Skip to Content

Angelo Badalamenti, ‘Twin Peaks’ composer, dies at 85

<i>Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images</i><br/>Composer Angelo Badalamenti
Getty Images
Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images
Composer Angelo Badalamenti

By Scottie Andrew, CNN

Angelo Badalamenti, the composer behind several beloved soundtracks, including David Lynch’s cult hit “Twin Peaks,” has died at 85.

His niece, the writer Frances Badalamenti, confirmed his death to CNN.

Badalamenti soundtracked several films over five decades, working with directors like Jane Campion, Danny Boyle and Paul Schrader. But he’s perhaps best known for scoring some of the iconic works of the eccentric auteur Lynch, with whom he worked on “Twin Peaks,” its companion film “Fire Walk With Me” and the show’s 2017 revival; “Blue Velvet” and “Mulholland Drive,” among other projects.

Badalamenti’s synthetic, jazzy, ominous themes complemented Lynch’s often surreal and disturbing works.

Badalamenti and Lynch worked together for decades

Before he was a film composer, the Brooklyn-born Badalamenti was a musical jack-of-all-trades. He taught at a Brooklyn public school after graduating from college and composed music for a televised production of “A Christmas Carol.” He wrote songs for artists like Nina Simone and scored films “Gordon’s War” and “Law and Disorder,” though the films performed poorly. During this time, he often worked under the pseudonym Andy Badale.

After a slow period, Badalamenti’s fortunes changed when he met Lynch on the set of the director’s 1986 film, “Blue Velvet.” The pianist was brought in to coach the film’s star Isabella Rossellini in singing the titular song. When producers were seeking a composer to score the film, Badalamenti won Lynch’s favor with an original song, to which Lynch later wrote lyrics, called “The Mysteries of Love.”

The creative dynamos collaborated closely: While composing Laura Palmer’s theme for “Twin Peaks,” Lynch sat beside Badalamenti’s keyboard and set the scene: Lynch saw dark woods, heard a soft wind blowing through a sycamore tree and an owl hooting. But the music grew lighter when he told Badalamenti about the girl — Palmer herself — hiding between the trees.

Badalamenti would play as Lynch spoke, adjusting his tempo as Lynch went on. When Lynch finished dictating the scenes, he leaped up to hug Badalamenti.

“He said, ‘Don’t do a thing and don’t change a single note — I see “Twin Peaks.”‘ And that’s how it was done,” Badalamenti said in a video detailing his composing process.

Badalamenti composed the “Twin Peaks” soundtrack on a Fender Rhodes Mark I, an electric keyboard produced in the mid-1970s on which he composed his scores for many of Lynch’s projects — a “kind of beat up” instrument, Badalamenti said, that nevertheless played up the uncanny, often nightmarish qualities of Lynch’s projects.

“I tried to make the music have a haunting feeling,” Badalamenti said in 2019 of his “Twin Peaks” score. “The haunting sounds have always been there, the off-center instrumentals — they have been with me ever since I was a child.”

That haunting quality is present in most of his soundtracks for Lynch’s work — save for “The Straight Story,” though the synths stayed, thanks to the Fender Rhodes Mark I. It’s a far more hopeful, personal tale than typical Lynch fare, with a score to match.

In between his soundtracks for Lynch, Badalamenti composed music for films like “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3” as well as the series “Inside the Actors Studio.” He even wrote the Torch Theme for the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. And even on those projects, Badalamenti injected some of his unique musical trademarks — namely, the subtle darkness he infused most of his scores with.

“There are certain things I put into the music I write,” he told his niece Frances in a 2019 interview. “It is recognizable. It’s how I use certain dissonant things, and I pride myself on that.”

Fans and friends remember Badalamenti

Both cinephiles and music lovers mourned Badalamenti’s death. Film writer Scott Tobias remembered the immediate impact of watching “Twin Peaks” for the first time and recognizing it was something special.

“It all starts with Angelo Badalamenti’s music, suggestive of a primetime soap opera but so flush with emotion and mystery,” Tobias wrote. “One of the greatest.”

Kyle MacLachlan, who played the unusual, coffee-loving Agent Dale Cooper on “Twin Peaks,” called Badalamenti a “brilliant and talented maestro who was a master at setting a mood.

Frances Badalamenti said her uncle gave her indispensable advice that helped her find her confidence as a writer.

“The advice was not to follow your dreams, that is too willy-nilly,” she said in a statement to CNN. “It’s take what you have, the raw talent, whatever that is that is inside of you, and push hard and run with it. And that’s what he did and now he leaves us with these gifts of true art, this beautiful, visceral art.”

Lynch himself seemed to honor his former collaborator in a subtle, predictably offbeat way — in his daily weather report, which he shares on YouTube.

“Here in L.A., it’s raining, cloudy, very still right now,” Lynch said in Monday’s video before listing the temperature at the time in both Fahrenheit and Celsius. “Today — no music.”

™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - Entertainment

Jump to comments ↓

CNN Newsource


ABC 17 News is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content