The Music of Twin Peaks

In keeping with my ethos of not really getting into things until they’ve been around for 20-odd years, I’ve been working my way through the DVD boxset of Twin Peaks this week. There’s under 30 episodes of the whole thing and it’s a lot less “weird” than people make it out to be. Having watched only a couple of David Lynch films I was expecting a less linear plot and more cinematographic indulgence but I guess this was broadcast on primetime TV after all.

If there was any part of it that was slightly odd it would have to be the music. Three pieces feature quite prominently so far – the theme song itself, Laura Palmer’s Theme and Audrey’s Dance.

All three were composed by long-time David Lynch collaborator Angelo Badalamenti and have a very strange, ethereal quality to them. The theme itself manages to somehow be iconic from the very first time you hear it and the images that cycle across the screen become inextricably linked to the song – the sawmill blade being sharpened, the waterfall and that bird (apparently a Bewick’s Wren).

I’m not sure how Badalamenti manages it but a lot of the instrumentation has a kind of oppressive quality to it, as if you can’t ignore the music and let it fade into the background. I don’t know if this has to do with how it was recorded or how it was composed or simply that it’s quite loud on the DVD. It is is really dense. If you listen to other ambient music a lot of it isn’t that ‘thick’, as if  Badalamenti piled up the low-end bass or something to give it a lot of beef.

Another aspect which might contribute to the unsettling sound is the pretty cheesy synth sound. This isn’t a criticism, it just gives it a daytime Dallas-style feel to it, like a synthetic, this-isn’t-really-happening-or-is-it feel, which actually just makes the whole show just that bit more B-movie-esque and surreal. It works very well!

Whatever the reason, it’s an integral part of the series.

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