A captured Mynah bird “speaks”, activating a voice recorder, ventriloquising the voice of the late Laura Palmer; the bird having itself become a spectral recording device. “Is this thing on” repeats the geriatric mayor of the community into a constantly misbehaving microphone, before being replaced by the booming, deep amplified voice of a giant offering agent Dale Cooper a warning he will not receive. A phonograph plays ethereal music on repeat in a log cabin implicated in the murder under investigation, while elsewhere another record player in a suburban home repetitively plays swing tunes which become the soundtrack for a second murder. In all of the above instances, sonic technologies play key roles, taking on agency rather than being mere props or background elements of the set, and indicating that Twin Peaks is not merely an assortment of quirky characters, memorable locations and digressive multi-linear narratives, but fundamentally concerns and is mediated by sonic communication technologies.
From the opening call made by Pete Martell to the sheriff in the pilot – “Put Harry on the Horn” – announcing the death of Laura Palmer, and the later arrival of agent Dale Cooper, introduced speaking to Diane on his voice recorder, sonic and other media devices abound in Twin Peaks. Telephones, for example, are purveyors of both tragedy and comedy, from the complicated switching operations in the police station overseen by Lucy, to Sarah Palmer collapsing into melodramatic grief as she intuits the death of her missing daughter through the silence at the other end of the line. Inevitably, from a 21st-century perspective of ubiquitous mobile devices, such communication technologies take on added pathos and strangeness. And yet this article will argue that such communications and media are already made strange and foregrounded in the series, pointing to the way the town of Twin Peaks itself functions as a kind of telecommunications network, with portals to the other dimensions of the black and white lodges. Similarly, Cooper’s voice recorder not only provides a kind of internal narration, as he communicates with the often evoked but never perceived Diane, but also in more than one scene operates as a sensor, as in the above described scene featuring Waldo the mynah bird as recording device, the re-recording of which by the voice recorder constitutes a strange form of “remediation” in Grusin and Bolter’s terms.1 The doubling of agent Cooper and Laura Palmer is at least partly achieved by the fact that they are both producers of recordings, in Laura’s case through the cassette recordings she makes for Dr Jacoby, whose post-mortem circulation and retrieval drives much of the first season’s investigation of her murder. Finally, phonographs are a much more ghostly entity in the world of Twin Peaks, whether the endlessly looping one discovered at Jacques Renault’s log cabin, presumably still playing from the night of Laura Palmer’s murder, to the record player on which Leland is obsessively playing jazz numbers that he dances to frenetically, provoking Sarah at one point to tear the needle from the groove, perhaps sensing that these grooves lead inevitably towards tragic and violent consequences.
This article will argue that these sonic technologies, alongside more (audio)visual ones such as flickering fluorescent lights, videos, and the television sets that seem to only play the soap opera Invitation to Love, are crucial to the world of Twin Peaks, and constitute this world as both a communications network with portals to the unknown, and an accumulation of recordings of ghosted voices and entities, perhaps finding its ultimate expression in the backwards reprocessed speech in the Black Lodge. This lodge can be understood as a space in which there are nothing but recordings, albeit now on a cosmic, spiritual and demonic level. Using a media archaeological approach to these devices in the series, this article will argue that they were already operating by a media archaeological logic, generating the world of Twin Peaks as a haunted archive of sonic and other mediations. While focusing on the ways in which sonic technologies are presented in and disrupt the diegetic world of Twin Peaks, it is interested, beyond this, in the material constitution of the series as an artefact of analogue television at a specific moment of its technological and institutional development, a moment markedly different to the present.
Media Archaeology and Sonic Technics
In the often quoted opening to the ‘Film’ chapter of Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, Friedrich Kittler writes, “Media cross each other in time which is no longer history”,2 an expression that seems highly applicable to the cinematic worlds of David Lynch and also to Twin Peaks on a number of levels. Kittler’s insight, following McLuhan, is that when, in the place of the recording, storage and transmission of writing, audiovisual technologies and devices are introduced, there is a profound disruption of the archive and hence of history itself, which ceases to be linear and rational, and is instead prone to the montage and looping of films, tapes and record grooves. The breakdown of over-arching linear narrative that characterises many of David Lynch’s films is, similarly, not an abandonment of chronological structure so much as an insistence that this structure is prone to repetitions, gaps and cycles, whereby the end might lead to the beginning as much as the other way round, as is especially evident in the Mobius strip like structures of Lost Highway (1997) and Mulholland Drive (2001) as well as the more labyrinthine topology of Inland Empire (2006). As Martha Nochimson has argued, Lynch’s later work proceeds by swerves rather than straight lines,3 and this non-linearity was already apparent and prefigured in the multiply mediated micro narratives of Twin Peaks. ll of these later films are predicated on ideas of media recordings and transmission, whether of phonographs, “live” performances, or video, recordings that perform ontological mutations on their story worlds, no less real or affecting for being revealed as “only a tape” as the Silencio sequence of Mulholland Drive suggests.
In the case of Twin Peaks, non-linearity comes through the crossing of the detective and soap opera genres, deploying the multi-linear narrative of the latter to disrupt the linear drive towards truth of the former; “who killed Laura Palmer?” becoming if not a red herring then just a pretext to open up a world of multiple intersecting stories in excess of the law which, as both McLuhan and Kittler have maintained, has a fundamental relationship with writing that goes back to scripture, or even the stone tablets bequeathed to Moses by God himself. This is not merely, however, a postmodern play with genre but an emergent audiovision in Michel Chion’s sense of the term,4 in which sonic and other media play key roles. As Justus Wieland notes, “Twin Peaks, both the series and the fictional town, is Lynch’s most enduring melodramatic network”,[Justus Wieland, David Lynch, (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2012, 81], but not only as a “quirky environment of character” [ibid., 81] but also as the locus of a series of malfunctioning machines. Perhaps the most fundamental media device in the series is that of electric light, the medium described by McLuhan as pure information, since it communicates nothing other than itself. Lynch’s trademark flashing, stroboscopic, malfunctioning fluorescent lights illustrate a key dynamic of the sonic technologies in the series, in that they only become perceptible through processes of breakdown which then serve their other unanticipated functions as portals to other worlds. Several commentators have noted the visual dimensions of this process. For instance, Botting and Wilson’s argue that, in Twin Peaks, “subjects are chillingly presented as no more than reflections of the mirror”, with the mirror and the reversals it gives rise to ultimately functioning as an “index of evil”, especially in the final scene, where the mirror image of the smirking Cooper is shown to be reflected as BOB.5 But sonic mediations are able to reveal different aspects of this process, in which subjects are not only images of the mirror but also the after-effects of audiovisual recording processes, performing actions and speech that are no less subject to demonic reversal, as clearly indicated in the double backwards speech in the black lodge.
The reason for employing a media archaeological method to account for the multiply mediated and remediated world of Twin Peaks is connected to questions of materiality, despite dealing with what is apparently a fictional representation. Usually media archaeology is used as a method to engage with real or imagined technological devices and technical inventions, especially those bypassed in teleological narratives of inevitable technological progress. When media-archaeological accounts engage with film or television, they tend to focus on technological assemblages and their operations as a specific moment in the archaeological record, and attempt to embrace their machinic functioning and logic, explicitly rejecting questions of signification, representation and culture. Admittedly, if in practice media archaeologists such as Kittler are interested in thematic features of early film (for example), inasmuch as they demonstrate the operations of psychotechnics within a given context, the emphasis is on the materiality of machinic processes, rather than questions of signification or representation. In his classic work on cinematic and televisual dispositifs, Audiovision, Siegfried Zielinski focuses on “the materiality of the media within the triadic relationship of technology-culture-subject”, considered as being in constant reciprocal relationship.6 Thus, alongside a strictly materialist attention to technological inventions and arrangements, there is also a focus on cultural practices or techniques and the mediated production of subjectivity.
Media-archaeological approaches to film such as those of Thomas Elsaesser are even more open, however, and suggest ways that the media of both film and television might be approached in a materialist manner, without jettisoning an interest in medium “content” altogether. Elsaesser, for example, points to articulations of the cinema’s functioning as a “vision machine” in the work of both theorists like Paul Virilio and filmmakers like Harun Farocki.7 In particular, the nature of these different visual machineries are explored in the collected volume Cinema Futures: Cain, Abel, or Cable?, which, especially in its chapters on cinematic and televisual documentary, is not averse to discussing questions of aesthetics and representation.8 However, in this case we are dealing with television and audiovision rather than the cinema as a vision machine. Cinema too, is clearly a medium of audiovision rather than a strictly visual one, as theorists such as Michel Chion have pointed out. However, television, especially in its small-screen analogue technological development at the time Twin Peaks was produced, was perhaps better considered as an audio-tactile medium as much as an audiovisual one, since the aesthetic limitations of televisual images, relative to cinematic images, tended to foreground narrative, dialogue, music and liveness, while images were at times reduced to being mere illustrations often proceeding according to conventional visual clichés – as demonstrated by the TV show within Twin Peaks, Invitation to Love.9 In this regard Twin Peaks must be situated between cinema and television; not only due to the (at the time) unusual presence of an art cinema director as a co-creator, but also due to the relatively cinematic visual and sound design of the show, which allowed for the theatrical release of the pilot as a movie, as well as a post-series cinematic prequel. Nevertheless, the world of Twin Peaks is one that is heard as much as it is seen, and that not only refers to televisual genres but also enacts a tactile televisual audiovision in which connections are often generated through the breakdown of audiovisual technical devices.
The domination of questions of representation has limited the attention paid to non-human devices within film and television studies in general, and Twin Peaks in particular has largely been approached in relation to questions of authorship, genre, narrative and representation, rather than machinic processes of audiovisual mediation, despite the abundant presence of the latter in the show. However, an early precursor to the kind of approach deployed here can be seen in J.P. Telotte’s chapter in David Lavery’s seminal collection on the show, Full of Secrets. Telotte makes reference to Foucault, whose archaeology of knowledge is a major inspiration for media archaeology, even if taken up critically in relation to new media of storage and transmission. But Telotte is referring rather to Foucault’s The Order of Things, which sought to show the contingencies of systems for generating and assigning meanings in modern human sciences. In the world of Twin Peaks, however, order is indiscernible from disorder, and no matter how carefully objects are arranged (as in the “Policeman’s Dream” arrangement of donuts) these orderings are prone to disruption – such as when these same donuts are covered in the blood of the assassinated Waldo. As Telotte puts it “The series, […] in a kind of reversal of Foucault’s project, hints at a level of madness that attaches itself to its vision of order. In Twin Peaks, order and disorder thus seem intricately interwoven and interdependent.”10 However, the ordering and disordering of “words and things”, to allude to the original French title of Foucault’s work, take place not only via the kinds of objects and actions that Telotte refers to, but also via a series of malfunctioning media devices, which precisely open the portals from the familiar checkerboard of order and disorder to a deeper order, one in which these devices participate precisely by breaking down.
I will now proceed to examine some of these breakdowns of sonic technological devices in the series, in order to see what they reveal about Twin Peaks as itself an audiovisual communications system. As such this is a kind of footnote to Kittler’s seminal work of media archaeology, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, subdividing the “Gramophone” chapter of Kittler’s volume in accordance with the following devices: Telephones, voice (cassette) recorders, microphones and phonographs.
The inarticulate phone call from Pete Martell (Jack Nance), who has just seen Laura Palmer “wrapped in plastic”, inaugurates the central mystery of the series, even if it is far from the beginning of the events of the storyline. Interestingly, Pete uses the expression “put Harry on the horn” – a colloquialism that refers back to the early design of telephone technologies, which involved a horn-like object held against the ear, separate from any microphone. This first act of telecommunication also indicates, in a humorous mode, how telephonic communications are prone to accident and error, in that Lucy’s attempts to describe how the call will be re-directed take more time to explain than the length of the actual phone call. From the very beginning, then, the medium – or rather its accidents and errors – is the message. It is also highly significant that the Packard mill, where Pete makes the phone call, is particularly prone to third party listening in on the part of Catherine Martell. This underlines the noise inherent in every communication channel, which plays the role of the parasitic third party in Michel Serres’ sense. According to Serres, in any act of communication, there is always an uninvited parasitic third party, the uneliminable noise operative in any communication channel. 11 Already in this first phone call two key forms of noise are therefore introduced into sonic communications – the noise resulting from calls not arriving at their destination but instead circulating within a network, and the parasitic noise of listening in, again diverting two way communication channels into a more ambiguous network configuration. This first call leads to a very different and more emotive phone call between Leland and Sarah Palmer, during which Leland Palmer is informed in person that Laura is dead. Prior to this, Sarah Palmer makes a series of calls to ascertain her daughter’s whereabouts, none of which provide any conclusive information, but merely point to a series of absences and evasions that are more noise than signal in relation to her desire to ascertain the whereabouts of her daughter. When she finally reaches Leland, called out of an important business meeting, it is at the precise moment that he is being notified of Laura’s death. This call proceeds via a kind of intuitive telepathy, whereby her already existing sense that something is wrong only needs confirmation by the words “Sherriff Truman”, spoken almost unconsciously by Leland as he is approached in the lobby. In this call, information is again overwhelmed by noise, not of switching operations or parasites but intense affect, which travels down the telephone line even after the receivers are dropped, without the need for any verbal content to be transmitted. It is precisely by breaking down as an informational communication device, which anyway only seems to communicate misinformation, that the telephone is transformed into a technology of pure affect. The extraordinary sonic performance of grief on the part of Sarah Palmer transmits raw and pure affect that seems somehow enabled by the still open telephonic communication channel, even if nothing is communicated through this lines since both parties have dropped the phone. As the series progresses it seems these opening telephone calls were a premonitory sign of how the town itself is a cosmic telecommunications apparatus, whose switching operations seem to proceed via the black lodge.
If the “first” beginning of Twin Peaks operates through a misuse of telephones, the second beginning, introducing the central character agent Dale Cooper, is announced into a voice recorder via the now legendary phrase: “Diane, 11:30am, February 24th, entering the town of Twin Peaks”, some 34 minutes into the pilot. Unlike the opening phone call there is no difficulty in establishing spatio-temporal coordinates, since Cooper is clearly a stickler for such details, right down to the exact expenditure en route at the Lamplighter Inn. But who, and more exactly where, is Diane? While fancifully attributed by some to the voice recorder itself, the never seen Diane appears to be a secretary or administrator back at the FBI headquarters in Philadelphia, only confirmed, if still not visually, in the subsequent prequel film Fire Walk with Me (1992). As opposed to the live yet faulty transmissions of the telephone network, these voice recordings are accurate but subject to delay, and the dynamics of their distribution are never shown – they are recordings without transmission as opposed to transmissions without informational content. And yet, taken together, these transmissions constitute a partial narration of the series, or at least the investigation. This is certainly the case in the expanded version of the tapes, released as an audio paratext to the show, “The Twin Peaks Tapes of Agent Cooper”. Yet this is not entirely a straight informational account; rather, it is one full of digressions about the trees and the “damn fine coffee”, not to mention the weatherman and the Kennedy assassination. In many respects these tapes function as a transduction device, converting Laura Palmer’s diary, for example, into sound recordings, while also constituting Cooper’s own audio diary. However, the parallelism does not stop there, since Laura was also producing tapes with a different generic opening, “What’s up doc”, as part of her unconventional therapy with the equally unconventional Dr Jacoby. Unlike Cooper’s recordings, the locations of these recordings are slowly revealed, and are the only voice Laura has in the series other than via her black lodge avatars, which again could be understood as forms of spectral recording. In this regard it is interesting that the process of retrieving these recordings is facilitated by the appearance of her cousin Madeleine, explicitly presented as Laura’s double and played by the same actress, who first finds a cassette in Laura’s bedpost, and then helps retrieve the last cassette recording from Dr Jacoby’s apartment by impersonating Laura. While the connections between Laura Palmer and that other unknowable Laura (from Otto Preminger’s eponymous film) have been noted by several authors,12 this is further reinforced by the intertextuality of the name Madeleine with Proust’s mechanism for provoking involuntary memory. From a media-archaeological perspective, the character of Madeleine functions precisely as such a mnemonic device, reminding James and Donna of their feelings for their lost lover and friend respectively, traumatising Dr Jacoby through her performance as the apparition of Laura, and finally provoking Leland/BOB to remember his original crime by re-enacting it. Admittedly some of this happens via her uncanny visual resemblance to her dead cousin, but much of it also proceeds in relation to sonic or audiovisual media; Laura’s cassettes, the video Donna, James and Maddy make to lure Dr Jacoby away from his apartment, the rock and roll recording the three will make together, and finally the record player in the Palmers’ living room, to which we will return. In a certain sense, for the people she encounters in Twin Peaks, Madeleine is only the spectral recording of the absent Laura, provoking similar perceptions, affects and actions, and a compulsion to repeat clearly demonstrating an inability to mourn.
However, it is the scene in season one, episode six, in which Waldo talks to Cooper’s voice activated voice recorder, that is the moment when this device truly takes on an agency of its own, remediating the recording stored in the bird’s vocal chords, before its untimely demise. The association of the two recording devices tends to undermine the purported completeness and rationality of Cooper’s deliberate voice recordings – which, it is also suggested, may only be recordings of recordings, the mere mimicry of the unreliable vocal performances of the town’s inhabitants. On the other hand, these recordings seem to lead to another field of recording in Cooper’s dreams and visions, beginning with his dream of what will become known as the black lodge at the end of episode two. The nature of recording here is emphasised through the reversed backwards speech of the Black Lodge inhabitants, including Laura Palmer herself, a clear reference to the supposed demonic powers of audio backward masking attributed to some famous rock recordings such as the Beatles’ White Album. In this space everything is a recording and is pre-recorded (as in Mulholland Drive’s club Silencio), yet these unconscious recordings are misremembered and only grasped in an intuitive sense as poetic clues, surrounding the key revelation of the killer’s identity which Cooper forgets after Laura Palmer’s spectral double whispers it into his ear. As such these dream recordings double the more conscious recordings made by both Cooper and Laura, which can be seen as attempts to impose order on these more primal and disturbing unconscious recordings.
Microphones, often of a classic 1950s design, abound in Twin Peaks: from the public address systems used by the school principal and Josie Packard to announce the death of Laura Palmer and the temporary shutting down of their respective institutions, through to the rock and roll recording made by James, Donna and Maddie, which reveals the affective dynamics between the three amateur investigators much more clearly than their actual conversations. In all these instances, these devices are unusually foregrounded, as is if it is the tone of the amplified voices as they reverberate through different spaces that counts more than the content of what is actually said. Whether it is the principal’s distressed voice echoing down the school corridors, or Josie’s voice haunting the spaces of industrial production, both of these spaces are seemingly emptied out and made unproductive by such affective tonalities. In a similar manner, a profound sense of melancholy reverberates in the sonic atmosphere of the three teens’ recording session, despite the lyrics’ avowed celebration of romantic love – the song they record, “Just You and I”, is again an idealisation of clear two-way communication, but is already interrupted by a third party, in that James and Donna’s declaration of love is diverted by the presence of Madeleine, who in turn summons the deeper affective resonance between James and Laura, introducing so much noise into the system that there is a complete breakdown of communication between the original couple. In reality, this is merely the materialisation of the fact that their two-way romance is only meaningful in relation to the third term of Laura and so is both haunted and cursed by this stronger parasite. However hard they try to project their new romance into the past, it will never be “Just You and I”.
However, the most memorable uses of microphones in the series comes when they are used by the town’s ageing mayor, who seems to have a unique ability to make them malfunction: from his attempt to open the town meeting in the pilot to his participation in events leading up to the Miss Twin Peaks beauty pageant towards the end of series two. Here the giant makes his third appearance and the second one occasioned via a microphone. The giant first appears when Cooper is shot, and is strongly associated with the doddering waiter, Señor Droolcup. The second time he appears, he replaces Julee Cruise and band, seemingly the resident musical entertainment at the Roadhouse, at the exact time Madeleine is being murdered, in order to announce “it is happening again” – to which the waiter adds “I’m so sorry.” Finally, in the last scene he replaces Mayor Milford’s comic antics with the microphone, which have been interrupting the romantic date between Cooper and Annie. Perhaps due to his romantic involvement, Cooper fails to pay attention to the giant’s headshaking and silent no at the prospect of Annie entering Miss Twin Peaks, which will prove to have tragic consequences.
Again, microphones, as with other sonic technologies, appear at first as merely quirky, comic devices in their malfunctioning, as well as amplifying important affective moments in the announcement of Laura Palmer’s death, or the recording of James, Donna, and Maddy’s song. But in the end, as with voice recorders and telephones, they become a portal to another world, the world of the black lodge.
The already archaic technology of the phonograph plays an even more focal role in the series than the technologies previously discussed, and returns us to Kittler’s “Gramophone” chapter. In this chapter, the strangeness of this accidentally invented device is emphasised, as the by-product of telegraphic and telephonic technologies, finally enabling a writing without a subject going beyond both human speech and acoustic music in its possibilities for the time-axis manipulation of frequencies.13 From Edison’s demonstrations of the new device’s capacity to slow down, speed up and reverse recordings to the backwards masking of contemporary rock music, TAM progressively dominates over notions of sound reproduction and fidelity: “once storage and manipulation coincide in principle, […] storage facilities […] shatter the very concepts of memory. Reproduction is demoted once the past and all its sensuous detail is transmitted by technical devices.”14 Such indeed seems to be the case for the inhabitants of the black lodge in Twin Peaks, whose speech is subject to a double time axis reversal so that their backwards articulations are themselves rendered backwards, raising TAM to a new level. At the same time this is an indication that the entities that are encountered in this space are nothing but spectral recordings, the foregrounding of a technological manipulation that should remind us that this is no less applicable to the entities of the world of Twin Peaks in general.
But phonographic devices play more specific roles within the series – as is first alluded to by the clue from the Man in the Other Place that appears in Cooper’s dream, “Where she’s from the birds sing a pretty tune and there’s always music in the air.” This statement resonates throughout the series, beyond its narrative function as one of the clues that has to be solved from the dream. From his appearance in Twin Peaks, Agent Cooper is clicking his fingers to Badalamenti’s jazzy score, some characters like Audrey are accompanied by theme music – and arguably Laura is mostly present in the series via her leitmotif music, as Richardson has suggested.15 But more directly this turns out to be a reference to the phonograph discovered playing endlessly on repeat in Jacques Renault’s log cabin, still playing from the night Laura was murdered. This discovery of this spectral device whose sounds initially seem to be emanating from the woods themselves is indexed directly to the dream statement – “and there’s always music in the air” – which Cooper repeats, mimicking the operations of this ghostly phonograph. Appropriately enough, even though the phonograph is only capable of endless repetitive playback until Sherrif Truman lifts the needle from the grooves, it is accompanied by a recording device in the mynah bird Waldo whose “pretty tune” is in fact an accurate sonic record of the events that took place on the tragic night under investigation. This coupling of sonic inscription devices, phonograph-bird-(and ultimately) voice recorder, gives further evidence that what we are dealing with here are nothing but recordings.
This eerie spectral music playing in the log cabin is doubled by the endless jazz tunes Leland is playing on his home phonograph, frenetically and emotionally dancing to at the Great Northern, or singing in his car. This jaunty soundtrack will ultimately become the accompaniment to Maddy’s murder, as I already indicated. Sarah Palmer’s hostility to this device and to Leland’s excessive dancing to its tunes, leading her in one instance to tear the needle out of the grooves, is evidence of her premonitory, intuitive capacities, which were already demonstrated in her ability to grasp her daughter’s death via the silence at the other end of the telephone line. Following another enigmatic line from the other place – “the owls are not what they seem” – Sarah intuits that these cheerful jazz standards mask another tune that is far from pretty but rather as possessed and predetermined as the pathways of the needle over the grooves of the record. Ultimately, however, instead of jazz standards, Leland’s turntable plays a locked groove of repetitive clicks, presumably the inside groove of a record that has become stuck in a perpetual cycle. Again, as with the faulty microphones, telephone networks and dispersed voice recordings, the technology itself is emphasised, and facilitates a portal to another world, in this case the world of BOB and the black lodge. Despite switching between Bob and Leland in this gruelling scene, it is as if a pre-recorded scenario, a locked groove, is being played out, in which there is no other possible outcome than Maddy’s death.
This list of sonic devices does not exhaust all the sonic technologies deployed in the series, and more devices could have been engaged with such as the Double R diner’s aberrant jukebox, Gordon Cole’s hearing aid or even the log lady’s log, which similarly seems to inscribe significant events in a sonic form only audible to Margaret. Nevertheless, the sonic technologies discussed above are sufficient to demonstrate the manner in which they serve as portals to the black lodge. Indeed, the black lodge itself is, in a sense, nothing more than a network of recordings, the frenetic acting out of pre-recorded scenarios of characters who are in a kind of limbo, where they only exist as so many recordings or traces of their former selves. This is perhaps where Cooper inevitably fails, in imagining he can act heroically and morally inside a realm where everything has already been recorded, and thereby haunted and possessed, and there is no other option than to become yet another malevolent recording, as indicated in the final lines of dialogue: Cooper/BOB’s repetitive “How’s Annie?” In this demonic ending to the series, Cooper has become, not only reversed into BOB in the mirror he compulsively cracks his head against, but also a spectral and manipulated recording or simulacrum of his former self, which, like Edison’s demonstrations of his recording/playback device, is subject to manipulations and reversals that extend to a moral and spiritual level. This seems to clearly echo the “scandalous” statement that Kittler takes from Villiers de l’Isle Adam that “the soul is a notebook of phonographic recordings,”16 meaning that the inscription, storage, and transmission of vibrations enacted by phonographic devices becomes a perfect analogue for neurophysiological functioning in the era of technological modernity. In this final scene of the series, Lynch is perhaps making a similar point to the one demonstrated in the “Silencio” scene of Mulholland Drive: that the whole world of Twin Peaks, with its quirky characters and narrative events so adored by audiences, is only a montage of audiovisual recordings of pre-determined and pre-scripted statements and gestures, extracted from pre-existing cinematic and televisual models, repertoires and genres. These performances in turn are caught up in a haunted, spectral world, whose logic is already pre-determined and manipulated, and which speaks to us via the range of sonic devices discussed here, further remediated by the dispositif of television. How these performances will be remediated in the forthcoming third season of Twin Peaks is yet to be revealed, but they will clearly take place in a transfigured technological environment, in which both televisual and sonic technologies have taken on markedly different digital forms. One can nonetheless anticipate that sonic technologies, whether contemporary or archaic, will have their roles to play in the return of Twin Peaks. Given the new technological possibilities for innovative televisual aesthetics on contemporary television, and specifically the advances in complex sound design that Twin Peaks already prefigured in the early 1990s, it would be surprising if these functioning and malfunctioning sonic devices do not continue to be haunted presences in the third series.
This article has been peer-reviewed.
- Richard Grusin and Jay David Bolter, Remediation: Understanding New Media (Boston: MIT, 2000). ↩
- Friedrich Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter. Trans. Geoffrey Winthrop-Young and Michael Wutz (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999), p. 115. ↩
- Nochimson, Martha. David Lynch Swerves: Uncertainty form Lost Highway to Inland Empire (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2014). ↩
- Michel Chion, Audiovision: Sound on Screen, trans. Claudia Gorbman (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994). ↩
- Fred Botting and Scott Wilson. Bataille (Houndsmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001), p. 149. ↩
- Siegfried Zielinski, Audiovisions: Cinema and Television as Entr’actes in History, trans. Gloria Custanz (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 1999), p. 20 ↩
- Thomas Elsaesser, “Freud and the Technical Media: The Enduring Magic of the Wunderblock”, in: Jussi Parikka and Erkki Huhtamo eds. Media Archaeology: Approaches, Applications and Implications, (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2011), p. 103. ↩
- Thomas Elsaesser and Kay Hoffmann eds. Cinema Futures: Cain, Abel or Cable? (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 1998). ↩
- Recent work such as the chapters collected in Television Aesthetics and Style (ed. Jacobs and Peacock) reject this widespread idea of television as historically being a non-aesthetic and non-visual medium that has only recently become “cinematic”. However, several authors such as Deborah Jaramillo note a range of historical obstacles to treating television in an aesthetic sense, which include “the shoddiness of the technology and quite frankly, the screen” (Jaramillo, “Rescuing Television form the ‘cinematic’”, in: Jason Jacobs and Stephen Peacock eds. Television Aesthetics and Style, (London, New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013), p. 70. ↩
- J.P. Telotte, “The Disorder of Things in Twin Peaks, in: David Lavery (ed.), Full of Secrets: Critical Approaches to Twin Peaks (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1995), p. 161. ↩
- See Michael Goddard, Benjamin Halligan and Paul Hegarty eds. Reverberations: The Philosophy, Aesthetics and Politics of Noise (London, New York: Continuum, 2012), p. 3. ↩
- John Richardson, “Laura and Twin Peaks: Postmodern Parody and the Musical reconstruction of the absent Femme Fatale” in: Erica Sheen and Annette Davison (eds.), The Cinema of David Lynch: American Dreams, Nightmare Visions (London: Wallflower, 2004), p. 78 ff. ↩
- Kittler, op. cit., pp. 34-36. ↩
- Ibid., p. 36 ↩
- Richardson, op. cit., pp. 85-87. ↩
- Cited in Kittler, op. cit., p. 29. ↩