Kurt Stenzel – Jodorowsky’s Dune OST

jodorowsky-dune-soundtrack-coverFirst thing that pops into my mind when thinking of Dune is the conversation between Paul Atreides and Reverend Mother Mohiam about prospective Kwisatz Haderach’s who underwent the spice trance. “They tried and failed?[…]”, he asked. Mohiam replied: They tried and died”. In a way this conversation parallels Alejandro Jodorowsky’s attempt make movie out of the book in 1974. He tried, he failed… but didn’t die though.

Jodorowsky’s unsuccessful attempt to film Frank Herbert’s Dune in 1974 is explored bij Frank Pavich’s documentary, Jodorowsky’s Dune, that was released in 2013. With this failure in mind, synth specialist Kurt Stenzel got the job to compose the soundtrack. Initially the score did not separately release from the documentary. However, due popular demand, it was released on vinyl and CD earlier this month.

Obviously I am here to bring some insight on the musical score Kurt Stenzel made to accompany the documentary. But before moving on, those of you who haven’t heard about Herbert’s legendary science fiction novel should know that some knowledge of the feudal interstellar society and its struggle to control the flow ‘spice’ is very welcome. Your best option is to take in some spice melange and fold space to end up in the bookstore so you can buy Herbert’s six volumed epos immediately. Having second thoughts about taking in spice? Well, another possibility is to just watch the adaptations that did made it to the screen. You could go and see David Lynch’s take in 1984 or instead watch the ‘Sting-less’ Dune miniseries directed by John Harrison in 2000. So anyway, it’s advisable to learn more about the basics of Dune, because listening to a documentary soundtrack based on a never released movie about a story you never heard of is quite a silly exercise to undertake. Then again, I am not here to scare you of course. I believe Paul Atreides would fearlessly read on from this point, so why won’t you let the fear pass over you and through you and thus… remain.

Right, so what happened in 1974 when Chilean avant-gardist film director Alejandro Jodorowsky got the opportunity to put Dune on the big screen? Well, the good man took up all his ambition and not only wanted to tell Herbert’s story but also aimed to change the world of cinema. The film was planned to be a LSD-like experience of 14 to 20 hours (!) featuring stars like Mick Jagger, Orson Welles, Salvador Dalí (who is said to have claimed an hourly wage of $100.000). Jodorowsky also drafted Karlheinz Stockhausen, Pink Floyd and Magma to compose the score. Next to this, a lot of money also was spend on very detailed designs and extensive storyboarding making the pre-production costs an insurmountable problem. Although the film never saw the light of day, the semi-irrational designs Jodorowsky made ironically had a lot of impact on the sci-fi genre yet to come. Alien and Blade Runner for example, heavily carry the signature of Jodorowsky’s Dune design team.

Now for the score: Kurt Stenzel himself says the 75 minute score flows through a “four-sides” LP approach that opens and eventually ends with a few words of Jodorowsky himself. Between these sparse yet prophetic words a spacey atmosphere unfolds itself that’s built on dozens of analog synths and keyboards, including a Moog Source, a Roland Juno 6 and even a Nintendo DS and a toy organ. In a way this challenging approach seems worthy to Jodorowsky megalomaniac plans and Dune’s comprehensive storyline. Herbert, essentially wrote a story about juxtaposing contradictions of the human psyche, politics, religion, ecology and technology. Therefore it doesn’t seem like a bad idea to honour this essence by means of multi-layered synths that continuously move in and out of each other. Here the danger emerges the score becomes too complex. Luckily Stenzel doesn’t fall for this trap and keeps his music bright at the right moments. In rare occasions, for example on ‘Point of View’ and ‘FingerprintsStenzel even reminds of Mike Oldfield (who before settling on Pink Floyd et al was approached to by Jodorowsky to compose the score).

Stenzel mostly stays away from the aforementioned brightness for good a reason. His score was meant to help the documentary to steadily move forward so most of soundscapes are of the darker kind (such as ‘Rescue from a Sandworm’ or ‘Baron Harkonnen’). Nicely enough he still manages to keep this relatively fresh because most of the tracks never hit the 3 minute mark. Shifts between melodious patterns are made without any trouble and by doing so he frequently provokes the attention spans of viewers. The deep trance of ‘Mœbius’ for instance imperceptibly turns into the sinister ‘Arrakis’ and finally evolves into a soaring ‘Into the Galaxy’. Surprisingly Stenzel also plays the guitar now and then. On ‘Total Extermination’ a merciless heavy metal riff cuts through immensity whilst the echoing strumming on ‘Open the Mind’ is very warm of nature.

Listening to Jodorowsky’s Dune on a track-to-track basis wouldn’t do right to Stenzel’s geeky love for synthesizer music and wonderful structuring. Instead the score has to be taken in fully before it’s even possible to enjoy. In the end Kurt Stenzel’s real achievement however does not lie in creating an just another engaging backdrop score for a documentary. Behind the weaving synths Stenzel really brings an ode to all science fiction classics ever made and especially to those people, like Jodorowsky and Mœbius, who genius and courage laid the foundations for all of this art to come to life.

Label: Light in the Attic, 2015

Tracklist:

  1. Coming of a God (5:27)
  2. Greatest Movie Never Made (1:01)
  3. Parallel World (1:42)
  4. Parallel World (outro) (1:03)
  5. Leap of Faith (0:43)
  6. Time and Space (2:03)
  7. Optical World (2:55)
  8. Nebula (2:25)
  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 (2:26)
  29. I Am Dune (6:00)
  30. Hollywood (2:22)
  31. Fingerprints (4:16)
  32. Open the Mind (3:38)
  33. Try (2:30)

Further surfing:
Kurt Stenzel on Soundcloud
Kurt Stenzel on Facebook
Alejandro Jodorowsky on IMDB
The Official Dune Website
Dune Behind the Scenes

Review by Wander Meulemans // 261115

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One thought on “Kurt Stenzel – Jodorowsky’s Dune OST

  1. Pingback: Album Year List (2015) | soundsfromthedarkside

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