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'Twin Peaks' composer Angelo Badalamenti died Sunday at age 85

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

TV and film composer Angelo Badalamenti has died. He was at his home in New Jersey surrounded by family.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Badalamenti started composing on the piano when he was 10 and went on to study at the Manhattan School of Music. He wrote songs for Nina Simone and scored crime movies.

SUMMERS: And in 1985, he was introduced to the esteemed film maker David Lynch. Badalamenti went on to score five of Lynch's films, but he was perhaps best known for his music in the cult-favorite '90s TV drama "Twin Peaks," also created by Lynch.

SHAPIRO: In a documentary about the creation of "Twin Peaks," Badalamenti described his creative process, specifically in writing the theme for the mysterious character Laura Palmer.

SUMMERS: He sat at a piano with Lynch and listened to him describe his vision for the show and turned that vision into sound.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANGELO BADALAMENTI: And David would say, OK, Angelo, we're in a dark woods. And there's a soft wind blowing through some sycamore trees. And there's a moon out. And there's some animal sounds in the background. And you can hear the hoot of an owl. And you're in the dark woods - you know, just get me into that beautiful darkness with the soft wind. And I started playing (playing piano).

SUMMERS: Lynch asked him to slow it down.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BADALAMENTI: And I'd say, slower, David? OK. And I'd go (playing piano). That's it. That's a good tempo.

SUMMERS: Keep going, Lynch said. Keep going. Still in the forest.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BADALAMENTI: And he would say, OK, Angelo, now we got to make a change because from behind a tree in the back of the woods, there's this very lonely girl. Her name is Laura Palmer. And it's very sad, but get something that matches her. And I just segway into this (playing piano). Well, that's it. It's very beautiful. I could see her. And she's walking towards the camera. And she's coming closer. Just keep building it. Just keep building it. And she's getting close. Now reach some kind of climax. And I would go (playing piano). And he'd say, oh, that's it. Oh, that's so beautiful. Angelo, oh, that's tearing my heart out. I love that. Just keep that going. Now she's starting to leave, so fall down. Keep falling, keep falling, keep falling. Now go back into the dark woods. That's it. Keep going.

SHAPIRO: After Badalamenti stopped playing...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BADALAMENTI: David got up. He gave me a big hug. He said, Angelo, that's "Twin Peaks." I said, OK, David, I'll go home, and I'll work on it. He said, Angelo, don't do a thing and don't change a single note.

SHAPIRO: Angelo Badalamenti died Sunday. He was 85 years old. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kat Lonsdorf
Sami Yenigun
Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.
Juana Summers
Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.
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