Angelo Badalamenti Reveals How He and David Lynch Composed the Twin Peaks’ “Love Theme”

On my last trip to New York, some friends took me to a favorite new-wave Chi­nese place of theirs. When I asked where to find the bath­room, they said to go down­stairs. The stair­case deposit­ed me into one of the most sur­re­al bath­room approach­es I’ve ever expe­ri­enced: a long, nar­row, ful­ly mir­rored hall­way with a haunt­ing­ly famil­iar com­po­si­tion piped in from speak­ers installed along its length. Not until I resur­faced and asked what the deal was could I iden­ti­fy the music: the “Love Theme” from David Lynch’s ear­ly-1990s tele­vi­sion series Twin Peaks.

Many TV themes have lodged them­selves into our col­lec­tive mem­o­ry, most­ly through sheer rep­e­ti­tion, but few have retained as much evoca­tive pow­er as the one Lynch’s com­pos­er, Ange­lo Badala­men­ti, record­ed for his short-lived post­mod­ern detec­tive show.

It had that pow­er from the moment Badala­men­ti put his fin­gers to the key­board, a sto­ry told in the clip above. “What do you see, David?” he remem­bers ask­ing the direc­tor as he sits down before the very same Fend­er Rhodes on which he com­posed Twin Peaks’ major themes all those years ago. “Just talk to me.”

“We’re in a dark woods,” Badala­men­ti recalls Lynch first say­ing. “There’s a soft wind blow­ing through sycamore trees. There’s a moon out, some ani­mal sounds in the back­ground. You can hear the hoot of an owl. Just get me into that beau­ti­ful dark­ness.” Badala­men­ti plays as he played then, which drew an imme­di­ate response from Lynch: “Ange­lo, that’s great. I love that. That’s a good mood. But can you play it slow­er?” With the feed­back loop between the scene in Lynch’s mind and the mood of Badala­men­ti’s music engaged, Lynch added a detail: “From behind a tree, in the back of the woods, is this very lone­ly girl. Her name is Lau­ra Palmer.”

Badala­men­ti light­ens his impro­vi­sa­tion in a way that makes it some­how eerier. “That’s it!” The com­pos­er and the direc­tor play off one anoth­er’s ideas, almost like two long-col­lab­o­rat­ing musi­cians in a jam ses­sion. “She’s walk­ing toward the cam­era, she’s com­ing clos­er… just keep build­ing it! Just keep build­ing it!” Even­tu­al­ly, they’ve cre­at­ed an entire ris­ing and falling dra­mat­ic arc in this sin­gle piece of music (arguably more dra­mat­ic than the one cre­at­ed by the series itself, which Lynch left after two sea­sons). “David got up, gave me a big hug, and said, ‘Ange­lo, that’s Twin Peaks’ ” — and to this day, a part of the cul­ture.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear the Music of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks Played by the Dan­ish Nation­al Sym­pho­ny Orches­tra

Play the Twin Peaks Video Game: Retro Fun for David Lynch Fans

David Lynch’s Twin Peaks Title Sequence, Recre­at­ed in an Adorable Paper Ani­ma­tion

David Lynch Draws a Map of Twin Peaks (to Help Pitch the Show to ABC)

Hear the Music of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks Played by the Exper­i­men­tal Band, Xiu Xiu: A Free Stream of Their New Album

Ele­men­tary School Stu­dents Per­form in a Play Inspired by David Lynch’s Twin Peaks

David Lynch Directs a Mini-Sea­son of Twin Peaks in the Form of Japan­ese Cof­fee Com­mer­cials

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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