I must admit something. I haven’t seen all of David Lynch’s movies. But last week Friday saw me at the In Dreams: David Lynch Revisited concert at the Barbican where I had the ‘Lynchian’ movie music experience.
The concert started with a touch of the mysterious as musicians walked onto the stage wearing pagan masks and took their positions. I counted around a band of twenty, much like a Cuban band arrangement.
Soon the sounds of a saw were heard, grating back and forth. It was played by musical director David Coulter. The slow but steady thrusts picked up pace and became faster and louder. It just goes to show how effective domestic appliances can be when creating pieces of industrialised music. In fact it reminded me of Holger Hiller, a German musician from the 80’s that I really love.
David Lynch is a visual artist, film director and musician. You’ll probably know him for films such as Eraserhead, Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet and, a personal favourite of mine, The Elephant Man. He’s also an advocate for Transcendental Meditation which might explain why his work and his music is so ethereal. In fact my friend and make-up artist Sammm Agnew, who’s a massive fan, lent me a book called Catching The Big Fish by Lynch, which is full of wonderful anecdotes written to help and guide you in the creative process. Those looking for Lynchian inspiration might seek out a copy.
Much of Lynch’s musical work is a collaborative effort with composer Angelo Badalamenti. Apparently Lynch would sometimes ask Angelo to play the piano on set so the actors could feel the mood of the scene.
In one memorable piece the beautiful orchestral and jazzy sounds from movie Blue Velvet filled the auditorium. Magnificent lighting design helped to create a unique atmosphere. Each track was accompanied by its own lighting story, whether it was subliminal flashes in between songs, spotlights fanning from side to side with different colours or simultaneous and multidirectional bursts of light.
Burly vocals of Savages singer Jehnny Beth with her versions of Into the Night, Up in Flames and the lingering music of Into the Night, were met with the suffering and agony of Llorando originally sung by Rebekah Del Rio. Sophia Brous held the audience with her melancholic voice and at times I felt like I was in the movie.
I quite liked the cover of I am deranged from the film Lost Highway. Originally sung by David Bowie and here sung by Stuart Staples. Strong red spots from each section of the stage shone down at different intensities and a crimson smog hovered and eventually dissolved away at the end of the piece. It was very impressive.
When Laura Palmer’s theme from Twin Peaks began, I closed my eyes and drifted off into the music. Songs like In heaven from Eraserhead pricked the hairs at the back of my arm. It was haunting and beautiful.
Call me naïve but I was surprised as just how much of a jazz influence was in the music from films like Mulholland Drive and Blue Velvet. I never quite noticed it before, perhaps because I was more in tune with the experimental sounds from Eraserhead.
Another favourite of mine was The Elephant Man theme, which was chilling and magical drawing me to the very edge of my seat. The power of Lynch’s music will have that effect. The Adagio for Strings arrangement also from The Elephant Man was enjoyable and I was almost fooled into thinking I was at a classical concerto.
The pulsating sounds of cheeky duo Cibo Matto and their cover of Julee Cruise’s The World Spins and Lou Reed’s This Magic Moment, were shaken up and transformed into something more psychedelic and surreal as the lights flashed and they jumped up and down, hauling everyone into their insane energy.
Trio Stealing Sheep covered Just You from Twin Peaks. Their youthful energy was at times a contrast to the chilling undertones the music had to offer.
David Lynch’s music is avant-garde. It’s edgy and experimental and will bring you to mind altering levels of consciousness. As my friend Charlie says ‘Who needs drugs when your mind can do it all.’
I feel Lynch’s music conjures visuals. It opens up chakras and launches you into other worlds and lands of existence. Well it does for me!
The In Dreams concert was a seductive invitation for me to watch more of Lynch’s movies and add to my growing list of favourite movie tracks.
I’m feeling a bit of Twin Peaks now.
Read more here about David Lynch’s work and enjoy the journey and the music!