Industrial Symphony No.1

Industrial Symphony No. 1: The Dream Of The Broken Hearted was only performed twice at the Brooklyn Academy Of Music as part of the New Music America Festival in late 1989.  For its director David Lynch, it marks the height of his artistry in the eighties, and the beginning of a new trend to his work.  Before Industrial Symphony No. 1, Lynch had just made his transition from working exclusively in film to working in television with the Lynch/Frost Production Twin Peaks.  In the following decade, Lynch would co-create and steer two other television programs; On The Air (with Mark Frost) and Hotel Room (with Barry Gifford, the author of Wild At Heart).  In the nineties, Lynch would again struggle with commercial filmmaking with projects as diverse as Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, Lost Highway and The Straight Story.

The content of Industrial Symphony No. 1 has its roots in the paintings Lynch made in the early seventies of Philadelphia chemical plants and factories.  The shadowy shapes and figures that populate these early paintings reoccur as the primary set design in Industrial Symphony No. 1, though now they are embellished with the smoke and strobe effects that make up Eraserhead and Black Lodge sequences of Twin Peaks.  In addition to these visual components, Lynch extracts the original material from Julee Cruise’s album Floating Into The Night for his soundtrack (an album Lynch co-produced with composer and frequent collaborator Angelo Badalamenti).  Cruise herself is the de facto star of Industrial Symphony No. 1, floating about the stage on wires, locked in a blinding spot light singing.

Industrial Symphony No. 1 is strangely grounded in the Wild At Heart continuity.  The film version of the show opens with cameos from Laura Dern and Nicolas Cage, presumably in the roles of Sailor and Lula (the characters they play in Lynch’s film version of Gifford’s novel).  Cage is breaking-up with Dern via telephone, most likely after Sailor’s incarceration.  One may therefore presume that Industrial Symphony No. 1 is Sailor’s dream, a dream that he lives during his five years in prison (a concept indebted to Genet’s novel Our Lady Of The Flowers).  This would also explain the continuous motif of classic Cadillacs, and good witches hovering about on strings that permeate both Wild At Heart and Industrial Symphony No. 1.

The extravagance of the set and light design of Lynch’s stage production is unprecedented.  Using filters on the lights, Lynch manipulates the color of illuminated smoke, successfully creating the illusion of painting the frame formed by the stage as the piece plays out.  But as an audience viewing a taped performance, the static gaze of a theater audience does not encumber us.  Lynch is able to cut from one event to another, moving in and out from close-ups to wider shots.  In this respect, Industrial Symphony No.1 is preserved as a cinematic experience as opposed to a theatrical one, a concept Lynch is quite aware of.  His style of cutting, and the kind of information that he emphasizes or presents uniquely in this medium are in step with the style he formalized in his work after the disastrous Dune.  A person in the audience would be ignorant because of circumstance of the dress of some of the dancers on stage, and some of the more intricate details that the audience viewing the taped version of the show is privy to.  However, the viewer of the taped performance is presented with the subjective vision of David Lynch and not the objective perception of the live show.  Though this is an unremarkable occurrence, for this is the case with any taped live show, it merits pointing out because Lynch is unlike most directors in that his mind works on a highly conceptual level.

Industrial Symphony No.1 is the transitional work of David Lynch.  It culminates all the ideas and concepts of his previous works and establishes those that will define his work in the next decade.  Thus, Industrial Symphony No.1 remains essential viewing to those that would endeavor to understand and in some cases study the work of David Lynch.  Though not always America’s greatest filmmaker, he is consistently its most provocative and daring.

-Robert Curry

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Filed under Summer 2012

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