Twin Peaks The Return

The Secrets Behind the Music of “Twin Peaks: The Return”

14 de setembro, 2017 0 Por Artes & contextos
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(This piece contains light spoilers about the music in the penultimate episode of “ Twin Peaks The Return ”)

A crimson fog slowly fills the bar. David Lynch is chain-smoking behind his monitoring screens, a bright red megaphone in hand. A galloping beat jumps out of the speakers, alongside blasts of saxophone and scuffed-up guitar. The band onstage, Trouble, was formed especially for “Twin Peaks: The Return,” the sequel to the wonderfully strange early 1990s TV series. The group consists of music and sound supervisor Dean Hurley, Lynch-indebted experimentalist Alex Zhang Hungtai of Dirty Beaches, and Lynch’s own 25-year-old son, Riley. Even with the family connection, though, Trouble had to prove themselves—according to Hurley, when Riley pitched his dad on creating a song to play on the series, Lynch responded, “Well, it better be fucking great. I’m not just going to put anything in there!”

A few vamping minutes later, the group’s song comes to a close. The director approves. “Good deal, buddy!” Lynch says. At that, Riley unstraps his guitar, clips on his walkie talkie, and gets back to his job as production assistant as the crew resets the show’s legendary Roadhouse stage for another band.

The Secrets Behind the Music of “Twin Peaks: The Return” Artes & contextos trouble790

Trouble, featuring David Lynch’s son, Riley, during their Roadhouse performance in “Twin Peaks: The Return.”

Trouble were one of many acts who played the fictional bar during one long production day that also saw handpicked artists including Nine Inch NailsSharon Van Etten, and Eddie Vedder take their turn to be directed by Lynch while pretending to play their own music. Early on in the series’ run, these Roadhouse scenes could seem incongruous, like clunky appendages often added to the end of every episode. Yet their role began to reveal itself as the show evolved: The scenes, and the music within them, are used as a guide back toward something resembling reality, a reassuring embrace of the familiar following the rest of the show’s deeply disturbing and bizarre images. In “The Return,” once you’re in the Roadhouse, you know you’re safe—relatively speaking, at least.

Even though the show’s music has been largely defined by those star-studded Roadhouse performances, they were never part of the original plan. “It wasn’t in the script,” Hurley tells me, adding that the scenes were constructed to allow editorial fluidity—to act as a punctuation tool—because Lynch imagined “The Return” not as a TV show but rather an 18-hour film broken down and shown in parts.

“The script was like a phonebook, it took me two whole days to read it,” continues Hurley, who was one of the very few people to see a layout of the entire production up-front. “It had a very different tone to the original series, and as I was reading it, none of the original music really entered my mind—it was clear something darker would be required.”

As composed by Angelo Badalamenti, the role of music in the original “Twin Peaks” remains as crucial to the program as any character or plot line. Its moody, melodramatic presence was embedded into the show’s most fundamental DNA, running through the town’s core with the same tangible presence as its gushing waterfall or buzzing sawmill.

Music remains a big factor in much of the new series, but its form has altered. Badalamenti remains the show’s primary composer—his original theme still plays over the opening credits and he contributed several original and previously unreleased compositions to the series—but overall the music has become much more disparate. The new series features a mix of industrial sound design akin to what Lynch employed on his 1977 feature debut Eraserhead—thuds, whirs, malevolent drones, static hums, looming tones of dread—with a more traditional soundtrack featuring those Roadhouse tracks along with older songs from artists such as ZZ Top, jazz great Dave Brubeck, and, for that instantly classic dawn-of-the-atomic-era sequence, Polish modern classical composer Krzysztof Penderecki.

Lynch mentioned including some songs in the new script, including the Platters’ “My Prayer” and the Paris Sisters’ “I Love How You Love Me,” but the director’s gut instinct pointed him toward the man who made the sound of the original series so iconic. So Badalamenti was sought out to create the tone of “The Return” before the revolving door of Roadhouse bands came to augment it.

Two “Twin Peaks: The Return” albums—one highlighting Angelo Badalamenti’s score and the other collecting the songs featured in the series—are out this week.

Two “Twin Peaks: The Return” albums—one highlighting Angelo Badalamenti’s score and the other collecting the songs featured in the series—are out this week.

The new series had been gestating in Lynch’s mind for a while, and Badalamenti was one of the first to be told about it some five years ago, before shooting began. “I said, ‘What? Are you kidding me? Absolutely,’” the 80-year-old Badalamenti remembers. From there, with Lynch in L.A. and Badalamenti in New Jersey, the pair linked up their respective studios through a high fidelity video connection for more than 15 hours worth of sessions. As per their long-standing working arrangement, Badalamenti would improvise based not on filmed footage but rather gnomic descriptions and words that Lynch gave him—such as “Russian beauty” or, simply, “Texas”—until the music complemented whatever was running through the director’s mind. “I closed my eyes, put my fingers on the keyboard, and started to play,” says Badalamenti.

One piece that came out of these sessions ended up being placed over a harrowing scene involving a child being hit by a car. The piece gradually rises and sharpens to meet the crash before quietly retreating into a mournful hymn. It was a moment of synergy between Badalamenti and Lynch, without a scene in sight. Badalamenti did it in one take.

As the engineer hearing the end product of many of these sessions, Hurley was in pure fan mode. “That magic isn’t something I experience on a daily basis,” he recalls. “The session was just littered with these incredible passages, and once the last note would sustain and then diminish to silence, you would just hear David say, ‘fuckingbeautiful!’ I don’t know how Angelo did it—there’s nobody else on the planet that can do this stuff.”

Aside from being the favored method when working with Lynch, spontaneity was required for Badalamenti because, like many, he was almost completely in the dark when it came to the details of the show. The composer remembers his main creative directive from Lynch: “I’ll need music from you, and it’s got to tear the hearts out of people.”

Another key piece of music was originally created in a previous session, when Lynch and Badalamenti were in the process of working on a Broadway musical about the life of inventor Nikola Tesla. Dubbed “The Chair,” the composition ended up being used in two scenes in “The Return,” one of which starred actress Catherine Coulson’s beloved Log Lady character. It was a lasting moment for Badalamenti. “That is a tragically emotional scene, because Catherine was talking about dying and about two months later she passed away,” he says. “She knew she was going to die pretty soon, and it was like, My god almighty, how could she do that scene as she did?”

For the elegiac “Heartbreaking,” Badalamenti was forced to break out of his usual working formula with Lynch. The piece came about when the director was deep into an edit and needed something for a scene that was shot in an Italian restaurant. Over voicemail, Lynch asked Badalamenti to conjure music “warm with nostalgia” and reminiscent of the Italian composer Giacomo Puccini before signing off, half-jokingly, “I hope you can do that this afternoon and send it up to me tonight.”

Badalamenti got to work, coming up with a passage where the piano feels tight and crisp—it’s almost antithetical to the woozy tones of his original “Twin Peaks” music but still touches on an inherent melancholy. After he sent it over, Lynch responded, once again via voicemail: “Angelo, it’s David. The sync is so incredible, you’re gonna love it, it’s so powerful. I started crying the third time I saw it. Tears shot out of my eyes. So beautiful. Angelo, way to go. Bye.”

The Secrets Behind the Music of “Twin Peaks: The Return” Artes & contextos angelolynch

David Lynch, “Twin Peaks” chanteuse Julee Cruise, and composer Angelo Badalamenti in 1989, a few months before the original series’ pilot first aired. Photo by Michel Delsol/Getty Images.

Along with Badalamenti’s solo work, the show’s soundtrack features the composer’s collaborative side project with Lynch, Thought Gang, which was created for the 1992 film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.Lynch, who is credited as the new series’ sound designer, also worked on original musical pieces with Dean Hurley, while dream-pop auteur Johnny Jewel contributed both instrumentals and songs to the show.

Despite being more involved than most in the musical process, Jewel too was working in the dark. “No storyline, no script, nothing,” he tells me. “I didn’t want to know anything either. I’m very secretive about how I work so I can completely sympathize with someone who wants to just capture people on a really instinctual level, without a preconceived notion.” In this spirit, he chose to not re-watch any of the original “Twin Peaks” before working on his own compositions for the new series. “Everything was based on emotional memory,” he says.

Of all the Roadhouse acts, Jewel’s band Chromatics get the most screen time, including performances in the opening and penultimate episodes. In that second-to-last part, Jewel and his bandmates back the defining musical voice of “Twin Peaks,” Julee Cruise, on the Badalamenti/Lynch song “The World Spins,” which she also sang in the original series. “I was really manic about doing it because the song is six minutes long and it’s non-linear—it’s a very, very odd piece of music,” says Jewel. “For about a week and a half, it was the only song we listened to—we would play it six to eight hours a day, over and over.” He even played the original Rhodes piano from 1973 that Badalamenti used for the original series on set.

Jewel and his bandmates were so keen for Cruise to be the focus when filming that they consciously tried to fade into the background. “I didn’t want there to be any distraction on stage,” he says. “The old Roadhouse bands were these rockabilly greaser types, all in black, so I had the band wear black. We were aiming to be shadows.”

Though Lynch generally let the various Roadhouse bands simply do their thing, according to Jewel, the director did whisper something to Cruise that changed their scene dramatically. “The first take felt very logical, but then after David spoke to her, the second take was insane. The feeling on stage was so incredible. The difference was night and day.” The performance with Cruise proved to be an overpowering one for Jewel. “I held it together at the Roadhouse, but when we left I completely lost it and was sobbing uncontrollably for hours,” he says.

Singer Julee Cruise and Chromatics onstage at the Roadhouse in “Twin Peaks: The Return.”

Singer Julee Cruise and Chromatics onstage at the Roadhouse in “Twin Peaks: The Return.”

Many that were invited to the Roadhouse share similar feelings of intensity on set. Heather D’Angelo of the synth-pop group Au Revoir Simone found the environment to be otherworldly. “It was literally like stepping into someone else’s dream,” she says.

For Rebekah Del Rio, who sang the Spanish version of Roy Orbison’s “Crying” in an unforgettable scene in Lynch’s 2001 film Mulholland Drive, returning to the director’s realm was especially poignant. After undergoing brain surgery to remove a tumor in 2012, she thought she may never perform again; the ordeal forced her relearn how to sing from scratch.“When I got to the Roadhouse, I was once again transported into that world,” she says.

One of the oddest Roadhouse scenes—in which a woman crawls and screams on her hands and knees through the crowd—was soundtrack by doomy London band the Veils. According to the group’s frontman, Finn Andrews, though, lending sound to strangeness has become something of a specialty, as other bold auteurs like Tim Burton and Paolo Sorrentino have also placed the band’s music in their work. “We seem to sound good paired with generally pretty unwholesome imagery,” he says. “If there’s ever a scene with someone having sex with an amputee, or a horse is dying, or there’s a slow-motion hanging, we get the call.”

Faced with daunting expectations, “The Return” has truly shattered  them, with Lynch once again expanding what is considered possible for a television show. All along, the music has enriched such feelings, capturing and presenting many moments of perplexity, violence, and enthrallment. It may seem too early to be thinking about the future of “Twin Peaks” right now, but if Lynch does ask Badalamenti to once again return to the universe of owls and cherry pie and cursed doppelgangers, the composer already knows what he’ll say: “Are you kidding me? Absolutely.”

O artigo: The Secrets Behind the Music of “Twin Peaks: The Return”, foi publicado @Pitchfork
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