When David Lynch was working on his second feature film The Elephant Man, he heard Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings on the radio one day and in his own words – ‘fell in love with it’ for the last scene of the film.
He asked his producer to find the piece of music for him, and he duly came back with nine versions, none of which were the version Lynch had heard. So he sent him off again, and eventually found it.
This piece of music was later used as the main theme for Platoon, and indeed some would say it has now been used in too many films and TV shows, but Lynch was among the first to recognise it’s potential. It’s beautiful.
Two things about this.
- When he heard it, the piece of music must have profoundly affected Lynch and entered his consciousness at a deep level. How else could he have subsequently known it well enough to be sure that the first nine versions he heard of it were not the version he initially heard? Sometimes a piece of music will stop you in your tracks, but sometimes you have to create the conditions for yourself where you can be stopped in your tracks by a piece of music.
- The persistence and attention to detail he showed to find the right version – the version that would crown the last scene of his film. Again in his own words – despite the same notes being played on each version, ‘it was the way he did it’. And it’s worth getting these things right. It was Andre Previn’s version – here it is.