The new series had been gestating in Lynch’s mind for a while, and Badalamenti was one of the first to be told about it some five years ago, before shooting began. “I said, ‘What? Are you kidding me? Absolutely,’” the 80-year-old Badalamenti remembers. From there, with Lynch in L.A. and Badalamenti in New Jersey, the pair linked up their respective studios through a high fidelity video connection for more than 15 hours worth of sessions. As per , Badalamenti would improvise based not on filmed footage but rather gnomic descriptions and words that Lynch gave him—such as “Russian beauty” or, simply, “Texas”—until the music complemented whatever was running through the director’s mind. “I closed my eyes, put my fingers on the keyboard, and started to play,” says Badalamenti.
One piece that came out of these sessions ended up being placed over . The piece gradually rises and sharpens to meet the crash before quietly retreating into a mournful hymn. It was a moment of synergy between Badalamenti and Lynch, without a scene in sight. Badalamenti did it in one take.
As the engineer hearing the end product of many of these sessions, Hurley was in pure fan mode. “That magic isn’t something I experience on a daily basis,” he recalls. “The session was just littered with these incredible passages, and once the last note would sustain and then diminish to silence, you would just hear David say, ‘fucking beautiful!’ I don’t know how Angelo did it—there’s nobody else on the planet that can do this stuff.”
Aside from being the favored method when working with Lynch, spontaneity was required for Badalamenti because, like many, he was almost completely in the dark when it came to the details of the show. The composer remembers his main creative directive from Lynch: “I’ll need music from you, and it’s got to tear the hearts out of people.”
Another key piece of music was originally created in a previous session, when Lynch and Badalamenti were in the process of working on a Broadway musical about the life of inventor Nikola Tesla. Dubbed “The Chair,” the composition ended up being used in two scenes in “The Return,” one of which starred actress Catherine Coulson’s beloved Log Lady character. It was a lasting moment for Badalamenti. “That is a tragically emotional scene, because Catherine was talking about dying and about two months later she passed away,” he says. “She knew she was going to die pretty soon, and it was like, My god almighty, how could she do that scene as she did?”
For the elegiac “,” Badalamenti was forced to break out of his usual working formula with Lynch. The piece came about when the director was deep into an edit and needed something for a scene that was shot in an Italian restaurant. Over voicemail, Lynch asked Badalamenti to conjure music “warm with nostalgia” and reminiscent of the Italian composer Giacomo Puccini before signing off, half-jokingly, “I hope you can do that this afternoon and send it up to me tonight.”
Badalamenti got to work, coming up with a passage where the piano feels tight and crisp—it’s almost antithetical to the woozy tones of his original “Twin Peaks” music but still touches on an inherent melancholy. After he sent it over, Lynch responded, once again via voicemail: “Angelo, it’s David. The sync is so incredible, you’re gonna love it, it’s so powerful. I started crying the third time I saw it. Tears shot out of my eyes. So beautiful. Angelo, way to go. Bye.”