❉ As Twin Peaks returns, a new book delves into the original series’ classic soundtrack.
That gum you like is coming back in style – no, seriously, just check out the covers of Entertainment Weekly. The unexpected and then highly anticipated return of Twin Peaks has been a cause for celebration and rapid reappraisals of the original. While the TV series has oft been critically analysed, it is the music that Claire Nina Norelli looks at in her book Soundtrack from Twin Peaks.
It is difficult to not fall into the usual clichés when talking about David Lynch’s work: the seedy underside of folksy small town America, the fear of the grotesque and unknown, the reliance on the same group of loyal actors etc. Norelli is able to dodge the repeated criticisms by focusing squarely on the music. In fact much of the book deals with technical description of the music itself, which, I freely admit, I just nodded along with. I have no musical training and couldn’t tell a B Flat from The Be Sharps. This is not an impediment to understanding the book though: you know the soundtrack to Twin Peaks works, it’s right there alongside some of the show’s most memorable moments. It is why it works that is crucial too.
For me, my introduction to Twin Peaks was through its soundtrack. I was eleven years old when the show was first broadcast on BBC2 in 1990. Rightly, my parents decided I shouldn’t watch it, even though a lot of the magazines I read (Starlog, TV Zone etc.) were very excited by it. Instead I learned about Rhodes-infused theme tune, the dark and then uplifting Laura Palmer Theme, the jazz riffs of The Bookhouse Boys and Audrey’s Dance from the cassette my parents kept in the car. After a couple of months, the tape had found its way into my bedroom and I was listening along with doing homework. When Moby released Go I had a tiny head start on my peers – yeah, I know that sample.
What surprised me though is that this was no solo effort from composer Angelo Badalamenti, it was a team production involving both Lynch and singer Julee Cruise. It began when Lynch was unable to secure the rights for This Mortal Coil’s version of Song to the Siren (“Did I dream you dreamed about me?” – as sampled by another rave outfit Messiah in 1992 – there could be a whole thesis on Lynch’s influence of 90s dance music, see also the distant Packard Mill steam whistle cropping up on a number of KLF projects). Lynch wanted to use the song in Blue Velvet, but instead ended-up collaborating with Angelo Badalamenti and Julee Cruise on a song called Mysteries of Love. So popular was the result that Warner Brothers Music contracted the trio to create an album. Floating into the Night was released in September 1989 and credited to Cruise with Lynch and Badalamenti as producers. At the same time as this production was happening Badalamenti and Lynch began to work on the music for Twin Peaks, as Lynch described it to the composer: Blue Velvet gone Peyton Place. In April 1990 Twin Peaks premiered on ABC in the US with an instrumental version of Falling as the main theme, the second track of Floating into the Night.
The use of the Rhodes over the opening shots of the lumber mill, mountains and waterfall immediately conjured Duane Eddy and old-town Country mixed with Badalamenti’s synths that reinforced the majesty of the landscape. The opening of Twin Peaks is, essentially, a very beautiful postcard. In that pilot, following the extended credits sequence we cut to Josie Packard (Joan Chen) applying her make-up in the mirror and the Laura Palmer theme begins. Norelli describes this theme, moving from dark to light in great detail. She describes how Lynch wanted Badalamenti to convey a feeling of being all alone at night, scared in the woods. As the piano takes us out of that dark place it ascends, the feeling becomes one of passion and warmth and then, as Lynch describes it: let it tear your heart out, Angelo!”
This being one of the 33-and-a-Third series from Bloomsbury Academic, the standard of writing is high and compact. Norelli clearly has an enormous love for the subject and is skilled in being able to identify how Lynch has used the music to heighten the emotional impact of his show. The book is as much for the film student as it is the music lover. As Twin Peaks prepares to return, this study offers an excellent way to find one’s way back into the woods and enjoy a truly unique and evocative aural experience.
❉ ‘Soundtrack from Twin Peaks’ by Clare Nina Norelli (ISBN: 9781501323010), published by 33 1/3 Books, RRP £11.99.