Music of Twin Peaks

I'm not sure precisely when this change happened, but sometime in the last few weeks, David Lynch.com became a mostly music-oriented site, where you can listen to a wide range of outtakes and alternate versions of music made for (mostly) the Twin Peaks series and film.  And if you'd rather have the music bundled together for portability, somebody posted it to nodata.tv as well.

I listen to a lot of music composed for film, though I'm not a big movie/TV buff.  There's something I adore about the clarity of motivic material for film, the careful use of timbre and arrangement to create and sustain specific kinds of emotional atmospheres, and the occasional strange moment that's jarring in the audio but needed to match some kind of on-screen action.  And I've long been smitten with John Zorn's file card composition period, which is largely evocative of film music in its atmospheres and its montage approach.  Then you have folks like Ennio Morricone who are masters of the genre, and whose music largely stands alone.

In the case of the Twin Peaks music, Angelo Badalamenti and Lynch have written music with a somewhat simple approach, but it's very resonant with, even critical to, the success of its on-screen counterpart.  20 years later, I can hear just a few seconds of these cues and immediately be pulled back into the series of feelings and images they represent in the TV series or Fire Walk With Me.  They're generally not as epic or highly orchestrated as a lot of big-budget film scores, relying instead on sparse textures and cleverly-written motifs that are simple and incredibly memorable.  In their way, they're the perfect film cues: they fully respect and support the strange, often sparse, and occasionally horrifying world of Twin Peaks with a transparency I rarely find in other scores.  Perhaps all directors should strive for the same level of musical sensitivity and understanding as Lynch--this kind of collaboration between the imagery and the music can make a powerful film even more evocative.  For me, while these aren't as exciting as some scores for purely audio enjoyment, I'm amazed at just how emotionally complete they are on their own.

Here's a video from Angelo Badalamenti describing the collaboration between himself & Lynch in creating this music:

While I'm at it, this is a fascinating video of Zorn describing his file card composition Spillane.  While there's no film to accompany this piece, it's one of my favorite compositions of all time, and the approach certainly evokes the major themes involved with composing for film.


  1. Ah yes, it was Angelo Badalamenti's work that got me hooked on listening to soundtracks these past couple of years. Well that, and the Julie Cruise album you gifted me a few years ago. Most of the time the soundtrack to a film doesn't stick with you much past walking out of the theater/turning of the dvd player, but when it's done right something just clicks and there becomes an intimate relationship between the film and music.

    One sad aspect of Badalamenti's success with the Twin Peaks score is that elements often creep into other peoples work in unusual ways. For instance I've noticed that the misuses' soap opera has co-opted some signature chords from the shows score. The kind of wistful foreboding sound whenever something substantial is about to happen. When I hear them play those notes I perk up like dog hearing the dinner bell—and am immediately disappointed.

    A more recent film maker/composer relationship I recommend checking out is the one between Christian Alvert and Michl Britsch. Britch's score holds the tension perfectly in Pandorum—available on Netflix instant—and Antibodies. It even manages to make the underwhelming performances in Case 39 worthwhile.

    Nowadays I'll pop on a soundtrack that's befitting my mood whenever I need to zone out and crush some work.

  2. Excellent comments! I know what you mean about the "Badalamenti sound" getting pulled into other kinds of (lame) melodramatic stuff like soap operas. Those sounds, the blend of 50s and ethereal approaches, and the major/minor quick-changes are all over the place now, for sure. But I suppose it's a price worth paying.

    A lot of 20th C. classical music has had a long life through film, too, especially 12-tone/atonal approaches. On a positive note, it's given some of that music and those concepts a much wider audience, but on a negative note, that wider audience immediately associates that music with moments of horror or war or various kinds of on-screen activities I'm sure those composers would've been bummed about.

    Thanks for the tip on Britsch, too--haven't heard him yet...