would find a woman who

should know everything about rhythm,

and then give you the cry of a banshee.

[Sings A Strong Cry]

There's a strength.

There's a force that hits you even without,

you know,

reverb and compressors and all sorts of stuff.

And that was in her voice.

[Bagpipes Playing]

The first time I saw them arriving on the planet Arrakis,

and I saw the bagpiper, you know, I went:

Oh! Of course, they're the Royal house..

So normally you have like, you know,

trumpet fanfare or something like this heralding

the new ruler.

But bagpipes,

they're not just Scottish, Celtic, or Irish,

but I know that their are Caledonian ones

and Spanish ones and middle Eastern ones.

Wherever you have a goat and you have a piece of wood,

all I want to say is the goat better watch out

because it's probably going to end up being a bagpipe.

[Bagpipes Playing]

The bagpipe you hear is really my guitarist,

Guthrie Govan,

imitating a bagpipe on his guitar.

And then we have the 30 bagpipe players come in.

[Bagpipes Continue]

[Flutes Begin Playing]

We are in a very ethnic sort of landscape.

So there is not a lot of wood around on our planet,

but what we do have we made flutes out of,

and I kept saying to Pedro Eustache, my flautist:

Don't play it like a flute.

Play it as if it was the wind whistling

through the desert Dunes..

[Eerie Whispering]

You asked me how the score was made,

and I said we were all colleagues,

and we did it all together.

And that's how it works.

The only thing I guarantee you is I will speak the truth.

This is the duduk.

And this is a very, very ancient instrument.

[Begins Playing The Duduk]

And that's a phrase from Gladiator, actually,

so that's great! [Chuckles]

[Pedro Chuckles]

[Duduk Humming Plays]

We knew we could do that,

but then I said to him,

I don't want you to play flutes.

Can you make the sound of wind rushing through?


Well plus a lot of things were built.

There were many journeys to the hardware store.

PVC is your friend. PVC piping.

I actually made a subcontra base duduk,

by putting this into a very long tube of PVC.

And I literally, I cut the thing to get the different tones.

So it is an instrument that doesn't exist anywhere.

I do things that not many people in the world can do,

but then I told him, yes!

Yeah, I can do this! He said, can you do air?

I said yeah, I can do!

But can you make vowels while you doing the air in a flute?

And go like, no, don't do this to me.

[Hissing And Whishing Noises From Flute]

[Noises Continue]

We did that from a piccolo,

to this big fat mama, which is back there,

which is a contra base flute.

And I remember one time I sent him 89 tracks of just duduks.

Because nobody's ever done it.

You're used to seeing 32 violins, you know,

14 cellos.

Six bases.

Your normal Beethoven-type orchestra.

But imagine you did it all out of those instruments.

What would that sound like?


[Whishing Flute Noises Continue]

I played this thing, [Inaudible].

And I'm not going do it now

because I will break all of your ears and everything.

Believe me, I'm doing you a favor.

Just do it!

I just want to see the enamel.

[High-Pitched Screeching]

He got me playing notes that I didn't know

I could play up there.

He doesn't know but he pushes us!

That by way, is partly a bagpipe.


It's not a bagpipe.

[Both Laughing]

What you hear is not what you see.

[Strong War Music And Bagpipes Play]