33⅓ Soundtrack From Twin Peaks by Clare Nina Norelli – Review
By Sarah Morgan
Soundtracks should enhance a project rather than detract from it. What would Lawrence of Arabia be without its amazing theme, or Star Wars without John Williams’ knee-trembling score?
Sadly these days there seems to be a trend for composers to overstate matters, providing stirring strings and horn sections that tell the audience how to feel, rather than letting the story do it for them.
Many of these works tend to be almost carbon copies of others, and where you could once pick out a John Barry from a John Williams, everything has begun to sound the same.
That will never, however, be said of Angelo Badalamenti, the teacher-turned-songwriter-turned TV and film composer who became synonymous with director David Lynch from 1986’s Blue Velvet to Mulholland Drive in 2001. Quirky does not do him justice; he is a true original, capable of entertaining audiences in any number of ways while never distracting them from the tale unfolding on screen.
Sound has always been important to Lynch, whether via music or effects, so he found a kindred spirit in Badalamenti, their partnership arguably reaching its zenith with the Twin Peaks TV series in the early 1990s.
“I viewed the show for the fifth time recently, and even I struggle at some points”
Clare Nina Norelli’s book about his work on the project is exhaustive – or exhausting, depending on your viewpoint. Parts of it are fascinating, particularly the opening section which details Badalamenti’s early life, as well as his working practices, both with and without Lynch. Sadly there isn’t enough of that – instead, there are technical details that even if, like me, you have a rudimentary understanding of musical notation, will be baffling to say the least.
Some passages need to be read two or three times before some kind of understanding sinks in. Unless you happen to have watched Twin Peaks recently, chances are you will struggle to remember exactly which pieces Norelli is talking about. A huge fan, I viewed the show for the fifth time recently, and even I struggle at some points.
Perhaps I’m being unfair in my expectations – what I wanted was more of a ‘making of’ book rather than a breakdown of its compositions. There will be an audience for this work somewhere, but it will be niche to say the least. ‘Peaks’ fans are unlikely to feel as if they’re learning anything useful from it.
What’s more, you can bet an updated version will be available soon – the much-longed-for third season begins on May 21st (a nice birthday present for yours truly), and Badalamenti has returned to the fray. No doubt he will have produced something extraordinary – but I’d rather listen to it than read about it.