Film4 talks to David Lynch's long-time musical collaborator
How did you come to work on Blue Velvet?
One of the film's producers, a friend of mine, mentioned to me that Isabella Rossellini was having trouble with the song Blue Velvet in the film. He asked if I would come and coach her, so I did. We worked for about three or four hours and got one great take with her singing and me on piano. We took this to David Lynch – it was the first time I had ever spoken to him – and he listened to it and was just astounded. Then we collaborated on Mysteries of Love, my score and his lyrics, which was another great experience. When I first got David's lyrics, I was appalled because there were no rhymes or hooks. I mean, I'm a songwriter. I was looking for something to latch onto, and there was nothing. So I asked him what kind of music he wanted with it, because I had no clue. He said, "Oh, just make it like the wind or the ocean. Let it float and put a little plastic in it." I had no idea what he was talking about, but I wrote Mysteries of Love and he loved it.
Tell us about the score for Lynch's Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. The film was greeted with derision when it was released but now has a great following.
We had a few themes from the TV show, which had a really popular 1950s sound with little jazz overtones, but the haunting quality of the music in the TV series was the thing that captured everybody's imagination. The movie gave us opportunities to do other material which still has a lot of that flavour in it.
There is an extraordinary contrast in Twin Peaks between a cosy vision of 50s Americana and a postmodern sense of the world falling apart. This is reflected in your score, which is nostalgic but very brooding and unnerving. How did you achieve this?
There are two basic elements: melody and harmony. The melodies have a warm, simplistic feel, but then you take those melodies and you harmonise them in a certain way; I'm a sucker for suspensions, which are dissonances that are held over and rubbed, you know? A lot of times you think you're going to hear it go one way and then it jumps to someplace that is totally left field. I got into suspension by studying Bach. I fell in love with his use of suspensions. They have a kind of dissonance that resolves. The harmonies that I use are also dissonances that resolve, but sometimes as they resolve another dissonance comes up, and so you've got this weaving and overlapping that creates a beautiful tension. [Read More]
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