Lori Eschler Frystak, 1991
As a music editor, Lori Eschler Frystak is hardly the first name that rings a bell to film and television audiences. There are at least three reasons for that: First of all, Lori Eschler Frystak has changed her name, and she is often, also in Twin Peaks, credited, as Lori L. Eschler. Second of all, Frystak is a music editor, and however crucial music editing is to a film or television show, the work of music editors often goes unnoticed, and they often end up as unsung heroes. Finally, Frystak chose to leave the film and television industries after Levity and Biker Boyz (both 2003). Since then, Frystak has devoted her attention to flowers, focusing instead on a visual form of expression and art. However, before leaving the film and television business, Frystak was part of a number of great productions, including Twin Peaks, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, On the Air (ABC, 1992), Rounders (1998), The Matrix (1999) and Behind Enemy Lines (2001). I asked her a few questions concerning her work and Twin Peaks in general, and, unsurprisingly, Frystak gave some insightful, poignant and at times even poetic answers.
AH: How did you get to be a part of Twin Peaks?
LEF: I was very lucky. My friend Jon Huck was the sound recordist on the pilot. Apparently, he told David about me and for that I’m really grateful. Like David, I’m also from Montana. I was called in for an interview and we met and spoke about the music and Montana and he made the decision right on the spot. I floated about a foot off the ground for at least 2 years after that.
AH: You were a music editor on Twin Peaks, and I have heard you say that David Lynch likened the process to “painting around the bushes.” What was the point of that analogy, and how would you describe the musical or aural side of Twin Peaks?
LEF: I can’t speak for what David meant when he said that. It was during my job interview with him, but I interpreted him to mean that the music should be integral, subtle, and somewhat mysterious. The music and audio in Twin Peaks had to go hand in hand. Each detail was intentional and if it distracted from any important element or wasn’t essential in telling the story, it was eliminated.
AH: In Twin Peaks – as in all of David Lynch’s productions – music, sound and noise are so closely interconnected, and you couldn’t imagine the series without sound or music. To me, Twin Peaks seems much more cinematic in its approach to music and sound than most TV shows. Does that make sense to you, and, if so, how does it differ from your average, run-of-the-mill TV show in terms of music and sound?
LEF: Yes, that makes sense that it seems more cinematic to you. David and much of the team that he assembled had never done television. I think that was one of the big deals about it. Also, Twin Peaks was in post-production at the very beginning of television surround sound. When we were mixing the final sound (dialogue, sound FX, and music) we were very focused on getting the mix just right so it would sound good on the best home theatre system but also on the most modest little mono speaker that someone might be using. And again, everything you hear was intentional.
AH: In many ways, Twin Peaks was groundbreaking, but musically it exploits a very traditional technique of leitmotifs. There are so many different variations of the different themes, however. Could you say a few things on how different variations of a theme (e.g. “Laura Palmer’s Theme”) were used to create different moods within the show?
LEF: “Laura Palmer’s Theme” was great in the way that it developed from a very simple repetition of a figure in a minor key to the very beautiful romantic and sad part that eventually resolved back to the simple minor theme. This made it really effective and satisfying. The simple part was used as dark clues were being discovered in the story line. Sometimes the clues would tie into Laura and the theme would evolve to the beautiful part and as the character(s) in the scene would reveal a memory or share a moment of grief the theme would ease into the very sad part that would eventually lead back to the dark mysterious theme. It was perfect because each new discovery surrounding the murder followed this path from mystery to beauty to sadness and back to darkness. Of course other characters, like Audrey, or Ed and Norma had different leitmotifs because their stories weren’t so intense.
AH: Twin Peaks, to me, is about gradual shifts and transitions. It uses cross-dissolves, and it is about people and characters who change or gradually reveal new sides of themselves. In a similar way, there is an interesting use of music in the show, shifting between different moods and tonalities. In one scene, Leland Palmer dances with Laura’s photo to the sound of “Pennsylvania 6-5000,” and the scene gets hectic – at the same time somewhat funny and extremely unsettling – but then, as he looks at the photo of his daughter, the music changes to “Laura Palmer’s Theme,” gently underscoring his sorrow. How would you describe this scene, and are there other such examples that you would pinpoint?
LEF: That scene with Leland dancing to “Pennsylvania 6-5000” was wonderfully done because what I saw was a father who was losing himself in grief. It played very well that way and only much later down the road to we find out about Leland and realize that the early scene had another whole level of inner torment happening. There was another scene in which Leland was singing “Mairzy Doats.” On the surface, it just seemed like he was going a little crazy over the loss of his daughter. That song has such a naive feeling and to me it stirred up this feeling that Leland was really struggling to connect with a his innocent self.
AH: Perhaps you could say a few words on the sequence where Maddy is killed, where we segue from “Rockin’ Back Inside My Heart” to “The World Spins,” before cutting to the Palmer residence where we hear the ominous sound of the record player (which is also heard underneath the animalistic slow-motion growling of Leland/Bob as he kills Maddy). That sequence seems very interesting in terms of sound and music editing.
LEF: That scene was so scary and disturbing. The first time I watched it without sound effects or score and it seemed finished, like it didn’t need anything more. “The World Spins” was a beautiful piece of music to lead into and out of the murder because it starts out just sort of lulling us into a hypnotic state and we sort of find ourselves frozen and defenseless while we watch the murder. Then the song transitions to this sad, sad part when they cut back to The Roadhouse. The score under the murder is so subtle but it seems to keep us grounded in the terror of the scene. Also, the sound of that record player just says to me that Leland’s record is over, now things are going to get very serious.
AH: David Lynch seems to have a thing for slightly sentimental 50s-like music. Do you remember the “Just You and I” scene. How would you characterize the musical style of Twin Peaks? It seems to me that it would be difficult to put Twin Peaks into one generic category, and perhaps the same could be said about the music?
LEF: I do remember the “Just You and I” scene. One of the musicians that Angelo Badalamenti hired for the Twin Peaks sessions was Vinnie Bell, a great session guitarist in New York. He has a very distinct sound and it really comes through on the Main Title theme aka “Falling,” and on the James and Bobby tension music that evolves into James’ theme. In context, David had just finished Blue Velvet so maybe he still had some of that 50’s music playing around in his head. He really loves a huge variety of music, as did most of the directors on the series – everyone was very enthused by the music.
AH: In terms of music and sound, but also in general, Twin Peaks has often been described as one of the most important and influential TV series of all time. Would you say that Twin Peaks has helped change television, and, if so, how did it change the standards of TV?
LEF: Prior to Twin Peaks, television was much simpler. To my knowledge there had never been a complex relationship like that of Laura and Leland. Characters had never been so multi-dimensional. Up to that point television was made with simple formulas, streamlined and cost-effective. In his films, David Lynch was already on the road to developing a cinematic language that would influence film making forever. With Twin Peaks, this language was introduced to the television audience. After Twin Peaks we began to see darker subject matter, more mature themes, much more complex character development, more sophisticated visuals, music and audio, and occasional metaphors and symbolism.
A memorable scene from Twin Peaks, which displays the show’s neat use of sound and music: