Composer. Nationality: American. Born: Brooklyn, New York, 22 March 1937; son of an Italian fish market owner. Education: Eastman School of Music. B.A.; Manhattan School of Music, M.A. 1960. Family: Married Lonny, 1968; two children: daughter Danielle and son Andre. Career: Accompanist to singers in the Catskills as a teen; taught at a Brooklyn junior high school before developing career as songwriter in the 1970s; hired for Blue Velvet as vocal coach for Isabella Rossellini but retained as composer, 1986; has scored all of David Lynch's films, TV productions, and other video material; composer for TV series Inside the Actors Studio (as Angelo
Gordon's War (Davis) (as Andy Badale)
Law and Disorder (Passer) (as Andy Badale)
Blue Velvet (Lynch)
Weeds (Hancock); Tough Guys Don't Dance (Mailer); Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (Russell)
Wait Until Spring, Bandini (Deruddere); Parents (Balaban); Cousins (Schumacher); National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (Chechik)
Industrial Symphony No. 1: The Dream of the Broken Hearted (video) (Lynch); The Comfort of Strangers (Shrader); Twin Peaks (Lynch—for TV, pilot, and series); Wild at Heart (Lynch)
On the Air (Lynch—for TV); Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (Lynch)
Hotel Room (Lynch—for TV)
Naked in New York (Algrant); Witch Hunt (Shrader—for TV)
La Cité des enfants perdus ( City of Lost Children ) (Caro and Jeunet)
Lost Highway (Lynch); The Blood Oranges (Haas)
Story of a Bad Boy (Donaghy); Arlington Road (Pellington); Holy Smoke (Campion); Forever Mine (Shrader); The Straight Story (Lynch)
Mulholland Drive (Lynch—for TV); The Beach (Boyle)
Across the Great Divide (Raffill) (lyricist)
Invasion of Privacy (Hickox) (music theme)
Floating into the Night (songs for voice and piano, words by David Lynch), Port Chester, New York, 1991.
"Angelo Badalamenti in Prague: 'I am the jazzman,"' interview in Kinorevue (Prague), October 1996.
Abrahams, Andrew, "His Haunting Mood Music," in People (New York), 9 September 1990.
Woodard, Josef, "Sonata for Cello and Cherry Pie," in American Film , 15 December 1990.
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Only a few composers for films have the distinction of being deeply identified with a string of major works by a famed director, so that one can hardly think of the films without hearing the soundtrack: among the foremost pairings are Bernard Herrmann with Alfred Hitchcock and Nino Rota with Federico Fellini. Few, perhaps, would place David Lynch in the august company of Hitchcock and Fellini, but certainly many of the haunting moments of the American director's work have been accompanied by the music of Angelo Badalamenti, who since 1986's Blue Velvet has scored all of Lynch's films, TV work, and experimental videos. The composer has worked on other films, composed themes for TV shows, and collaborated on CDs with various singing artists, but his work with Lynch, notably Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks and The Straight Story , has been his most celebrated.
Blue Velvet 's opening title music is relatively conventional, symphonic in style, appropriate enough for a moody, noirish film. Later, at suspenseful moments, as when Jeffrey is sneaking into Dorothy's apartment, the scoring is more sparse, and kept to the background, so that the low strings become indistinguishable from moaning sounds that might be wind blowing through a stairwell. In the first scene at the Slow Club, Badalamenti himself shows up as a pianist, with sax and bass, to accompany Dorothy (Isabella Rossellini) in a very slow version of "Blue Velvet." But the composer truly comes into his own in the night scene between Jeffrey and Sandy in front of the church. The somber organ music appears to be coming from behind the stained glass windows glowing in the darkness, but as Sandy tells about her dream of robins and love, the music reaches a peak of hyper-sweet piety that seems a sly mockery of her speech. Later, when the young friends/crime-solvers kiss, the same music is played by strings, and later yet, at a dance and then as the couple converse by phone in a scene that could be captioned "Teen Heartbreak," we hear a vocal version ("Mysteries of Love," sung by Julee Cruise, with lyrics by Lynch). In the film's ineffably weird epilogue, we hear the song again while the loving family watches the (mechanical) robin with its bug: at this point we have reached the classic moment of the Lynch/Badalamenti fusion.
If one may speak of a fully mature Badalamenti style, one can find it in his score for Twin Peaks , the TV series whose pilot film, directed by Lynch, was shown as a feature film in Europe and on video in the United States. The title track, like some spaced-out accompaniment to an unheard Country/Western song, seems on an endless loop with its repeated arpeggios and twangy steel-guitar-like notes. Later in the pilot film we do hear it backing a vocal line (though not remotely Country) sung by Julee Cruise, again with lyrics by Lynch—indeed, we see it performed, as the world's most improbable dance music for a biker roadhouse. A second important musical segment for Twin Peaks is the somber progression of notes, spare and tragic, first heard when the body of Laura Palmer is found; this segment often features a second part, when a piano enters and builds to a kind of soap-operatic pop climax, just short of parody—or well across the border—and thus perfect for various hyper-emotional scenes (the sheriff announcing Laura's death, or the love scene between the heartbroken teens James and Donna). A third category of Twin Peaks music is the sort that opens with finger-snapping in a '50s jazzy way, as if the Sharks and Jets of West Side Story are about to rumble. Various styles spin off from these openings: twangy guitar sounds for scenes with the hoodlum Bobby; a sax solo, suitable for a movie detective, used to introduce Agent Cooper; and other cool "bad-girl" music for the trampy Audrey. Like Twin Peaks itself, Badalamenti's music is vaguely "period" (1950s) yet contemporary, always either on the brink of parody or inhabiting some alternative universe beyond parody—in short, perfectly postmodern.
Badalamenti's music for the generally disliked feature-film prequel, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me , is not just a reprise of his material for the series but new and more elaborately jazzy. His music for other Lynch films has varied in its importance: for example, though he contributed some New-Orleans-style accompaniments for Wild at Heart , the soundtrack for that film is memorable more for Chris' Isaak's eerie "Wicked Game" and the glorious orchestral outburst that opens the last of Richard Strauss' Four Last Songs. In some non-Lynch films too, notably The Beach , his original scoring is secondary to pop-group selections.
Badalamenti's contribution to films other than Lynch's has been quite varied in style. Joel Schumacher's Cousins uses very little soundtrack music in its first hour, except for some discreet flute-and-guitar and solo flute accompaniment to early scenes between the notyet-lovers of the title. But there is also a little waltz on piano that gets orchestrated when the cousins run to each other on the train platform, and becomes a lovely if conventional "big theme" as the two become lovers and again when they marry at the end. For Paul Shrader's tale of murderous games in Venice, The Comfort of Strangers , Badalamenti comes up with a rather rich and dark Italianate tune, though with unusual 6-bar phrases, for the title music; but for various scenes of roaming about the haunted city he uses music of more Middle Eastern flavor, whether for solo flute, guitar, or strings with exotic percussion, as if the ghost of Othello were somewhere nearby. For City of Lost Children one might have expected music of a mocking grotesquerie to match the somewhat Terry-Gilliam-esque visuals, but although there are certainly eerie moments, and a waltz for a hurdy-gurdy that recalls the more deranged sort of French grand organ music, Badalamenti's largely string score is more often alternately somber and tender.
Badalamenti's most memorable score of recent years is probably his contribution to Lynch's The Straight Story. Here the flavors are more distinctively American than usual, suitably enough for a genial and touching tale of an elderly man who travels from Iowa to Wisconsin by lawnmower to visit his ailing brother. But the score never attempts to be imitation Copland or folk music. The title music, mostly strings and piano, rises in intensity through long, irregular phrases, but holds back from the heart-on-sleeve sentimentality of the "Laura Palmer" theme. For the leisurely "road music" the composer features a solo fiddle, suggesting a very much slowed-down bluegrass or square dance style. Most strikingly of all, a melody for solo guitar is used to accompany scenes about parting, or love, or both. We first hear it as Alvin's daughter looks at a child playing near a sprinkler, while (we later learn) she thinks about her own children who were taken away from her. It will be used several times again, accumulating meaning, as when Alvin says goodbye to one of his most important helpers along the way, and most powerfully at the end, when Alvin reaches his long-estranged brother. Here, as is the case with many of the greatest film scores, the music tells us things the characters cannot possibly articulate.