With the Denis Villeneuve adaptation of Dune on the way, it only makes sense that I’d have all things “Dune” on the brain as of late, and that includes the music of the 1984 film that did its best but ultimately fell short of being a satisfying adaptation. Despite its flaws, I maintain that the 1984 adaptation of Dune is a fairly satisfying film, not least because of its musical score from Toto and Brian Eno.
One of my favorite musical moments in Dune is the main theme, which opens the story and recurs at pivotal moments. Take a moment and listen to the main theme of Dune below:
I love this theme because of how effective it is. It’s a simple enough melody but by thrumming up in the strings and brass it communicates the idea of power and growing tension, both themes that can be found throughout the story of Dune (as controlling Arrakis and the spice grants power and there’s unending tension between the Atreides/Fremen and the Harkonnens throughout the story).
It also, as I said before, recurs at pivotal moments throughout the film, and I’ll look at two of those moments as examples. The first example comes when Paul is summoning a sandworm for the Fremen. The theme begins when the massive sandworm is first seen rising up from the endless dunes. The placement of the music and visual image is pretty brilliant here, as the music rises up in conjunction with the worm, really making you feel the appearance of shai-hulud (the Fremen name for sandworms).
Notably, the main theme continues in a higher register once Paul has control of the sandworm, ending on a triumphant tone as the scene ends. This is one of my favorite scenes in the entire movie, and it’s all because of this wonderful music.
The second example I’d like to look at is at the end of the film, when Paul demonstrates his power as the Kwisatz Haderach. As Paul exerts all his power to cause rain to fall on Arrakis, the main theme recurs yet again. Now, instead of the sandworm’s power being highlighted, it’s Paul and his power that we’re being drawn to by the music. He’s doing something that no human has ever done before, he’s causing rain to fall on a desert planet that likely hasn’t seen a rainstorm in a hundred generations, if ever. It’s set up as a fairly powerful moment and I feel the music is what makes it so. Check it out below:
Now, unlike the first example with the sandworm, this example uses the music in an entirely different way. The scene with the sandworm almost vibrated with raw power. Here, at the end of the film as Paul assumes absolute power, the music assumes a higher register, even including a choir at one point to highlight the awesomeness of what Paul is doing. This is a profound moment, so the music, though the melody is the same, has to be that much different to carry the point across to the audience. This is the ultimate expression of the main theme, nothing will ever surpass this (or at least that’s the intention).
Yes, it’s true, Dune has many, MANY flaws, but the music is not one of them, as I hope these examples with the main theme show. I really believe this score is underrated and should be given more attention. I hope you enjoyed listening to some examples of Dune’s main theme.
Let me know what you think about the main theme of Dune in the comments below and have a great day!
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