Into the night: Angelo Badalamenti (1937 – 2022)

I fell for Twin Peaks before I’d even seen a single scene of the series. I was fifteen and we were visiting with my uncle in the UK. Twin Peaks had just come out, and I was curious, but my parents weren’t watching it, and I didn’t think of recording it at the time, probably because I didn’t have any VHS tapes of my own. Anyway, there I was at my uncle’s, it was getting dark, and I discovered this CD on a shelf. Foggy mountains, some trees, a road curving to the left, and a sign: Welcome to Twin Peaks. I asked whether I could listen to it, they gave me some headphones, and I plonked down on a bean bag next to the stereo system.

And the night enveloped me.

The Twin Peaks soundtrack wasn’t the first CD I ever bought, but it was among the first handful. Angelo Badalamenti’s music was the perfect aural encapsulation of David Lynch’s oneiric mindscape. Darkly funny one moment, mournful the next, mysterious, fleeting and yet strangely familiar, like a dream you’re struggling to remember after waking up, but the feeling it gives you stays with you all day. As a teenager, I’d listen to the Twin Peaks soundtrack over and over, when doing homework, when it was raining outside, when I simply wanted to return to Twin Peaks – which I only ever got to watch a couple of years later (I had some VHS tapes of my own by that time), but I already knew what the place sounded like.

Badalamenti worked with a number of artists and directors. He wrote music for films by Paul Schrader and by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. He wrote for Julee Cruise, music that felt like it would be playing in the nooks and crannies of Twin Peaks that we hadn’t seen (or heard) in the series, and he collaborated with Marianne Faithfull. He even worked on video game soundtracks. But his perfect collaborator was always David Lynch, his music the ideal soundtrack for the uneasy dreams Lynch drew from the dark recesses of his brain – yet even for a much lighter, though no less sad, film by Lynch, Badalamenti found the right sounds and tunes: The Straight Story, with its strange, ethereal Americana. When they worked together, the vibe of Lynch’s visual world and that of Badalamenti’s soundscapes were inseparable.

And if Angelo Badalamenti and David Lynch were a perfect match, Twin Peaks will always remain their ideal collaboration. Badalamenti captured the adolescent rebellion of Audrey Horne with his puckish, feline cool jazz and its shrill sax yowls. He wrote the brightly sad ’50s-infused pop that was played on stage at the Roadhouse. He provided the soundtrack to backwards-talking men from another place dancing (backwards?), while poor, brave, doomed Laura Palmer sat there looking back at us. He defined the sound of the wind in the Douglas firs. Yesterday, I read the news of Angelo Badalamenti’s death shortly before going to bed, and when I did lie down and switched off the light, I heard his tunes in the breeze, under the sycamore trees.

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