The internet is awash today in reactions to Twin Peaks’ return last night, the vast majority reading somewhere between relieved and agog. It’s going to be a fun couple of months piecing through the new story, which is already off the rails and only promising to go further into the dark, flash-lit woods. One of the many great reliefs upon watching those first two hours, though, was just how meticulous and haunted its sound design was. Lynch’s films have long doubled as explorations of unsettling ambient sound, typically thanks to his longtime collaborator Angelo Badalamenti, and in Twin Peaks those sounds worked as both imminently memorable emotional cues for characters and plot lines as well as more abstract, detached drones that grated and unnerved viewers. Both were on display in last night’s episodes, with the emphasis placed heavily on the latter. Turns out the David Lynch of 2017 couldn’t switch back to the pre-millennial David Lynch so easily, which bodes well for those who like him at his most experimental.
The Twin Peaks theme song forms a direct connective thread through the decades. Last night, after some methodically paced preamble in the Black Lodge, the camera begins panning through the quiet city of Twin Peaks before gradually zeroing in on Laura Palmer’s face, cueing up the theme. Lynch utilizes only a few shots to capture the melancholy and mystery of the series—beauty queen, waterfall, curtains, zig-zag floor. And that’s it!
It all forms an interesting contrast with the equally suggestive industrial machinery of the original.
Both instances get a lot of mileage out of the instantly recognizable guitar tones, as well as the rush of the waterfall. The original was all suggestions of murder and the supernatural. Now, it begins there—starting with Palmer’s face, with the show’s title suggestively printed across her eyes. Half of the new version takes place inside of the Black Lodge, acknowledging the audience’s awareness of much of the first series’ mysteries. Also, while it appears to be the same song, the drums seem slightly higher in the mix, particularly the cymbals, which is undoubtedly a suggestion that we pay attention to symbols themselves, or perhaps they just wanted a little more rhythm.
A recent video from Reverb gets into the track’s composition even further, zeroing in on the synthesizers used to make it. It’s full of interesting anecdotes, like the fact that the opening guitar line is actually just a sample of the one on Julee Cruise’s original track “Falling.”
Reverb has a follow-up video on “Laura’s Theme,” and on the site the site has a host of downloadable patches and plug-ins, so home musicians can create a mournful soundtrack to more poetically scream “nonexistence” at their roommates and pets. It’ll be interesting to see how and if Lynch and Badalamenti bring back those other iconic songs from the soundtrack; the show is already subverting expectations at every turn.