Angelo Badalamenti

09 Feb 2005 14:17 #48 by brantley
Angelo Badalamenti was created by brantley
The film composer (but he's also collaborated on song albums with Tim Booth and Marianne Faithfull as well as Julee Cruise). I'm working on an essay about him now:

Mysteries of Angelo Badalamenti

It's driving me crazy.
It’s kind of a cross between electronica and film noir jazz. A friend says it sounds like it could go with a remake of The Maltese Falcon, set on another planet.
"Black Flowers" is a bonus track on Ultra Noir, a CD of themes from a number of noir films -- Laura, Farewell My Lovely, Blood Simple and more than a dozen others.
"Black Flowers" is by Angelo Badalamenti, already represented by a love theme from Mulholland Drive. But this piece isn't from a movie, past or future. I don't know where it came from, but I know that it haunts me.
Yet "Black Flowers," with its eerie mix of synthesizer, deep steel guitar and brush drums, isn't the only thing that haunts me about this composer, not the only thing that mystifies me. Angelo Badalamenti is at once ubiquitous and elusive.
A Google search brings up more than 82,000 references to his name, and yet he doesn't have a single entry in encyclopedias of popular music -- and hardly any Who's Who listings. There are web sites devoted to him, and yet they recycle pretty much the same information -- mainly familiar details of his collaboration with David Lynch.
It was only with "Mysteries of Love" and his incidental music for Lynch's 1986 Blue Velvet that Badalamenti first came to industry notice, and only with his music for Twin Peaks four years later that he gained some measure of popular success. If we didn't know better, we might think that he had been a young composer at the time, like Jon Brion when he produced his precocious orchestral score for Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia.
But in fact, Angelo Badalamenti was nearly 49 when he began working with Lynch. He had been a professional composer for more than 20 years, with dozens of songs and two movies to his credit. His pre-Lynch music is hard to find now, and while he worked in a number of genres -- light pop, country, soul, even electronica -- none of it seems anything like his post-Lynch work.
"My (musical) world is a little bit dark. . . a little bit off-center," he said after Twin Peaks had put him on the musical map even more than Blue Velvet. "I think of it as tragically beautiful. That is how I would describe what I love best: tragically beautiful."
But that was after Lynch, not before. It's as if Badalamenti had been born again in 1986. It was then that he began using his real name, having been credited as "Andy Badale" in his previous work. Yet how could such a profound transformation have taken place? How could Andy Badale -- former Borscht Belt piano player, former music teacher, former Tin Pan Alley composer -- have become the emotionally intense artist we know today?
"Working with David has changed me in a number of ways," he told Daniel Schweiger in an interview for Venice magazine later reprinted in Film Score Monthly. "The first, and most important is that David loves beautiful melodies. And that passion gave me the confidence not to hold back as a composer. I reached for long, dark and bittersweet melodic lines."
That's as close as Badalamenti himself has come to explaining it. As for what came before that, he has given sketchy accounts in capsule biographies and in interviews. The rest has to be filled in from other sources, some as lively as the memoirs of electronic music pioneer Jean Jacques Perrey, others as dull as copyright registrations.
Even today, an overview of his work is hard to come by, and the range and quality of his music remains underappreciated. People tend to think of him as David Lynch's house composer, and yet he has three scores each for Paul Schrader and John Hancock to his credit, and done remarkable work for auteurs as idiosyncratic as Jane Campion and Jean Paul Jeunet. And that doesn't count his collaborations with singers as varied as Tim Booth and Marianne Faithfull.
"Few know Angelo Badalamenti by name. Probably even fewer by face," Eunnie Park wrote in the Dec. 5, 2004 Bergen Record, for which she interviewed him on the occasion of the U.S. release of Jeunet's A Very Long Engagement. "But millions know him by sound."
If Badalamenti still isn't a household name, it must be largely because -- unlike John Williams or Howard Shore -- he hasn't done any work for blockbuster movies like the Stars Wars and The Lord of the Rings series. But just as important is the fact that his work is so eclectic.
One John Williams score is pretty much like any other John Williams score -- although there are exceptions, as witness Catch Me If You Can. Badalamenti's scores are so far ranging that casual listeners might not realize that the same man produced the music for Twin Peaks, The City of Lost Children, Holy Smoke, The Beach, Secretary and A Very Long Engagement.

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