Jodorowsky’s Dune – music by Kurt Stenzel

A unique documentary about a movie that almost, but didn’t, get made, the musical treatment for Jodorowsky’s Dune is a novel one: score the documentary with the music that the unmade movie should’ve gotten. Chronicling, as it does, an abortive attempt to bring Frank Herbert’s genre-redefining novel to the big screen in the 1970s, Jodorowsky’s Dune is graced with a fittingly ’70s-style score awash with analog synths (or very good approximations of them).

Think of early Tangerine Dream (composer Kurt Stenzel’s auditory reference point), or the all-synth, almost-abstract score of Enter The Dragon, or the music of Jon Pertwee-era Doctor Who: that sound in your head is the sound of the Arrakis that was never meant to be. It’s the sound of a Dune that would’ve starred the likes of Salvador Dali, Orson Welles and Mick Jagger, rather than Kyle MacLachlan and Sting. The music is authentically trippy – as Alejandro Jodorowsky’s vision for Herbert’s epic likely would’ve been – and anyone born in the ’70s or steeped in ’70s genre cinema will likely find the wobbly analog synth sounds are a comforting old friend.

On a few tracks, there is dialogue from the documentary itself, and depending on my mood I can come down on either the “no, just let me hear the music, please” or the “oh, that’s kinda neat and it helps set the tone” side of the fence. It’s only on a few tracks. Stenzel sequences the album as a four-sided double LP, staying true to the medium that would’ve been available to a soundtrack album from the unmade movie. Tracks blend together as ethereal suites and reach an end point whereupon, in some alternate universe where Jodorowsky beat David Lynch to the punch, someone presumably turns the record over.

Alejandro Jodorowsky’s mid-1970s attempt to change how sci-fi reached the big screen never happened, and Dune languished in Hollywood turnaround hell while a little movie about the last of the Jedi Knights became the film that changed the entire playbook in 1977. That movie, of course, redirected movie music back onto a 4 out of 4European-inspired orchestral course, almost exactly 180 degrees away from the music Stenzel imagines here (and 180 degrees away from Jodorowsky’s pie-in-the-sky dream of having post-Syd-Barrett-era Pink Floyd score his vision of Dune). But Kurt Stenzel’s realization of the course on which movie sci-fi soundtracks could have continued is an incredible, atmospheric listen.

Order this CD

  1. Coming of a God (5:27)
  2. Greatest Movie Never Made (1:01)
  3. Parallel World (1:41)
  4. Parallel World (outro) (1:03)
  5. Leap of Faith (0:43)
  6. Time and Space (2:04)
  7. Optical World (2:55)
  8. Nebula (1:25)
  9. Invitation (1:02)
  10. Point of View (2:36)
  11. Moebius (4:48)
  12. Arrakis (1:58)
  13. Millions of Stars (0:21)
  14. Into the Galaxy (1:26)
  15. O’Bannon Meets Jodo (1:18)
  16. Finding the Others (0:57)
  17. Spiritual Warriors (1:36)
  18. Conception of Paul (2:01)
  19. Ships With Souls (1:51)
  20. The Pirate Spaceship (5:23)
  21. Rescue From a Sandworm (2:36)
  22. Mad Emperor (0:23)
  23. Burning Giraffes (1:42)
  24. Baron Harkonnen (0:33)
  25. Giger’s Theme (1:06)
  26. Deepest Darkness of the Soul (1:15)
  27. Feyd Rautha (4:17)
  28. Total Extermination (2:16)
  29. I Am Dune (6:00)
  30. Hollywood (2:22)
  31. Fingerprints (4:16)
  32. Open the Mind (3:38)
  33. Try (2:30)

Released by: Cinewax
Release date: November 13, 2015
Total running time: 75:31

Dune 2000 – music by Frank Klepacki

Dune 2000It’s been nearly five years since it first hit PCs (which few people could have missed, given that a marathon Sci-Fi Channel airing of David Lynch’s Dune was sponsored by Electronic Arts in support of the release), and despite all the good stuff we’ve gotten from both game developer Westwood Studios and their in-house music guru Frank Klepacki, Dune 2000 is still my favorite PC strategy game – and still my favorite computer game soundtrack.

Klepacki does invoke Toto’s groundbreaking rock-orchestral score in places, mainly in the use of specific instruments such as percussion and electric guitar. But the vast majority of the music from Dune 2000 isn’t trying to be an extension of the film (which is sometimes more than we can say for the game’s cinematic cut scenes), it’s a sweeping, atmospheric and stunningly original movie-quality soundtrack. Some of the music’s 4 out of 4electronics almost steer it into the abstract, sounding in a few places like some of the better tracks from Evan Chen’s soundtrack from Crusade. It’s sinister, mysterious, and utterly appropriate to the game’s action. Even separated from the game itself, Klepacki’s music makes for a compelling listen. I highly recommend both the game and the music – they’re still among Westwood’s all-time best.

Order this CD

  1. Menu Theme (0:52)
  2. The Ambush (4:14)
  3. Attack On Arrakis (4:03)
  4. The Atriedes Gain (4:16)
  5. Enter The Ordos (5:13)
  6. Fight For Power (5:51)
  7. The Fremen (4:31)
  8. Harkonnen Battle (4:16)
  9. Land Of Sand (5:03)
  10. Plotting (4:32)
  11. Robotix (4:10)
  12. Rise Of Harkonnen (3:37)
  13. The Soldiers Approach (4:01)
  14. Spice Scouting (5:10)
  15. Under Construction (4:32)
  16. The Waiting Game (4:13)
  17. Score (2:05)

Released by: Westwood Studios / Electronic Arts
Release date: 1998
Total running time: 70:39

Dune – music by Toto

Dune soundtrackNot everybody has a soft spot for David Lynch’s 1984 film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s seminal SF novel “Dune”. Maybe it was the acting, or the special effects, or the almost-necessary shortening of the story (to which even the Sci-Fi Channel 2000 miniseries fell victim in different areas), who knows? A canvas as broad and deep as “Dune” doesn’t lend itself easily to film, where a story is expected to be told in under three hours. But the music…well, you may not agree with me here, but the music was almost perfect for the film.

Some film music fans have decried to use of rock-music-as-score in such films as Ladyhawke, but with Dune, the rock group Toto struck a perfect balance, occasionally adding the odd contemporary touch to what was largely an orchestral score augmented by synths and samples. Not bad for 1984, really.

If I have an issue with Toto’s score from Dune, it is that it sometimes drones along, not really developing thematically, which is a potential pitfall encountered anytime a rock musician experiments in a new medium. In places it’s almost annoyingly repetitive, and in other places it’s surprisingly fresh, such as the “Robot Fight” cue. As far as the arrangements and the balance of traditional and modern instruments go, the Dune score is 4 out of 4an excellent mix of old and new, with all the grace of an Alan Parsons instrumental rock opera.

One last caveat – there are at least three different versions of this soundtrack available; some have around 20 tracks, while the one I listened to weighed in at 30 tracks. I’m not sure if the longer version is still available.

Order this CD

  1. Prologue / Main Title (3:20)
  2. Guild Report (0:55)
  3. House Atreides (1:44)
  4. Paul Atreides (2:22)
  5. Robot Fight (1:23)
  6. Leto’s Theme (1:47)
  7. The Box (2:41)
  8. The Floating Fat Man: The Baron (1:15)
  9. Departure (1:14)
  10. Trip To Arrakis (2:37)
  11. Sandworm Attack (2:52)
  12. Betrayal / Shields Down (4:31)
  13. First Attack (2:49)
  14. The Duke’s Death (2:07)
  15. Sandworm Chase (2:40)
  16. The Fremen (3:08)
  17. Secrets Of The Fremen (2:25)
  18. Paul Meets Chani (3:08)
  19. Destiny (2:57)
  20. Riding The Sandworm (1:27)
  21. Reunion With Gurney (1:42)
  22. Prelude: Take My Hand (1:03)
  23. Paul Takes The Water Of Life (2:52)
  24. The Sleeper Has Awakened! (3:24)
  25. Big Battle (3:09)
  26. Paul Kills Feyd (1:55)
  27. Final Dream (1:26)
  28. Dune: Desert Theme (5:33)
  29. Dune Main Title – demo version (1:26)
  30. Take My Hand (2:43)

Released by: SuperTracks
Release date: 1997
Total running time: 72:40

Emperor: The Battle For Dune

Emperor: The Battle For DuneWhen you see a quarter of a dozen screenwriters on a project, run screaming. Sometimes the same applies to composers, but not always – some of my all-time favorite soundtracks are the products of triumvirates of musicians. Take, for example, the soundtrack from 1996’s Doctor Who movie, or the soundtrack from Alien Nation. But I’ve never before encountered a computer game whose music was cooked up by committee – however, in the case of Emperor, it works.

Before any screams about the lack of availability information on this, I’ll go ahead and point out right now that the Emperor soundtrack is a limited edition item which was only available with some pre-orders of the game. And I have to complain bitterly about the lack of neat packaging, or, for that matter, almost any packaging whatsoever. I was reminded somewhat of the days when I had to generate my own Babylon 5 CD covers. But when was the last time anyone bought a CD because of cool packaging? Okay, aside from last Tuesday, probably not anytime recently. The music is what counts. I just had to vent about the whole “generic CD-ROM paper envelope” treatment.

The musical duties for Emperor were split three ways between composers David Arkenstone (who has worked on prior Westwood/Electronic Arts titles such as the Lands Of Lore series), Jarrid Mendelson (who composed music for the Command & Conquer sequel Tiberian Sun, and Westwood’s primary in-house composer Frank Klepacki (who we recently interviewed here at That’s a bit of a problem in places, because there are places where I’d swear that they thought they were still composing for a Command & Conquer game.

Klepacki’s music remains the truest to what went before with the music from Dune 2000, Westwood’s previous interactive foray into Frank Herbert’s fictional universe. (And this is a no-brainer, since Klepacki did all of the music for that game.) David Arkenstone’s themes for the Harkonnen are all cut from the same heavy-metal cloth, while Mendelson’s Ordos orchestrations demonstrate that he’s been listening to a lot of Nine Inch Nails.

The highlights include the pounding anthem “Ride The Worm” and “Not An Option”, quite possibly the best 3 out of 4Nine Inch Nails song that Trent Reznor & co. never actually played.

Despite my misgivings about some of the music fitting better into the Command & Conquer millieu than the world of Dune, it’s all quite enjoyable, and stands well on its own apart from the game. Klepacki especially is proving without a doubt that he’s ready to score a movie or perhaps some TV.

Order this CD

  1. The War Begins (4:33)
  2. The Machine (4:50)
  3. Not An Option (3:52)
  4. Unstoppable (5:50)
  5. Ride The Worm (5:35)
  6. Sabotage (4:19)
  7. Harkonnen Force (5:29)
  8. Assembling The Troops (7:42)
  9. Ghola (3:48)
  10. Legacy (6:14)
  11. The Specimen (5:06)
  12. The Spice Must Flow (4:47)
  13. Tribute To Evil (6:21)

Released by: Westwood Studios / Electronic Arts
Release date: 2001
Total running time: 68:26