Education: Studied at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester and the Manhattan School of Music, earning master's degrees in composition, French horn, and piano. Addresses: Office--Film Music Associates, 4146 Lankershim Blvd., Suite 401, North Hollywood, CA, 91602, (818) 761-4040.

In most cases incidental music works to create mood, set tone, and elucidate plots, but rarely does the composer's music become inextricably linked to the medium it is enhancing. Angelo Badalamenti--composer, songwriter, and record producer--has received widespread critical acclaim for creating music that both defines and enhances films, television series, and albums. His accolades include earning nearly every music composition honor including an Emmy, Grammy, Saturn, and multiple ASCAP awards. Often compared to film composer legends Ennio Morricone and Bernard Herrmann, Badalamenti's work has ranged from composing Olympic themes to orchestrating songs for Paul McCartney.

Badalamenti began his musical career at age eight with a series of piano lessons, and his natural talent eventually led to summer appointments as a piano accompanist for singers at resorts in New York's Catskill Mountains. He later studied at the prestigious Eastman School of Music in Rochester and the Manhattan School of Music, earning Master's degrees in composition, French horn, and piano. While teaching music at a high school in Brooklyn he began composing songs, and in the early 1970s was hired by a music publishing company.

His strong composition skills landed him a wide range of positions, from writing advertising jingles and television themes to composing songs for popular singers including Shirley Bassey and Mel Tillis. As his reputation grew, Badalamenti branched off into film scoring for 1973's Gordon's War and 1974's Law and Disorder. However, it wasn't until the mid-1980s that film scores became the focus of his energies.

Badalamenti's work with singers led to a meeting with film director David Lynch, and the partnership which followed was a unique and creative union. Lynch had directed and written the surreal black and white film Eraserhead (1978), the critically successful Elephant Man (1980), and the science fiction cult hit Dune (1984). Still considered an outsider in mainstream Hollywood, Lynch was beginning to film a screenplay he had written in the film noir tradition called Blue Velvet (1986). One of the film's stars, Isabella Rosellini, required vocal coaching for her performance of the title tune, and Lynch chose Badalamenti because of his extensive work with vocalists. He was pleased with the results and asked Badalamenti to write another song--which they co-wrote at Badalamenti's request--and finally, the score.

Badalamenti described their meeting of the minds as "an instant communication" in People. "David doesn't vacillate. He just describes what he wants, and before he's finished I'm tuned in and I've already got my hands on the keyboards." The score for Blue Velvet won Badalamenti critical acclaim and he was asked to compose for a series of films including the unlikely mix of A Nightmare on Elm Street III (1987), Tough Guy's Don't Dance (1987), and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989).

Lynch and Badalamenti rejoined in 1989 for the television pilot of one of the most revered series ever: Twin Peaks. The mysterious death of a high school homecoming queen--and subsequent investigation by a FBI special agent--was the deceptively simple premise of Twin Peaks. The engaging characters, multiple layers of plot lines, and cinematic qualities of the series production created a cult following that remained long after its untimely end after only two seasons. Badalamenti composed the seductively melodic theme, lyrics, and all background music for the series and was nominated for several Emmys, including Theme, Music and Lyrics, and Underscore. He also won a Grammy Award in the Pop Instrumental category and a nomination in the Instrumental Composition (film or television) area. Badalamenti told Option that because of the nature of the series he strove to create a completely unique sound--"somewhat traditional ... but underneath the surface ... slightly twisted or off-center."

The Twin Peaks phenomenon created a frenzy among television viewers and Badalamenti's score and Lynch's lyrics for the series were at least partially responsible for its critical and commercial success. The New York Times called the score "a classic example of Minimalist film music, a few charged fragments revolving obsessively in the mind," while Melody Maker praised Badalamenti's work as "evoking an atmosphere that is not merely menacing and foreboding but also heightens the unreality effects of David Lynch's work."

While working on Blue Velvet, Lynch and Badalamenti had collaborated with singer Julee Cruise (who performed on Blue Velvet) on her album Floating Into the Night--with Lynch penning lyrics and Badalamenti scoring. In addition, Cruise later sang Lynch's lyrics with Badalamenti's music on episodes of Twin Peaks. The threesome also released Industrial Symphony No. 1: The Dream of the Broken Hearted in 1989, a multimedia theatre production created at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The piece--which received the American Music Video Entertainment Award--included performances by actors that had previously appeared in Lynch's films, as well as several songs from Floating Into the Night.

The Lynch/Badalamenti partnership continued with 1990's film Wild At Heart, and the 1992 prequel to the Twin Peaks television series Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, for which Badalamenti won both the Saturn Award and Independent Spirit Award for Best Original Score. His commercial work with Lynch also included a series of television advertisements for Calvin Klein's Obsession perfume. While scoring for films Badalamenti continued to write songs and orchestrate for singers like Marianne Faithfull, Liza Minelli, Roberta Flack, the Pet Shop Boys, Michael Jackson, and Anthrax. Many other projects followed including being honored as the composer and conductor of the Torch Theme and 25th Anniversary theme at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. Director David Lynch best described the multi-talented Badalamenti and his approach to composing in People: "He's got this musical soul, and melodies are always floating around inside. I feel the mood of a scene in the music, and one thing helps the other, and they both just start climbing."

by Debra Power

Angelo Badalamenti's Career

Worked as piano accompanist in the Catskill Mountains; taught music at a Brooklyn high school when he began working for a music publishing company; began scoring films with Gordon's War in 1973; began working with David Lynch in 1986 with Blue Velvet; also worked on Lynch's television show Twin Peaks and several other Lynch films.

Famous Works

Further Reading


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