In Dreams: David Lynch Revisited
As soon as you hear the name David Lynch your mind flickers to life inviting you to picture an incredible cast of dark visceral characters, alternate realities and hallucinogenic visions. Maybe you've seen that film with the naive actress, the one with the evil gas-sucking psycho, the lawn-mower-riding brother, the witch in the bubble or a man from Another Place. But for the moment let's forget about the characters and their warped suburban surrounding let's consider the songs and the sound.
'Every time I hear sounds, I see pictures. Then, I start getting ideas. It just drives me crazy' – said Lynch. And this is something that music director David Coulter has dedicated himself to explore further at the Barbican. In Dreams is a Lynchian diner jukebox of songs filled to the brim with moments from David Bowie, Chris Isaak, Marilyn Manson, Elvis Presley and maybe a more unusual one, written in 1936 by composer Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings.
Let's rewind a little. The origins of this evening can be traced back to a fateful first watching of Eraserhead (Lynch's 1977 debut) by a young David Coulter. Not long after the emergence of punk, this film soundtrack was a revolutionary mixing the sound of sobbing babies, lost organ blues (from Fats Waller) and the rumbling of the industrial-wall-of-noise backdrop. David continued describing those defining movie moments. Do you remember Isabella Rossellini playing unforgettable night club hostess Dorothy Vallens and her rendition of Bobby Vinton’s Blue Velvet? Nicolas Cage’s definitive interpretation of Elvis Presley (in Wild at Heart)? Or Rebekah Del Rio’s heart-stopping acapella interpretation of 'Llorando' (the Spanish version of Roy Orbison's 'Crying') in Mullholland Drive.
Pressed to choose a favourite? Well maybe it would be Sycamore Trees in the finale of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. 'It just gets me every time I listen to it. What many people don’t realise is that this song was written by Angelo Badalamenti and Lynch himself wrote the lyric.' Which leads us on to talking about composer Badalamenti; a composer-director partnership David Coulter describes as defining as Leone and Morricone or Rota and Fellini.
Any great film comes with an incredible cast and our musical director has selected voices he loves, those he feels channel a certain theatricality in their work. We will have 'simply stunning' New York duo Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori (Cibo Matto), Sophia Brous ('a new discovery to me'), Mick Harvey 'who I love as a singer and as a musician'; Conor O’Brien from Villagers ('a force of nature'), Stealing Sheep ('so fresh and different') and of course Stuart Staples (Tindersticks) 'who is unique, his command of a stage is pretty mesmerising.' As far as the band goes, 'well they’re like my family really, the finest players I know'.
Revisiting the film and their music will allow him to recast and transform some of the music, for instance he will introduce a musical saw, alongside more unusual glass-based instrument constructions such as the Cristal Baschet and Glass Harmonica. Listen out in particular to otherworldly sounds of the Ondes Martenot, which he describes as one of the earliest ever 'synthesisers'.
If you needed any final proof of how powerful the relationship is between music and sound in these films just watch scenes from these films with the sound turned down, as David suggests and it all takes on very different colours without the accompanying soundtrack and soundscape. So who could resist? Join us for this evening of intoxicating, strobe-flicking, finger clicking, (excuse me) damn fine music. The stuff that dreams are indeed made of.
Words: Ben Eshmade