Denis Villeneuve‘s big screen adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic Dune is a huge hit and a pretty terrific film. Hans Zimmer‘s score, along with the film’s sound design, can rattle your bones in a theater outfitted with Dolby Atmos and is probably the least subtle part of the movie. Some music fans might have thought “wow he’s getting into Dead Can Dance territory here,” especially on pieces like “Paul’s Dream” and “Gom Jabbar” that feature mystical belt-it-out chants and wails. There’s a reason for that: it actually is Dead Can Dance‘s Lisa Gerrard on the soundtrack.
“There was an amazing commitment from vocalist Lisa Gerrard, who was in Australia, and I kept torturing her and she came up with this language that is all her own,” Zimmer told Indiewire. “It could be from the future, it could be from a different world. And there was this linguist [David Peterson from ‘Game of Thrones’] on the movie, who invented a language, and I picked things that would sing well.”
Gerrard, who also worked with Zimmer on the Gladiator score, is part of a choir of singers the composer used on Dune, led by vocalist Loire Cotler, who represent the dominant females of the story: Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), mother of central character Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet); the mysterious order of the Bene Gesserit; and Chani (Zendaya), the Fremen freedom fighter who inhabits Paul’s dreams. “Both Denis and I decided this early on, that it’s the women who drive the story and have the strength,” added Zimmer. “And so I thought of some extraordinarily talented singers, and I kept thinking, wherever you are in the future, the instruments will change due to technology, and we could be far more experimental, but the one thing that remains is the human voice, which there is a lot of.”
There are actually three different Dune soundtracks available: the original soundtrack, the “Dune Sketchbook” which features expanded suites of all the music that Zimmer created for the film, and a companion soundtrack to “The Art and Soul of Dune” (Insight Editions) which is a book about the film. You can listen to Gerrard and Cotler on Dune Sketchbook below.
Dead Can Dance’s fall tour was postponed due to Covid.