Saturday, January 13, 2024

"The Music of Twin Peaks and Angelo Badalamenti'' at Seattle Symphony: Jan 17 | "How the Twin Peaks Soundtrack Came to Haunt Music for 30 Years" | The Guardian

This month Seattle Symphony and host Kyle MacLachlan invite listeners to join them in entering into what James Poniewozik posited for the New York Times as being more than a musical experience, "The ‘Twin Peaks’ Theme Isn’t Just a Song. It’s a Portal". The music for one of the most notable television and film series of all time, is explored by The Atlantic in "Twin Peaks and the Remarkeable Influence of David Lynch". This convergence of director and composer came about during the production of one of Lynch's films, and was born of the inability to secure a licensing deal to 4AD label maven Ivo Watts-Russell's cover of Tim Buckley's "Song to the Siren". Outside of auteurs like John Carpenter, the films of Michael Mann, and the meeting of David Cronenberg and Howard Shore, the 1980s seemed to yearn for new confluence of the big screen's coalescence of moving picture and soundtrack. The meeting of David Lynch and composer and musician Angelo Badalamenti can be seen as a consequence of the director's first entry into into commercial studio distributed film with Universal and Paramount, thanks largely to the production funding of one Mel Brooks. Based on the Victorian era documents of Sir Frederick Treves and his patient Joseph Merrick, "The Elephant Man" met with both box office and critical success, including eight Academy Award nominations and multiple BAFTA awards. As a product, what followed was one of the stranger turns in the whole of the director's fortunes. The then most popular film franchise in the world, helmed by George Lucus, turned the spotlight on Lynch for him to direct the third installment in the Star Wars trilogy. He declined, citing Lucas' comprehensive vision of the fictional universe would allow for very little in the way of space to express his own. Following this, and the distribution deal with Dino De Laurentiis that came directly from Lynch's own science fiction epic. By the time of his fourth feature, the dominant facets of sound, and its influential role in the prevailing character of Lynch's film work had been established. It was with "Blue Velvet'', that the disparate components of massed strings inspired by the minor symphonies of Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Mahler, met with the, pulsing, churning drone of the underlying industrial sound design and the director's other great musical love. This third component was to be found in the dreamy, melancholic lament to be heard on the fringes of the popular radio-play of Lynch's childhood. A slow swinging rock n' roll defined by the plaintive, longing sound of Roy Orbison's crooning pop, the spacious productions of Phil Spector, and twang of Duane Eddy's guitar. These share a unifying element in their immersion of instrument and voice in echo and reverb, with its capacity to create the impression of vast horizons and spacious chambers of sound resonant with a lush, textured romanticism.

The meeting of Lynch and Badalamenti would happen overcoming the challenge of having the film's lead sing her own parts in a series of central scenes. One of the primary producers on "Blue Velvet", Fred Caruso brought in stage and theater composer Angelo Badalamenti to coach the lead actress on the performance of the film's titular song. Nearing the end of central filming, the club scene being the last of a series of shoots for the film, Rossellini's performance came together notably under the guidance of the Sicilian composer and pianist. Lynch then made efforts to secure rights to pieces of music he had in mind for the soundtrack. Foremost among them was the 4AD label in-house band, This Mortal Coil and their cover of Tim Buckly's "Song for the Siren". Badalamenti reports that while complete creative control and the important "final cut" were conditions of the contract with De Laurentiis, the film was on a strict budget, and the $50,000 rights to securing the Ivo Watts-Russell cover was unattainable. With the success had with Rossellini, Lynch approached Badalamenti about writing an original song to replace it. Supplied with a title, and a few short lines, Badalamenti recounts how their collaboration began for Film Score Monthly, "Isabella handed me a piece of yellow paper that had David's lyrics on it. On the top of it was the title "Mysteries of Love" I read it through. There was no rhyme scheme or hook to latch on to like songs were supposed to have." Approaching the director for insight into this minimalist coda, Lynch is quoted as offering; "Oh, just make it like the wind, Angelo. It should be a song that floats on the sea of time. Make it cosmic!". Julee Cruise, who had performed in a musical that Badalamenti had written in New York, was brought in to provide the vocals for the resulting track which replicated much of the atmospheric dreamscapes of the then "4AD sound". This Mortal Coil was an in-house collective of artists around Blackwing Studios, its producer John Fryer and Ivo Watts-Russell, co-founder at London-based record label. By the time of "Blue Velvet"'s production 4AD had cultivated a roster of artists who specialized in angular indie introspection, atmospheric dreamscapes, downtrodden post-punk, and gothically tinged chamber music. The collective's first release "It'll End in Tears" included Howard Devoto of Breathless, Cindytalk's spectral vocalist, Gordon Sharp, members of neoclassical ensemble, Dead Can Dance, and singing on the influential "Song to the Siren", Elizabeth Fraser from the Scottish band, Cocteau Twins. Progenitors of what would later be called dream pop, Cocteau Twins' sound was a swirling canopy of Robin Guthrie’s reverb-enveloped guitar, sharp drum machine and bass geometries, and Fraser's vocal gymnastics and interpretation-resistant lyrical glossolalia navigating the instrumental tide.

With the successes had in Rossellini's singing part and the "love at first sound" as Lynch described their first collaboration with Cruise, Badalamenti was recruited to try his hand at the score. As for Lynch’s working methods, in interview Badalamenti recalled how the director would further test working relationships of sound and sequence while shooting. “He would have me on set,” he recalled of the Blue Velvet scoring sessions. “I would actually play music live while they were filming so the actors could feel the mood". Badalamenti relates, "On the plane to Los Angeles I wrote the music and Lynch flipped; “It’s Russian, dark, a little dissonant - beautiful but strange at the same time”, the director is quoted as saying. Badalamenti's creative trajectory after graduating from the Manhattan School of Music had already taken the Brooklyn born Sicilian-American into the world of composing minor film scores and musicals for Broadway. He wrote songs for Nina Simone, and even a brief stint working alongside electronic pioneer Jean-Jacques Perry. Yet it would be this mid-career meeting with Lynch on the set of "Blue Velvet" that would be the defining junction. Even with the successes had in the production of that film, and it's global reception, could not have prepared the director and composer team for the chapter that was to come next. Their collaboration in sound and image was soon to be broadcast into nearly every home in America. In 1989, Badalamenti and Lynch assembled a band of veteran sessions and film musicians, including jazz drummer Grady Tate, and guiatrist Vinnie Bell, in small studio off of Times Square in New York to work on three simultaneous projects. These would be the avant-garde stage musical "Industrial Symphony No.1", Cruise's album "Floating into the Night'', and the Twin Peaks soundtrack, in which Cruise appears as the in-series Roadhouse band's chanteuse. From these sessions, Badalamenti's pieces born of chord suspensions and evocative of dissonance, loss and longing, singer and composer express, "‘We Felt Like We Could Do Anything’: Angelo Badalamenti and Julee Cruise on the Music of Twin Peaks". This process recounted in detail for The Guardian, "'Make it Like the Wind, Angelo': How the Twin Peaks Soundtrack Came to Haunt Music for Nearly 30 Years". Lynch would sit with the composer at the side of his Fender Rhodes piano, quietly verbalising what he envisioned. “I haven’t shot anything, but it’s like you are in a dark woods with an owl in the background and a cloud over the moon and sycamore trees are blowing very gently…” I started to press the keys for the opening chord to “Twin Peaks Love Theme,” because it was the sound of that darkness, recounts Badalamenti. Lynch said; “A beautiful troubled girl is coming out of the woods, walking towards the camera… and she comes closer and it reaches a climax and…” I continued with the music as he continued the story. “And from this, we let her go back into the dark woods”. Lynch was ecstatic with the outcome. “Don’t change a single note, Angelo. I see Twin Peaks".