Filmmaker David Lynch’s first foray into TV, Twin Peaks, was equal parts creepy, kitschy, nostalgic, discomfiting, dramatic, funny, strangely moving and a host of other descriptors. But turn on the original early ’90s series and you’re transported to a different, Lynchian, slightly (sometimes very) askew world. The cinematography, the conversational tone, the obsession with coffee, the log lady, the silence—it all immerses the viewer in that world. But maybe nothing takes us as instantly back into that world as the music.
Recognizing its singular greatness, the artist collective Asbury Park Avant-Garde will be producing a one-time-only performance of music from Twin Peaks at the Georgian Court Mansion in Lakewood on May 20.
“For some reason playing the music of Twin Peaks felt ultra appealing to me,” says Rolando Alvarado. “I put an ad out on small social media sites if anyone wanted to play a Twin Peaks gig, and I got a lot of responses and it was kind of overwhelming.”
Alvarado was drawn to playing music from David Lynch because of how his movies and shows made him feel, and he thought it would translate well into music.
“Twins Peaks resonated across the board with me,” says Alvarado. “There was a surrealist quality about it and visually there was an element of terror that constantly lurks behind a shinny bubblegum surface. I love how in Season 3 that Lynch didn’t give you what you want or expect, and he still managed to deliver. A lot of his work does a number on you consciously or subconsciously. I think about the process that is involved when he puts different scenes together, especially in the return when there are cheap middle school level effects happening in scenes, and he uses it in a way that impacts you. I like how that translates into music, and on a personal level when I’m composing.”
Audra Mariel, who will play in the show, remembers the first time she watched a David Lynch film: Eraserhead; like with Alvarado, Lynch’s work resonated with Mariel from the beginning.
“I was in college and took some film courses,” says Mariel. “I decided to dabble myself in Eraserhead and I loved the imagery, but I loved the way that David Lynch would use sound. Like with babies crying and the radiator going and you hear this mix of sounds and it is really irritating. It goes on long enough that you feel the same aggravation that the characters are feeling. It was so well done and something that I haven’t experienced before in film.”
Though Alvarado culled through a lot of responses to fill out the roster of performers for the show, he knew one person he had to get on board: bassist and clarinet player Mike Noordzy.
“I reached out to Mike directly,” says Alvarado. “I knew about his Donna Hayward obsession for as long as I knew him.’’
Once Alvarado had his crew (eight performers in all) for the Twin Peaks performances, challenges started to arise. Some of them were typical, like scheduling rehearsals, selecting what music to perform, and making the setlist. There were also challenges over which Alvarado and the rest of the crew had no control—the weather and the pandemic—so the show had to be canceled twice.
But they say third time’s the charm, and this time the show will be held indoors at Georgian Court University in Lakewood; barring locusts falling from the ceiling, the group is looking forward to a good performance. The aesthetic of the 100-plus-year-old university is the perfect match for the music of Twin Peaks.
“The space is surreal and beautiful,” explains Alvarado. “There’s an element of time being suspended when you’re inside. It’ll lend itself well to the ultra surreal qualities of the music. I’m hoping that we do the music justice.”
As for the music, Noordzy says that there will be “deep cuts” of Twin Peaks music, but you don’t have to be a fan of the show to enjoy the music.
“I will say that we are playing some super deep cuts,” says Noordzy. “So if you’re not a super hardcore diehard fan, you are not going to know everything. It’s for true Twin Peaks fans; however, I think if you have never seen the show it’s really cool music. You can show up and have no idea who David Lynch is and still be like, ‘Wow, this is really cool music.’ It works both ways.”
Mariel knows the experience of how playing music from Twin Peaks can attract people.
“There are some superfans,” says Mariel. “There was a day when Mike and I were playing at a gallery in the Atlantic Highlands, and I was playing the opening credits to Twin Peaks and this couple walked in off the street, and were like, ‘We weren’t going to walk in here, but we heard Twin Peaks.’’’
The opening credits song will be played as well, but the crew is excited to play the rich, unique, sometimes bizarre musical offerings the series provided.
“I’m looking forward to playing ‘Dance of the Dream Man,’” says Noordzy. “Because I get to play this giant clarinet and make all sorts of horrific noises on it. Any chance to do that is always fun. I also like ‘Sycamore Tree’ because Audra sings the shit out of it.”
Participating artists include Audra Mariel, Chris Alfano, Cody McCorry, Kevin Grossman, Mike Noordzy, Mya Anitai, Rolando Alvarado and Steve Honoshowsky.
Asbury Park Avant-Garde presents Twin Peaks at Georgian Court University in Lakewood on May 20. Tickets must be purchased in advance and proceeds will go to the artists. Ticket information here.