What Kind of Fantastic Music Have You Got Playing Around Here?

Photo credit: Carlin Ma

The Music of Twin Peaks and Angelo Badalamenti - Seattle Symphony

Benaroya Hall, Seattle

That was, excuse me, one damn fine event at Benaroya Hall. I would have been satisfied with the evening's host, Kyle MacLachlan (Agent Cooper in the flesh), just introducing the various compositions of Angelo Badalamenti and then leaving it to the Seattle Symphony to do their musical magic. What actually unfolded was something far greater and more sincere than any expectations I would have ventured to have.

As programming seemingly designed to attract the attention of a younger audience to The Seattle Symphony, this was anything but phoned-in. This was respect. This was love. This must be where Badalamenti compositions go when they die. Threading a needle through the many ham-handed and forced options, MacLachlan and whoever wrote the evening's script worked with deft skill to make it all genuine and land like an inside joke between friends. Somebody put some real effort into curating the excellently selected quotes from Twin Peaks and David Lynch himself, as well as several well-placed winks to favorite quotes from the series. MacLachlan radiated with the joy of being present, embracing his opportunity to celebrate the man who scored some of his most iconic performances.

I learned last Wednesday night that Angelo Badalamenti happened upon David Lynch's cinematic world as a voice coach for Isabella Rossellini on Blue Velvet. From there, he would become the arthouse director's most indelible composer. The challenge for a composer to fulfill the needs of the piece they're servicing while leaving their own unique mark of expression has a paradoxical quality, but Badalamenti makes it feel effortless. He also has a smooth ability to subtly embed quotes from other themes into different compositions. In the Twin Peaks soundtrack, this has the subconscious effect of tying everything together musically and is a masterfully executed trick. Transposing feelings as described directly by Lynch during intimate sittings at a keyboard, Badalamenti had an uncanny ability to fluently speak Lynch's innermost emotions. 

Angelo Badalamenti explains how he wrote Laura Palmer's Theme (youtube.com)

Now to address the love & respect I mentioned earlier: The Seattle Symphony and conductor Sarah Hicks offer a passionate embrace of both in their handling of Badalamenti's scores. Cradling the simplistic beauty of his loving sustains and the uncanny tones of his ominous warnings, the musicians of The Emerald City haven't failed my ears yet. There is no better sound system than hearing these vibrations live. These audible feelings wash over you in pulsating waves, rattling around in your soul and enticing your mind to wander beyond the familiar places... It's a powerful drug. A good drug, and The Seattle Symphony deals it out generously.

Among the solo performances, Sarah Tweet stood out with her impassioned rendering of "The Nightingale from Twin Peaks," capturing the haunting beauty of this lonely crooner. Badalamenti's ability to invoke an idealist, 50s-like mood with a contrasting dark underbelly makes it even more natural that he would become Lynch's music man. Lynch was lucky to have found him, and we are all very fortunate to be moved by the results. 

When I wrote my last review, I had only been to more traditional events with The Seattle Symphony and had yet to experience their more creative programming. When I suggested aging fans of Rock might like to try their ears on the sounds of Benaroya Hall, I was unaware of the unoriginal nature of my revelation. This Twin Peaks event makes it clear that the idea is beyond conception on Puget Sound; it is manifest, and with heartfelt and well-thought-out performances such as these, one would have to assume a certain lack of imagination not to answer the call. It's just so enticing.

Near the beginning of the evening, MacLachlan went off script, hinting that he hoped this would become the start of an annual event. I am strongly inclined to agree. If you didn't catch it this past time, don't miss it if the opportunity presents itself again.

Add new comment