Angelo Badalamenti (1937-2022) | Tributes

Badalamenti’s scores for two short-lived Lynch projects deserve equal attention, the 1992 sitcom about TV industry madness, “On the Air,” and the 1993 HBO series, “Hotel Room,” a striking precursor to “Room 104”. “, whose best episode features the young Alicia Witt, who delivers a tour de force against Crispin Glover. Badalamenti collaborated with Lynch on many other projects, such as the deeply chilling 1997 psychological portrait, “Lost Highway,” and the nightmarish 2002 web series, “Rabbits,” which was ultimately woven into the fabric of the epic. Lynch’s abstract in 2006, “INLAND EMPIRE”. In 1999, Badalamenti composed the music for Lynch’s “Mulholland Dr.”, a failed television pilot that the director turned into a movie two years later, which is now my favorite film of all time (it recently ranked in the top ten of Sight & Sound’s latest poll). His score of the scene where a sweaty Patrick Fischler comes face to face with the fearsome Man Behind Winkies (Bonnie Aarons of “The Nun”) never ceases to have audiences jumping out of their seats, as does his atonal brilliance in “Wild at Heart,” signaling the moment Lula’s mother (Diane Ladd) turns to reveal her tortured face covered in lipstick. Badalamenti is equally creepy and oddly hilarious in his cameo as one of the ‘Mulholland Dr.’ rogue costumes rushing to take over a director’s film, all the while criticizing the coffee they’re being served. offers in the most grotesque way imaginable.

Badalamenti’s talent was not at all limited to Lynch’s work. In a career that spanned six decades, he provided the music for such notable films as ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors’, ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’, ‘Holy Smoke’, ‘Secretary’, “Auto Focus”, “Cabin Fever” and “A Very Long Commitment”. Still, my favorite Badalamenti score, and the one most deserving of a vinyl release, is the one he composed for Lynch’s 1999 masterpiece, “The Straight Story.” Based on the real-life story of Alvin Straight, who traveled from Iowa to Wisconsin on his riding mower to visit his ailing and estranged brother, the film features the final performance of stuntman-turned-brilliant actor Richard Farnsworth as of Alvin and the final shoot of master cinematographer Freddie Francis (“The Innocents”, “The Elephant Man”). The film’s score engineer and re-recording mixer John Neff told me earlier this year in an interview how he recorded the score, mixed it, and then mixed it into the film in surround 5.1. “On January 30, 1999, we had fourteen string players and three guitarists in David’s studio, and we recorded the film’s score in a twelve-hour day,” Neff recalls. “It was my first recording of an orchestral score in all these years of studio work, and it worked quite well. I’m very happy with it.

The soundtrack album, which I still own on CD, accompanied my family on various road trips to visit my great-uncle Chuck, whose mind is like Alvin’s, in Lowpoint , Illinois. Roger Ebert beautifully captured the tone of Badalamenti’s score in his four-star review, writing, “There are rolling fields of corn and grain here, and rivers and woods and little barns, but on the soundtrack , the wind whispering in the trees plays a sad and lonely song, and we are reminded not of the fields we cross on our way to picnics, but on our way to funerals, on autumn days when the roads are empty. Of all the tracks on this album, the one I treasure the most is “Rose’s Theme,” which we hear for the first time as Alvin and his devoted daughter Rose (Sissy Spacek) relish a star-filled night sky. The theme tells a more painful tune later, as we learn of the tragedy brought on by a fire – a recurring presence in Lynch’s work – that stealthily haunts Rose as she stares out the window. And then we hear it again during the film’s glorious final moments of wordless majesty, articulating with perfectly tuned notes what dialogue never could. This melody has played in my mind at countless times in my life whenever I have felt a true sense of peace. Today, I wish Angelo this peace.

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