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Kurt Stenzel shares three songs from his Jodorowsky’s Dune score — listen

on November 02, 2015, 11:10am

2013 saw the release of director Frank Pavich’s lauded documentary, Jodorowsky’s DuneThe film received praise not only for its in-depth and intimate look at cult film director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s failed attempt to adapt Frank Herbert’s beloved Dune, but for its cosmically minded score by Kurt Stenzel. Two years later, that score is finally going to receive a commercial release, out November 13th via Light in the Attic Records.

Having already shared “Parallel World”, Stenzel and Light in the Attic today reveal three more songs from the massive 33-track soundtrack. “Greatest Movie Never Made” feels like it could have played over the opening credits of Jodorowsky’s own film, a ominously rising cluster of fluttering and droning synths, watery plops crossfading back and forth between your ears. Another track, “Moebius”, was written as the theme for the great French artist Jean Giraud, whom Jodorowsky had hired to do much of the costume and set design for his movie. Like the man’s work, the track is frenetic yet strangely gentle. The ping-ponging notes bounce back and forth with dangerous swiftness, yet somehow maintain a feeling of tight control.

The final of the three tracks, “I Am Dune”, features the voice of the legendary Jodorowsky himself. “In the life, thing come, you say yes,” we hear him say over Stenzel’s rhythmic analog synth blasts. “Thing go away, you say yes.”

Take a listen to all three tracks via the single YouTube stream below, and pre-order the soundtrack at Light in the Attic.

Stenzel and Pavich took the time to talk with Consequence of Sound about the nature of the score, their feelings on Jodorowsky, and what didn’t make it into the final documentary.

How well versed were you in Jodorowsky’s filmography before taking on this project? Did it in any way inspire the way you thought about the music or compiled the film?

Frank Pavich: ​I was and certainly​ am a fan of his films. But I think it was him and not his filmmaking style which influenced my style in this film. Since I am not Jodorowsky, I went against the idea of making it more Jodorowskian in style as that would have come across as a cheap knock-off. I thought it best to step back and leave the spotlight on the man who so richly deserves it. That being said, Jodorowsky’s work influences me in my daily life so it certainly influenced the film, I just tried not to make it overt.

Kurt Stenzel: I’d seen Holy Mountain and El Topo many years before, and thought they were fantastic – the stories, the music, the visuals… my God! So when Frank contacted me about doing the soundtrack, I jumped at the chance. Up until then, I’d never heard the story about Jodorowsky’s involvement with Dune. Obviously, Jodorowsky’s essence was inspirational, but in terms of making music for the documentary, it was more about the story Frank wanted to tell. We talked at length about whatever feeling or mood he was trying to create for a particular segment of the film, or he would send me clips, interviews with Jodorowsky, etc. and I would either pull from my library – pieces I’d worked on in the past – or create new music.

How much, if any, of this music do you think could’ve actually been used in Jodorowsky’s film, had it been made? Was addressing the work from that angle ever part of the process? Why or why not?

KS: I’m not sure any of it could have been used for Dune; Jodorowsky had a very clear vision about the music and the way it intersected with the story, with different musical groups representing different planets, bands he thought might work – Pink Floyd and Magma, for example. The score I created isn’t really about Dune per se, it’s more about Jodorowsky’s vision and his artistic process; that’s what inspired me.

FP: I think that Kurt’s documentary score would have absolutely fit Alejandro’s film! I feel like Kurt was channeling ​the ​immense ​power of Jodorowsky throughout the entire process. Our goal was not to make a score for a documentary, but rather ​to make ​a soundtrack to​ ambition, as that is what Alejandro’s story is really all about.

​Of course, there were certainly pieces of music that specifically connected to sequences in our film, both interviews and animated renderings of ​Jodo’s ideas. But I really feel that Kurt’s score transcends way beyond that. This is a film where the score is truly another character. The music is incredibly unique and it puts the viewer into the proper mindscape right from the start of the film, even before the first image appears.

How much direction, if any, did Frank provide you when it came to coming up with the music for this piece?
KS: Frank and I have known each other for a long time; we’re both from Queens. Back in the 80’s, I was in a hardcore band, Six & Violence – Frank bought our cassette tape at a local record shop, and started coming to our shows. He later went on to make his first documentary, N.Y.H.C. We stayed in touch over the years, after I moved to the Bay Area. I started getting involved in other projects like Beyond-O-Matic, which has more of a prog rock feel, and SpacEKrafT, an ambient music duo. I’d released an album called “Cookin’ with Kurt” on my own label, some instrumental pieces that showcased analog synths. This was before the internet really took off and I wanted to make sure people could reach me, so I listed my office phone number as my contact. Sure enough, that’s how Frank ended up tracking me down. We talked about the project and the sound he was after, and he asked me to send him some ideas. I sent him some samples of music I’d been doing, and those became the jumping off point for the solo pieces that became the score.

Were you a fan first of the Herbert books or Jodorowsky’s films first? Or perhaps other adaptations like David Lynch’s? What was your experience with Dune before taking on this projec?

FP: Like Refn says in the film, “All roads lead back to Jodorowsky”, and that’s certainly true for me. I was a fan of Jodo’s films and I read about this unmade one way before I read the novel. In fact, I only read the novel once I was on the plane flying to Pars for our first interview with him. ​I think that I was trying not to jinx anything! And regarding Lynch’s film, it’s funny, but when it was first released my mother would not let me go see it. And now I agree, I think I was definitely way too young for it! All I knew at the time was that Sting was in it and I can only imagine what that movie would have done to me — just think about the milking of the cat! ​

KS: Obviously, I’d seen the 80’s film version with Kyle MacLachlan and Sting. But, like Jodorowsky when he first started working on the film, I’ve never actually read the book – and still haven’t, even though my girlfriend gave me a copy for Christmas a few years ago. I’ll get around to it!

Was there any other interesting material you came across that didn’t find its way into the film, or that got cut during editing?

FP: But of course!  Some of it is included as extra material on the DVD/Blu-ray releases. And some we just couldn’t share due to legal reasons! One of my favorite moments, which you can see just a snippet of at the end of the film, and which we included more of on the discs, was the reunion of Alejandro and his producer, Michel Seydoux. It was an honor for us to have reunited these two old friends. And from their rekindled relationship, the world got a new Jodorowsky film, The Dance of Reality! And it’s actually my favorite of all his work.  ​

KS: Probably! I sent Frank a lot of music and I was just fortunate that he had such a talented editing team, because they really knew what they were doing. The work we did together felt very natural, like real synchronicity.

Exactly how far did H.R. Giger get into the character design process before the plug was pulled, and how much of that work actually remains?

FP: Giger came in towards the end and all he managed to do ​​was five airbrushed images for the Harkonnen planet. However, he was so taken by this world, that he continued working on it well after Jodo’s film collapsed. Afterwards, Ridley Scott was planning to direct a version of Dune and Giger did some more paintings to pitch him, including an image of the sandworms. However, according to Giger, Ridley Scott was not interested in his designs. Shortly after that, Ridley Scott’s brother passed away and he too abandoned Dune. But Giger kept on working on Dune, even going as far as designing a Harkonnen banquet table and chairs​. He has an amazing museum in Gruyeres, Switzerland, where we actually shot his interview, and this furniture is on prominent display. It’s well worth a visit, and if you go, be sure to pay respects to his grave which is located just behind the museum’s grounds.

From what we know of Jodorowsky’s vision, his final Dune film could have been phenomenal or C-movie terrible. Having lived in that world for so long in making this film, which direction do you think it would’ve ended up leaning?

KS: I think it would have been amazing. At the time, a twelve or twenty-hour film was beyond the scope of Hollywood; it was unfathomable. Nowadays, trilogies are commonplace. But I know if Jodorowsky had been successful in bringing Dune to the big screen, it would have been incredible…

FP: It’s hard to say. I think it’s an unknowable question and I actually prefer not to dwell on it. To me, it exists exactly where it belongs, in the cosmic consciousness, where it will be perfect for each of us. Maybe that’s what Jodorowsky was intending all along. If it was completed, for better or worse, it may have been just a movie. But Jodo’s vision for it was far grander: he wanted to make a god, something to change all the people who experienced it. And 40 years later, that’s exactly what happened. Only a pure cynic can see this film and not be inspired to ​dream the greatest thing possible. And what’s more beautiful than that?

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