Movies, September, 1990

Wild Music With Heart




Judging by how many records he's got coming out this fall, the composer of Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks and David Lynch's most recent project, Wild At Heart, is about to be bigger than New Kids on the Block.

Angelo Badalamenti has the Twin Peaks soundtrack due out this month; the soundtrack to Wild At Heart; the soundtrack to Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers; the soundtrack to yet another film,Wait Until Spring Bandini; and a home video of a performance project he and David Lynch produced, Industrial Symphony No.1.

He is the New Kid on the Film Composer's block, and on the day of our interview, confesses he was up till three a.m. the night before working on the Twin Peaks album in his mid town Manhattan studio. And he's turned down ten "very interesting" projects in the last two weeks to do thirteen new episodes of Twin Peaks.

The fifty-two-year-Old New Jersey resident got called to work as a vocal coach for Isabella Rossellini on David Lynch's Blue Velvet. Badalamenti recalls, "David loved the way I recorded 'Blue Velvet with Isabella, but he had another problem with music. He'd heard this song by a European group that he thought really captured the mood of the movie. But the producers didn't want to spend another fifty thousand dollars on the rights-so they asked me if I could write something in that same mood. I said I needed lyrics, and maybe David could write some lyrics since he knew the mood he wanted to create."

Badalamenti didn't know who he was dealing with. Lynch sent him a piece of paper with six lines for something called "The Mysteries of Love." "It had no chorus, no rhyme," Badalamenti laughs, "and I called David, and said, 'What will I do with this?' He said, 'Something cosmic, angelic, very beautiful.' So I wrote this thing and David went over the moon about it, and then asked me to score the whole movie."

With Blue Velvet, Badalamenti found the key to Lynch's creative process. The premise is: everything has two sides (twin peaks), and what's underneath the surface is much more interesting than what's on it. And Lynch's process is simply: mood. He knows what aura he wants to present and then he conjures visuals and music to it. It was the same when Lynch sat down with Badalamenti in his New York studio to create the music for Twin Peaks.

"David said, 'I've got a tv show to do, and the music should be slow, dark, brooding, haunting. It should start with an anticipatory melody, then build slowly up to a climax-a climax that's slow and tears your heart out.' That became 'The Love Theme,' or 'Laura Palmer' theme of Twin Peaks. He'd say these things, and I'd just start improvising at the piano. It's not difficult for me-melodies come very easily. I still don't know what all the fuss over this music is about. Anyway, after twenty minutes of improvising and him saying, 'Play it slower-no, slower,' he said, 'That's IT, don't change a note, you've captured seventy-five percent of Twin Peaks.'

When you ask Badalamenti what Wild At Heart is about, he hesitates. "It's just great cinematic stuff, that's all. It's refreshing, original. There's never been anything like it. It has humor mixed with violence. And I played off that. In one scene, Sherilyn Fenn is in an automobile accident and gets bloodied up. And the music is very light, early sixties teenage music. It worked beautifully against it."

Lynch and Badalamenti are in such sync now, they barely need to speak. "When David was coming in from the airport to work on Wild At Heart, he heard something on the radio that he loved. Then he told me he wanted a sound like a dark Spanish symphony because the story takes place in New Orleans and Texas. When I started writing things, he said-'What you're writing is what I heard this morning in the car!' It's pretty remarkable. It's an incredible marriage between us. It's the sound and pictures of immediate emotion.We're both so busy, the pressure puts us both on a high. Other people try to question it. We just ... don't. We don't have time. It's wild." *

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