'Blue Velvet' Composer Angelo Badalamenti: 'I Taught David Lynch How to Curse'

ASCAP President and Chairman Paul Williams, director David Lynch and composer Angelo Badalamenti

Lynch presented his frequent collaborator with the Henry Mancini Award at the 26th annual ASCAP Film and Television Awards, telling the industry crowd, "He can write anything and is fun to work with.”

ASCAP’s 26th annual Film and Television awards may have handed out trophies to composers working in a wide range of mainstream genres -- from primetime dramas to reality TV and big-budget blockbusters -- but it was a pair of relative outsiders who made the biggest impression.

Amid presentations of awards to everyone from Michael Giacchino (honored for his theme to Lost) to video game composers Marty O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori (recognized for Halo: Reach), composer Angelo Badalamenti and his frequent collaborator, director David Lynch,  stole the show.

In presenting the Henri Mancini award to Badalamenti, Lynch brought down the house with a gently mocking anecdote about Badalamenti’s less-than-perfect singing during a particularly grueling songwriting session early in their collaboration. “I was secretly hopeful that someone else would be singing these songs,” Lynch deadpanned.

Likening the experience to a musical “hernia,” Lynch nevertheless lauded Badalamenti for his ability to find the perfect musical language for the director’s frequently dark, surreal film work.

“He’s like a brother to me,” Lynch said before the show. “He can write anything and he is just the most fun to work with.”

Badalamenti agreed, adding that he and Lynch often have a telepathic collaborative relationship.

“On Blue Velvet he and I would just sit at the piano and he would describe moods to me,” Badalamenti said backstage prior to the show.

As for Lynch’s unique working methods, Badalamenti recalled how Lynch would try things few directors would be willing to attempt. “He would have me on set,” he recalled of the Blue Velvet scoring sessions. “I would actually play music live while they were filming so the actors could feel the mood.”

But Badalamenti reserved special satisfaction for a non-musical accomplishment: “I taught David how to curse,” he said, before recounting how Lynch was seemingly unable to repeat some of the now-infamous profanity in the Blue Velvet screenplay, despite the fact that he himself had written it.

During his acceptance speech Badalamenti followed Lynch with some amusing anecdotes of his own. He recalled getting his start by boldly presenting two original songs to singing legend Nina Simone. When Simone accepted both songs, Badalamenti elicited some knowing laughter when he recalled thinking “This business is going to be easy.”

Elsewhere in the show, veteran composer Alf Clausen was awarded the Golden Note Award for his body of work. Clausen, perhaps best known as the episodic composer on The Simpsons, closed the show with a performance from his 17-piece big band.

The lighthearted tone of the show was set early when ASCAP president Paul Williams took the stage to joke that his frequent trips to Capitol Hill on behalf of composers’ rights had resulted in “a black belt in back slapping.”

But when describing his mission to ensure that struggling composers everywhere are compensated for their work, Williams was more straightforward: “Somewhere right now there is a woman in a small apartment writing music on headphones because she doesn’t want to wake the baby in the next room,” he said before the show. “So we’re defending the rights of our membership.”

Ever willing to make a joke at his own expense -- in this case his diminutive size -- Williams added: “ASCAP has to remind everyone that composers are really like small businessmen. So I’m metaphorically the perfect person for the job.”