‘I Love Winds’: David Lynch on the Sound of ‘Twin Peaks’

Well, no, not really. So much of what “Twin Peaks” is in people’s minds is Angelo’s music. And then I guess it’s that moaning wind. I love winds. I think that wind sound came from (the “Eraserhead” sound designer) Alan Splet, when he was in Findhorn, in northern Scotland, I think it was. He was recording winds in the ’70s. It’s a wind that just feels so good to me.

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Does the hum sound good to you, too?

Are you kidding me? [Laughs.] I love electricity. I love the wind. I love so many things about sound. I always say that cinema is sound and picture, flowing together in time. And you know, you want to get every element in a film as good as you can get, so this thing will hold together. To me, the director is supposed to guide what people see from beginning to end and what people hear from beginning to end, to fulfill the ideas. It has to pass through one person. When all the elements come together, you can get this thing where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

What is the nature of the collaboration with you, Mr. Badalamenti and your sound effects crew?

This time, Angelo was in New Jersey and I’m in L.A. I was on Skype with Angelo, which has bad sound. [Laughs.] But we’re also on a T1 or T3 line or whatever, so when Angelo hits his keyboard in New Jersey, what I hear in the speakers is exactly what I would hear if I was in the room with him. Everybody clears out and I just talk with Angelo, and Angelo plays, and we talk.

On this one I’d give him some sort of theme to think about. Then he would sit and think, and his fingers would go onto the keys and he’d start going. If I really loved what he was doing I would let him continue. But if it wasn’t quite right I’d say some more words, just like I was sitting next to him. That’s the way Angelo and I work, and a lot of times magical things happen.

And then there’s dialogue, and then behind that dialogue there’s sometimes background sounds. Then there are the sounds that are in between music and effects. Mood things. You can have three or four or five or a hundred things running together. Sometimes hundreds of tracks are going into the mix, and for the mix you try to get everything balanced out. Stuff coming in the right way, and going at the right volume. Going up and down in volume. It’s a tricky, tricky business, to get it to feel correct all the way through.


From left, Grace Zabriskie and Eric Ray Anderson in “Twin Peaks: The Return.”

Suzanne Tenner/Showtime

You have a scene in Episode 14 where Sarah Palmer is in a bar and we hear the sound of billiard balls clacking in the background, but they sound distorted. And that, too, fits the reality of what’s about to happen, given that Sarah is going to pull her face off.

That’s like I said, you know, it’s tricky business. We were experimenting with some kind of music back there, but when we did, it just draws you out of this scene coming up. There had to be something going in the mix because you see a lot of movement and things happening in the bar when she walks in. But it can’t be anything that’s going to distract from what’s coming up.

At what point in the process do you have the elements of the sound design in mind? During the writing, the shoot, later … ?

Most of the sound is done later. A lot of it is kind of an experiment. I sit with [the sound supervisors] Dean Hurley and Ron Eng and the others to spot everything. If there’s some special things coming up, we talk about that, and then they go to work finding stuff or making stuff, and then putting things together into kind of a pre-mix. Then I listen to that and make comments. Then in the final mix I’m there until it’s 100 percent.

Are you personally generating some of these sounds? Like with a synthesizer?

I’ve made some sounds. But I’m mostly working with Dean and Ron, experimenting.

One of the most striking yet subtle uses of sound this season was in Episode 8 when the Woodsman descends from the sky into the desert, and when his feet touch the ground there’s a soft sound of footsteps. It grounds him in reality, so that he’s no longer this supernatural entity but is a physical presence. Do you think about things like that when you’re preparing the sound mix?

No, that was just the sound of his footsteps on the ground. [Laughs.] The other thing I want to add about the Woodsman is that there are billions of plug-ins these days, so you can alter something every which way but loose. The Woodsman’s voice is manipulated. A lot of people’s voices are manipulated.


Nae Yuuki in “Twin Peaks: The Return.”

Suzanne Tenner/Showtime

What about the scene in the jail cell in Episode 14 where the woman with the stitched-up eyes is making noises that sound almost like a monkey screech? Was the actress actually making that sound?

For sure.

But it’s been altered until it sounds right to you?

Exactly. And that was a lot of experimentation.

Do you think you hear sounds in your daily life differently from other people? Are you at all like your character on the show, Gordon Cole, wincing when he hears a squeegee against the window?

No, I think I’m like everybody else. [Laughs.] I just hear the regular sounds out there. But everybody likes certain things that others may not like. I know though that sound is — and underline these words — extremely important. It’s so important to fill out the picture in a in a way that can just add so much to the film.

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‘I Love Winds’: David Lynch on the Sound of ‘Twin Peaks’

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