‘Music that would tear the hearts out of people’: Twin Peaks composer Angelo Badalamenti dies aged 85

‘Music that would tear the hearts out of people’: Twin Peaks composer Angelo Badalamenti dies aged 85

Angelo Badalamenti, the composer best known for composing the score for the TV series Twin Peaks, has died aged 85.

He died of natural causes on Sunday (11 December), his family said in a statement.

As well as his work on Twin Peaks, Badalamenti composed a number of scores for other David Lynch films, including Blue Velvet (1986) and Mulholland Drive (2001).

He made cameos in both films, starring as the coffee-loving gangster Luigi Castigliane in Mulholland Drive, and playing piano with Isabella Rossellini in Blue Velvet.

In his lifetime, the Brooklyn-born composer worked with musicians such as Nina Simone, David Bowie, Paul McCartney, Shirley Bassey, Marianne Faithfull, Liza Minnelli, Pet Shop Boys and LL Cool J.

As a child, Badalamenti grew up listening to Italian opera with his family. He began piano lessons at eight years old and went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Manhattan School of Music.

His big break came in 1986 when he was asked to help Isabella Rossellini sing “Blue Velvet” for Lynch’s iconic film.

“They were shooting down in North Carolina, and so they flew me down to meet with Isabella and to see what I could do. When I got there, we went into a little room with just Isabella and me and a piano. I worked with her for two or three hours straight until we got a good take on a small recorder,” Badalamenti recalled in an interview with Culture.org.

 (Park Circus/StudioCanal)
(Park Circus/StudioCanal)

He also wrote the song “Mysteries of Love” and found the late Julee Cruise to sing it. This began a long collaboration between the trio that would extend to Lynch’s seminal series Twin Peaks.

“David felt that the music of Twin Peaks would have to cover a lot of ground, a wide range of moods: sadness, passion, ecstasy, love, tenderness, and violence. He wanted the music to be dark and abstract,” said Badalamenti. “He asked me for music that would tear the hearts out of people.”

Badalamenti previously worked with other directors including Jane Campion, Danny Boyle, Paul Schrader, and Walter Salles.

Lenny Von Dohlen in ‘Twin Peaks' (ABC)
Lenny Von Dohlen in ‘Twin Peaks' (ABC)

“He’s got this musical soul, and melodies are always floating around inside,” Lynch said of Badalamenti in a 1990 interview with People Magazine. “I feel the mood of a scene in the music, and one thing helps the other, and they both just start climbing.”

Speaking about his work with directors, Badalamenti said he always begins collaborations asking the same thing.

“I always have one major question for a director when I compose a soundtrack: what do you want your audience to feel? Do you want to scare the s*** out of them? Squirm in their seat? Feel beautiful?” he said in an interview.

“And how they answer that question gives me cues to work on. I translate their words into music.”

Additional reporting by PA