Lynch Night: Industrial Symphony No. 1: The Dream of the Brokenhearted

Industrial Symphony No. 1: the Dream of the Brokenhearted (ISN1) is the most idiosyncratic David Lynch creation from the Twin Peaks and Wild at Heart era. For the uninitiated, the 1989 recording of this live performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) features several Lynch regulars, including Laura Dern, Nicolas Cage, Julee Cruise, and Michael J. Anderson. Angelo Badalamenti’s unmistakable sounds fill the air throughout the 51 minutes of high-wire work, explosions, nudity, and a skeletal story that tells of lost love and a skinned deer on stilts.

The performance begins with a filmed piece starring Dern and Cage, reportedly completed as they worked on Wild at Heart. It’s clearly a breakup call, and while Dern’s character (The Heartbroken Woman) questions Cage’s character (The Heartbreaker) as to what he is trying to say, she know’s what’s up. At the end of their dialogue, it’s clear that Dern loves Cage, and that Cage loves Dern, but that their love is doomed. For Twin Peaks fans, Dern’s line “You sound far away” is eerily prescient, resembling the Fireman’s warning to Cooper that he is also “far away.” Something bad will most likely come of Dern’s and Cage’s conversation. And like my colleague Laura Stewart pointed out in last week’s Lynch Night piece, the use of Twin Peaks actors and themes are sprinkled throughout the performance just like they are throughout Wild at Heart.

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The scene ends and we now are transported to the BAM stage, where pipes, scaffolding, power lines, and spotlights crisscross one another. Julee Cruise (The Dreamself of the Heartbroken Woman) walks in and the first chords of “Up in Flames” begin to play. While Cruise sings, a topless woman climbs and writhes among the platforms, followed by a fully-clothed man hanging down head-first from wires, headed toward the stage floor.

Cruise’s “I Float Alone” is next, and Julee floats to the top of the set with spotlights swirling around her. Michael J. Anderson (credited as “Twin A”) makes his first appearance, methodically sawing a log with “113” drawn on it, while ambient music plays. While he saws, the man who was previously dangling above the stage floor shines a flashlight toward the car that rests near the back of the set. The man startles Anderson, who runs off-stage, then returns pulling a small bench with a shadeless lamp on it. Anderson’s gold boots stick out as change from his more familiar monochromatic outfit choices. Throughout the scene, the sound of wind blowing fills the air.

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The next portion has Cruise singing a stirring rendition of “Into the Night,” and her effortless harnessed floating is punctuated with a crazy drop to the floor. I believe that this whole recording was completed during the rehearsals, and perhaps because of that, the special effects are uneven. “Cruise” falls, strikes the car, and the stunt dummy’s legs flop unnaturally as it hits the trunk of the car on the way down.

At this point, the tune “I’m Hurt Bad” (used in the Double R scene where Bobby Briggs puts a quarter in the juke box and tells Norma “I’ll see you in my dreams.”) ushers in the most unusual and startling moments of the entire piece. Screeching sounds usher in a phalanx of masked men with hardhats on their heads and light bulbs in hand. The men begin to wave the bulbs over a bloody creature lying on a gurney. When the masked assistants finally get the skinned deer on its hooves, the melody takes off, and Anderson shines a spotlight directly on the deer while the masked men watch. Then just as fast as it began, the stages empties.

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A narrator carries us through “Pinky’s Bubble Egg” while Cruise sings, and the man and woman crisscross each others’ paths on the stage. The masked men return to place “Cruise’s” body in the car’s trunk. Anderson returns to the stage with Angelo Badalamenti’s son (credited as “Twin B”), who plays a clarinet version of “Up in Flames” while Anderson reads both parts of the Dern/Cage exchange. Throughout the reading the formerly topless woman (now clothed), gyrates in the background behind the twins. Upon Anderson’s finish (“CLICK”), Cruise launches the now-iconic “Rockin’ Back Inside My Heart” and “The World Spins” back-to-back, moving from a 50s-style upbeat trip through romantic memories to a melancholy harbinger of what’s sure to be a depressing finish. As soon as Cruise sings “the wind blew our hair,” things begin to change.

Air raid sirens, screeching, and electrical sounds fill the concert hall. Flash pots ignite, and dozens of Kewpie dolls descend from the ceiling, and then rise to disappear just as quickly as they emerged. Glitter floats as the Dreamself of the Heartbroken Woman floats offstage and the curtain falls on this unique performance.

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As I watched Industrial Symphony No.1 for the first time in the early 1990s, I was already deep into Twin Peaks. In fact, I searched video stores high and low for the VHS copy, and it is now listed as being part of the 2008 David Lynch: Lime Green Set DVD. The quality of the viewing experience is certainly diminished by the VHS image quality. However, it was released before the end of the original run of Twin Peaks, and made a nice bridge piece to the eventual VHS release of Seasons 1 and 2 in 1993.

I enjoyed watching this Lynch/Badalamenti production for the first time in many years, and hadn’t done so primarily because I was afraid my VHS copy might crumble into dust if I attempted to play it. As I mentioned above, ISN1 doesn’t really fit with much of Lynch’s work from the time period, and that’s OK. I would like to see an Industrial Symphony No. 2 someday!

A couple of final notes about the performance:

  • How did Cruise’s heels stay on during the trapeze wire portions?
  • Did you notice Cruise’s unplugged wired microphone being used during her “Up in Flames” lip sync?
  • Was the topless dancer a dream representation of a threat to the Heartbroken Woman’s relationship with the Heartbreaker?
  • “Pinky’s Bubble Egg” is the only Julee Cruise vocal performance that does not make an appearance in any other David Lynch production.

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