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Arts and Entertainment

Angelo Badalamenti On The 'Tragic Beauty' Of His Best David Lynch Work

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Tomorrow night at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel, The David Lynch Foundation celebrates its 10th anniversary with a huge group of musicians—Duran Duran, Donovan, Moby, Karen O and Sky Ferreira to name only a handful—who are collaborating to explore the music of David Lynch. Drawing from Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet and other Lynch projects, the concert promises a rare chance to experience the iconic themes as never interpreted before, plus new music inspired by Lynch. Twin Peaks fans will also be excited to know that Julee Cruise, the singer who crooned at the Roadhouse with an eerie obliviousness to its rowdy nature, is on the bill. The most exciting name on the bill, however, might be Angelo Badalamenti.

Composer Angelo Badalamenti is the genius behind most of the music that painted the otherworldly atmospheres of Lynch's work. Using a combination of beauty and dissonance, Badalamenti shaped the feel of Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive and Lost Highway, as well as film and TV outside the Lynchiverse including The Beach and Inside the Actor's Studio. Badalamenti responded to our questions about his collaborations with Lynch and Wednesday night's show (though sadly, he didn't tell us whether he's doing the music for the upcoming episodes of Twin Peaks slated to air on Showtime in 2016).

LAist: The music in Lynch's films is almost like its own character. I firmly believe Twin Peaks would be a totally different show without the music. What do you think it is about it that captivates people so much? What makes it so distinctive?  
Badalamenti: Twin Peaks was very strange and new at the time. The premise of the show drew people in—that shocking first episode with Laura Palmer wrapped in plastic. And from there, David and Mark Frost were able to create an entire fascinating world with a large cast of characters, endless storylines and tangents. The show had mystery and complexity that was perfectly serialized; and it was outrageously funny at the same time. The music must have helped a bit, too, I'm sure. And so it sort of became a part of the popular culture. 
LAist: What pieces of music in particular are your personal favorites from the work you did with Lynch, and why? 
Badalamenti: "Laura Palmer's Theme" is really Twin Peaks in a nutshell, in my opinion. It's the piece I most identify with the show because it relates to Laura, the central character and it has a tragic beauty.

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LAist: I watched that video about composing "Laura Palmer's Theme," where you talk about Lynch sitting next to you on the piano bench and describing what he sees as you play. Were many of your other collaborations similar? Do you use the same visualization method when you compose on your own? 
 Badalamenti: Our first time working together was on Blue Velvet, and for that film, we worked in a more traditional way—between director and composer. But since then, we have adopted a method where David speaks and I play his words at the keyboard. He leads me in the right direction. And oftentimes, there's a serendipity in that approach. It works for us. 
When I compose on my own, sure, I can come at it from a few different directions. Whether it's pencil and paper, or improvising at the piano and then later revising. But with David I find inspiration. And the two of us together are better for it.
LAist: Are there specific artists on the 'Music of David Lynch' bill that you are particularly excited to collaborate with or hear interpret your music? 
Badalamenti: The roster of artists is simply outstanding. I am excited to hear them all: Jim James, Moby, Duran Duran, Karen O, Sky Ferreira, Lykke Li. I'm sure I am forgetting someone… 

LAist: Do you still work with Julee Cruise often?
Badalamenti: We haven't worked together recently and I miss that sound. Julee's voice is the perfect match for the music David and I created together for Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks. She sings like an angel—with a pure, ethereal tone. There's nobody like Julee.

LAist: What can guests expect from the show on April 1? I know there will probably be a lot of focus on Twin Peaks, but I'm actually a huge fan of your score for Lost Highway as well. 
Badalamenti: Our first rehearsal is today, and I am very excited to collaborate with Rob Mathes who is leading the house band. For my part, some music from Twin Peaks and one other David Lynch project. I don't want to give it all away for the audience.

The Music of David Lynch. Wednesday, April 1, doors at 7 p.m. The Theatre at the Ace Hotel. 929 S Broadway, downtown Los Angeles. Ticket prices vary. Order here. A portion of the proceeds will go to the David Lynch Foundation, which works to use Transcendental Meditation to help others.

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