Profile: Angelo Badalamenti

The music of Angelo Badalamenti has been floating around in my subconscious since I was 12 and Twin Peaks first aired. Then as I discovered Blue Velvet and the nightmare world of David Lynch, I became certain of Angelo Badalamenti’s unique talent to evoke mystery and beauty. His gift to bring a sense of impending doom to any scene, no matter how innocent it might look, is rivalled only by his equally impressive flair for creating paradoxically uplifting and heartbreaking melancholy. Dabbling in jazz and electro, Badalmenti’s scores remain consistent and familiar when it comes to his collaborations with David Lynch. Drawing from dirty blues, improv jazz and synthesised sounds, Badalamenti’s Lynch-related output is recognisable but never predictable; beautiful, haunting, sometimes jarring it never fails to evoke deep feelings from the audience.
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Image by Kodi Sershon

When it comes to his work outside of this fated marriage of sight and sound, Badalamenti creates moving scores that reflect influences gathered from current scoring trends and ghosts of industry heavies like Elmer Bernstein. But there’s usually a very fine thread that runs through his compositions that draw them together as a body of work. Like a watermark of sound, Badalamenti favours certain progressions and has a fondness for a haunting synth continuo.

Badalamenti acquired his classical training at the Eastman School of Music and the Manhattan School of Music, where he received a Masters degree, after which he went on to teach while working as a pianist, songwriter and orchestrator. Originally hired by David Lynch to help Isabella Rosellini learn to sing for Blue Velvet, Badalamenti ended up writing Mysteries of Love for the film and the two have been collaborating ever since. He has won many awards (including Emmys and Golden Globe) and recently received the Henry Mancini Lifetime Achievement at the ASCAP Film and Television Awards. The Brooklyn-born composer has worked with David Bowie, Paul McCartney, Pet Shop Boys, Tim Booth, Anthrax, LL Cool J, Michael Jackson, Nancy Wilson, Nina Simone, Della Reese, Mel Tillis, Julee Cruise, Marianne Faithfull, Dolores O’Riordan, Liza Minelli and Roberta Flack and has written music for films as varied as National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, The Beach, The Secretary, The Girl on the Bridge, A Very Long Engagement and most recently The Late Quartet but is best known for his film scores for David Lynch films and the cult TV series, Twin Peaks.

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Angelo Badalamenti is and continues to be a powerful influence that extends beyond his own sphere. Whether it’s a sly nod or an outright tribute, his music has reached various genres from black metal to ambient indie. Mount Eerie’s Phil Elverum drew upon Twin Peaks themes for 2009 Wind Poems, and Stars of the Lid featured a song called “Music for Twin Peaks Part 1” on their 2007 Carte de Visite album. The Dale Cooper Quartet & the Dictaphones named their band in homage and play music inspired by the deep well that springs from the TV series.

Threatening, sublime and transcendent…Badalamenti’s legacy is fierce and lasting and keeps company amongst the most influential music of our time.

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