RIP to a legend...
Writing an obituary is not an easy thing. I’ve done a couple now, but for my first, I got thrown in at the deep end. It all started with a message from Roger Ebert editor Matt Zoller Seitz, who had sent a text to my home phone, which had garbled it up but still managed to extract the keywords: “Ennio Morricone has died.” To write an obituary, you have to summarize the subject’s life and career and use that to capture their essence and what we can take from their passing. You can judge for yourself if I did okay here.
On Monday, we all received the sad news that Angelo Badalamenti had died. Most will know Badalamenti from his multiple collaborations with director David Lynch, including “Twin Peaks.” He also scored a number of pictures for a wide variety of filmmakers, including Jane Campion, Paul Schrader, and Walter Salles. He also worked on musical projects with Nina Simone, Marianne Faithful, and Anthrax.
This is not an obituary, at least not a traditional one. This is more a tribute, a reminiscence. A great number of people, including me, will have a significant memory of Badalamenti’s music through “Twin Peaks,” and his work from that series and the accompanying film, “Fire Walk With Me,” is an excellent legacy for him to leave behind. None of us knew what a meteor “Twin Peaks” would be and how hard it would hit us. While many kids at our high school would talk about football scores, our small group talked about how amazing that new show was, with the girl wrapped in plastic and the buried locket. The ending of that first episode still sticks in my mind.
Badalamenti’s opening theme to “Twin Peaks” still remains a high point of media scoring. It’s a beautiful piece of music on its own, dreamy and melodramatic, but against the title sequence it’s a perfect distillation of the town of Twin Peaks as well as the series; all those gears and factory works against the mystery and mundanity of Badalamenti’s theme, very intentionally soap opera-esque.
Even greater is his theme for the tragic Laura Palmer. The way those two doom-laden notes instantly send an icy chill up your spine, an example of not only simplicity but also the power of repetition. Then the insertion of the love theme, with echoes of the main title and the way Badalamenti made sure that every note, just like every little thing in that small town, was connected. I refer you to this famous interview with Badalamenti about the score, recorded by my friend Charles de Lauzirika.
But he wrote scores for all sorts of things, like “Stalingrad,” about the World War II battle for the city of the same name, Joel Schumacher’s “Cousins,” the US remake of the French comedy “Cousine Cousine,” and the terrific “The City of Lost Children” by Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Even “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”
I could go on and on. But here’s his creepy main title music from “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.” Farewell, Angelo.
Well, I asked for more questions, and you guys really came through. Let’s see what’s in the mailbox this week.
I call upon the ancient powers of ✨nerds on the Internet✨ to solve this long-running personal brain tease: the four notes in the theme from the OG Willow soundtrack sound SO FAMILIAR I'm convinced I've heard it in one (or more?!) other movies... - Becky
Ah, Becky. Welcome to the world of James Horner and by extension, the danger motif. Since he started scoring movies, Horner has been making eco-warriors proud by recycling this four-note phrasing that has become known as the “danger motif,” namely because it’s often representative of danger or villainy in his scores. For example, Khan in “Star Trek II,” the Klingons in “Star Trek III,” the aliens in “Aliens” - you get the picture. The only question is whether Simon Franglen, composer of “Avatar: The Way of Water” and longtime friend and colleague of the late Horner, will see fit to include it in his score. I’d bet on it.
Deep dive into Carl Stalling? - Anthony H.
Presumably, a request? It sounds like a fun one, albeit a fair amount of work, so don’t expect it soon. But I’ll give it a shot.
What was the most expensive original score in film history? - Arthur
This is a tricky one, as it seems difficult to find out numbers, but let’s start with a little movie from 1933 called “King Kong.” Now, initially, RKO said to director and producer Merian C. Cooper that they would not finance any original music and he had to use library tracks. Cooper said “nuts to this,” and hired Max Steiner to get an orchestra together and create an original score - according to composer David Raksin (“Laura”), the budget, which Cooper paid out of his own pocket, was $50,000. According to this website I found, in today’s money, that would be $1,145,042.31. Today, some film composers are seen as superstars, particularly Hans Zimmer, so they probably command a lot. Zimmer also uses rock and pop stars on his scores as well, and the 2014 film “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” which had a budget of between $200m - $293m, saw him make a supergroup called “The Magnificent Six.” This featured Pharrell Williams and Junkie XL, with the soundtrack also featuring a song by Alicia Keys and Kendrick Lamar. So it’s probably that.
What do you think about the rise of more texture-focused scores over more melodic scores in recent years? - The Film Scorer
I covered this a bit in the last Q&A. I mean, I think it’s a good thing, and I think it’s due to pushback against a lot of the generic Hollywood stuff that has come out; melodic scores is probably giving them too much credit. Also, there are a fair number of artists who have grown up listening to a lot of stuff like Brian Eno, Harold Budd, and Cocteau Twins, and what have you, and they’re bringing in their own influences, especially in genres like horror where it perhaps fits a little better in terms of providing mood and atmosphere.
That’s it for today. Feel free to direct more questions, comments, and suggestions for the Friday Five to the below comment section or to me on Twitter. I’m off to try and nail down the best scores of the year, which is a difficult prospect. And then nap.
Have a better one.
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