“Today, no music,” said David Lynch on his YouTube weather report the day Angelo Badalamenti’s death was pronounced. The renowned composer died on December 11, 2022, at his home in New Jersey. He was 85.
Badalamenti was born on March 22, 1937, in Brooklyn, to a family of Sicilian immigrants. Although as a kid he preferred playing in the streets to practicing his musical skills, his older brother, a jazz trumpetist, gave him the encouragement he needed to take his musical training seriously. Badalamenti was always grateful to his brother because of it. He finished his music education with a master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music in 1960.
He spent some time teaching music to seventh graders, but his career did not take off until the mid-60’s when he started composing for such renowned singers as Nina Simone and Nancy Wilson. During the 70’s he composed some film and TV scores under the name of Angelo Badale as a way to hide his Sicilian background.
It was not until the 80’s that Badalamenti met David Lynch while the director was filming Blue Velvet. Badalamenti was brought in not to score, but to train Isabella Rosellini’s voice. During this time the two great minds came together to compose the eerie and astonishingly beautiful song “Mysteries of Love.” This song (performed by Julie Cruise, the singer of many Badalamenti/Lynch compositions) would be just the beginning of a career long collaboration between both artists.
Badalamenti went on to compose songs or complete scores for Lynch’s Wild at Heart (1990), Lost Highway (1997), and Mudholland Drive (2001). In the early 90’s the pair also produced a collection of experimental songs under the name “Thought Gang.” This collection, which was only recently released through Sacred Bones Records, combines Badalamenti’s jazz sensitivities with the weirdness that characterizes much of Lynch’s work.
But perhaps the most representative and critically acclaimed of Badalamenti’s compositions are those that he made for the TV series Twin Peaks. The ease with which the opening song of every episode transports the viewer into the TV world, into the world of dreams, still amazes me to this day. The simultaneously dark and innocent “Laura Palmer’s Theme” is the dictionary definition of a perfect leitmotif. In a mesmerizing video that can be found on YouTube, Badalamenti recounts the experience of composing that theme on the piano with Lynch by his side. “We’re in a dark wood now, and there is a soft wind blowing through the sycamore trees,” Lynch told Badalamenti as he translated his vision into music, “and behind that tree in the back of the wood there is this lonely girl and her name is Laura Palmer.” Soft and melancholy, beautiful and tragic, thus Laura Palmer and Twin Peaks were born.
Lynch has always thought of cinema as “sound and picture moving together through time.” That is exactly what their collaboration represents, a harmony so perfect that is enough to tear one’s heart out.
Joan Vega is an English major on the literature track in his final year of college. He spends his days reading modernist writers and listening to music. His favorite movie genres include horror and tragicomedy.