The Soundtrack That Defined Twin Peaks.

Angelo Badalamenti’s true masterpiece.

Above: The original opening title scene of Twin Peaks

Never would David Lynch and Mark Frost, the writers of television’s most bizarre and enchanting show, surmise that their dream would take off. After eighteen months of producing nine hours of the show themseleves, their precious story would get picked up by a TV network and evidently launch itself into the hearts of over 35 million people on its debut night. Instantly, it becomes a riveting sensation nationwide. That night, many people are left with a burning question — one that still torments Peakies to this day: But what does it all mean? Even twenty five years later, with the show’s season three up and running, fans are still left unanswered and more clueless than ever before — and, on a massive scale even for Lynchian standards. Fans are faced with the new challenge of putting the pieces back together yet again. But, never has it been this exciting.

The show airs on April 8, 1990. It is unlike anything anyone has ever produced for television. The show itself is a colorful and imaginative mixture of many facets; the aesthetic of a quirky ‘50s crime show, the mystery of the supernatural and dark woods, and the real wickedness of true crime. It’s truly a beautiful set, filmed on the scenic outskirts of Seattle, Washington within a twenty mile radius. One can almost smell the Douglas Firs through the screen, smell the aroma of pine needles, fresh rain, and steaming coffee. This small town is the perfect setting for all of Twin Peaks’ wild events to unfold. It is the ideal setting for the local homecoming queen to be found dead, tightly wrapped in plastic, washed up like debris on the river banks. Twin Peaks is an exemplary outlet for a musical masterpiece to be unleashed.

Angelo Badalamenti composes the score. David Lynch regularly talks with his friend to give vivid descriptions of what Twin Peaks is. Lynch’s vision has to absolutely fit with the score, no matter how complex it might seem. Angelo is the man for the job, and the two sit down together at Angelo’s Fender Rhodes piano with a cassette recorder to create a theme for the story’s pivotal character, seventeen year old Laura Palmer. Laura is the town sweetheart, the girl of every man’s dreams; she’s beautiful, charismatic, and seems like an angel. But, Laura is a lonely, lost girl in her small town. Her mind is filled with a perpetual sadness, a longing to be somewhere far away. Every night she’s tormented with vivid dreams, haunted by the evil recurring entity of BOB. She’s lost somewhere between right and wrong, struggling to find her moral compass as a growing woman. Laura finds herself caught up in a web of darkness, stuck somewhere in the dark forests of Twin Peaks.

Badalamenti discusses how he and Lynch came up with that haunting melody as he sits at that same, now beat up Fender Rhodes piano. Badalamenti places his hands on the aged keys, staring straight ahead as he speaks of how Lynch set up the mood that day; he speaks as if it happened yesterday, remembering every little detail. It’s almost like Lynch is there in spirit, sitting to the right of Badalamenti, telling him the setting of that small town. He takes us there, transports us to the dark woods with a single chord. Not once does Badalamenti look down at his hands; he’s still reminiscing about that fateful day; he’s a man lost in thought, lost in the vaults of treasured memories.

Angelo Badalamenti and David Lynch in 1996
“In David’s mind, you could see he was just visualizing the description that he’d envisioned.”

Badalamenti talks on about Lynch’s vision: the glowing moon, Sycamore trees, ‘hoo-ing’ owls, and dark forests. He continues the mysterious tune about the lonely Laura Palmer. “Okay Angelo, now we gotta make a change,” Lynch told him. “…From behind the tree in the back of the woods, there’s this very lonely girl; her name is Laura Palmer. It’s very sad, but get something that matches her.” Badalamenti is fraught with emotion as he builds up the mood, imagining Laura slowly walking towards the camera. The notes become more intense, and one can almost feel the sensation of their heartstrings being pulled at; one can envision the lost and tortured Laura Palmer as the music soars through a mood of beautiful sorrow; one wants to save this helpless girl from her impending doom. Even I can see her in the dark forests Lynch speaks of — her solemn expression, her sad eyes, and her flowing blonde hair as she comes closer and closer. The melody peaks into tear-jerking high notes as the image of Laura is visualized. She’s so real in this moment, and her sadness and all the suffering she’s endured has never been so tangible.

“That’s so beautiful! That’s tearing my heart out. I love that. Just keep that going.”

The melody starts to fall from its high point, easing back into its slow and smooth tone. Badalamenti’s eyes are briefly closed, as he brings it down, and down, and down into the lowest depths. The theme retreats back into the dark woods, the main setting for Laura’s poignant theme. From Lynch’s vision, Laura has left the frame of the camera, wandering off somewhere, anywhere.

“That’s it. Just keep it going. Very quiet and mysterious.”

Badalamenti continues his touching and haunting piece, regaining the calmness that lies within a part of those woods. He fades it out with a final chord, and smiles towards the camera. That’s how a masterful theme was born, and Lynch reassures his composer that it’s so ideal he shouldn’t change a single note. In its entirety, the soundtrack of Twin Peaks is a sensational work of art. The dreaminess of the main theme down to the ‘50s mystique of “The Bookhouse Boys” leaves the listener in a state of surrealism. The soundtrack is very much an experience; listening to it at high volume with headphones and closed eyes, the peculiar and lovely town of Twin Peaks can easily be reconstructed in the mind’s eye. It’s safe to say that without Badalamenti’s unique musical style, David Lynch and Mark Frost’s dream world would have never sent waves to the public at such a high magnitude.

“When David and Angelo Badalamenti laid down the score they split the bulls-eye, a soundtrack so pitch-perfect to our world that it’s recognizable today after a single note” — Mark Frost.

Angelo Badalamenti went on to re-issue his famed soundtrack — including Fire Walk With Me — onto platforms such as (damn fine) vinyl. The packaging is beautiful like its sound, and fans couldn’t have wished for something better.