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The Significance of the Blue Rose

By January 2, 2019 6 Comments
All Things Have An End And A Beginning

What many fans of Twin Peaks: The Return may not know is that I am a life-long musician and David Lynch and I were introduced in 1999 under the context of being potential musical collaborators. We hit it off beautifully in the recording studio, “love at first chord” as it were, and wrote a song together the day we met. Since then our musical partnership has yielded 2 releases: a full length record called This Train(2011) and an EP entitled Somewhere In The Nowhere(2016). The music is dreamy, sensual, mysterious, and teeming with a reflective darkness. It would certainly be right at home in a Twin Peaks episode, and, in fact, one of our most popular tracks, “Real Love”, clearly finds it’s genesis from the song “Blue Frank” from the soundtrack of season two.

This_Train_portrait-Chrysta-Bell-David-Lynch

Photography by David Lynch from the packaging for the album This Train(2011)

Over the years of song writing, recording sessions and countless cappuccinos, David and I bonded over a mutual fascination with the Great Unknown and various flavors of esoteric and metaphysical subjects. These themes definitely influenced our music and formed the foundation for many of our most stirring discourses shared during coffee breaks while making music. Between the artistic and emotional fulfillment of creating beautiful music with someone I genuinely admire and care for, and the soulful satisfaction of our cosmically caffeinated conversations, I always felt my life was enriched and my consciousness was expanded after spending time in the studio with David, and I cherished those experiences deeply.

As thrilled as I was when I heard the rumors that Twin Peaks was (perhaps) returning, both from the standpoint of being a fan of the show and in excitement for David, I was also aware that as a result there would be an indefinite hiatus in our music making and coffee talks as he focused on this important endeavor. More likely, this part of our lives together was coming to a permanent close.

Working in David’s studio. Image by Dean Hurley.

When One Door Closes

I had never indulged in one moment of fantasy about being in Twin Peaks if it did actually return. Even after all the years of collaboration with David, it just never crossed my mind that he would ask me to be a part of it. But I had been short sighted. Looking back, I can see now that the process of creating two albums together was also a 15- year audition for a different gig!

During a coffee break in one of our final recording sessions for Somewhere in The Nowhere, David coyly revealed to me that “there may be a role for you in my new project”. I had been emotionally preparing for the chapter of our artistic collaboration days coming to a end, and suddenly David presents a riveting plot twist. True to form, he kept pertinent details about the role shrouded with intrigue for a long time after initially approaching the subject, dispersing small, tantalizing morsels about my character over the course of many months. The drip feed of intel left me starving for answers to my burning questions: Was it a walk-on part or a larger role? Does the part involve me singing at some point? Who would I be working with? Am I going to die on the show? I was fully lit up by this unexpected development and my excitement and curiosity were all- consuming from that moment forward.

The drip feed of intel left me starving for answers to my burning questions: Was it a walk-on part? Does the part involve me singing at some point? Am I going to die? - Chrysta Bell on David Lynch asking her to be a part of Twin Peaks: The ReturnClick To Tweet

 

 

The Number 8

Many months passed before I was finally invited to read the script and get some of my questions answered. I drove to the Rancho Rosa office in Van Nuys, California, on August 25, 2015, bubbling with nerves. After checking in with reception I had a quick meeting with David who was all smiles. He knew I was about to dive in and was quite aware I was dying of suspense by that point. He sent me to the office next door where a friendly brunette man handed me a thick script. I asked him if it was for the entire show. When he smiled and told to me that no, these were only my scenes from the full script, I had my first inner meltdown of the day.

I noticed my character name had the number 8 next to it (I happen to have this number tattooed on my inner left ankle) and I asked the man what that meant. He told me it referenced how much screen time my character has, thus, Tammy had the 8th most screen time of all the characters in the show. I tried to stay cool but I am sure the look on my face was anything but. My heart started beating triple time and I could feel my body heat rising. My biggest fear and simultaneously my grandest hope had just been revealed to me: I have a big part in this thing. As I walked out of his office with the stack of papers in my sweaty hand, I dissolved into a nervous euphoria which devolved into raging self doubt: How am I going to pull this off? Has David lost his fucking mind?

Under the florescent bulbs in the empty production office where I was sent to look over the script, I sat down and tried to collect myself. I was dying of curiosity and trembling with trepidation. I took a few more deep breaths and started reading.

With every page there was an avalanche of new information and fresh mysteries unfolding. Tammy’s vague silhouette was being being filled in with bold colors and subtle shading. I was finally meeting her formally and peeking into her preordained fate. As I read slowly and intently, it was as if I was gingerly sifting through a treasure chest of information, discovering Tammy’s interactions and fascinating dynamics with Gordon, Albert, Diane! It was overwhelming enough, and then I read the words:
I’m in.
This is what FBI Agent Tammy Preston says after being invited to become the first female member of the infamous Blue Rose Task Force.
I was overcome with this development. I think I started crying and laughing and just staring into space, all at once. The significance of my character’s initiation to the blue rose task force was astronomical. Tammy would be joining an elite FBI team that included Philip Jeffries, Gordon Cole, Dale Cooper and Albert Rosenfield and be investigating highly classified projects having to do with the paranormal. I was joining a coterie of legendary artists David Bowie, David Lynch, Kyle MacLachlan, and Miguel Ferrer bonded by a fictional task force assigned to investigate the supernatural on a prestigious legacy TV show that was incalculably important in the history of pop culture. It was almost impossible to wrap my head around. But in the moments after reading it those words, “I’m in”, I felt Tammy Preston and Chrysta Bell Zucht inextricably linked and steadfast in the acceptance of the missions being presented. Tammy was being inducted into the Blue Rose Task Force and I was being inducted into Twin Peaks. In both cases, any hint of dubiousness of our worthiness of the position had been tempered once the gauntlet had been thrown down. We both would strive to pass every test. We each accepted with a sense of elation mixed with fear, but total unwavering commitment.

As I continued reading the script, waves of understanding rippled through me and my participation in Twin Peaks: The Return started to make sense. David and I, like Gordon and Tammy, have an easy repartee and strong mutual respect. David has been a mentor for me in many ways and always offered thoughtful counsel. He had championed me to others when it really mattered and believed in me as a musician and performer, just as Gordon believes “Agent Tammy Preston has the stuff.” As wild and out-of-the-blue as this opportunity felt, it was dawning on me that it was completely appropriate. As I let it all sink into my consciousness, it felt as if I was reading an ancient poem that eloquently expressed a deep and powerful emotion I had never before been able to describe in words.

I finished reading the script and left the production office in a daze. I think I said goodbye to David but I don’t remember. My bewilderment over the circumstance in which I found myself reverberated over days and months. As the actuality of this destiny began to crystallize, so did the blue rose symbol in my consciousness. It became a fixture in my self identity; the tidy icon of my wild and rampant vortex of feelings around becoming a part of the Twin Peaks Universe.

 

The blue rose became a fixture of my self identity.


It felt as if I was reading an ancient poem that eloquently expressed a deep and powerful emotion I had never before been able to describe in words. - Chrysta BellClick To Tweet

Gordon and Tammy sharing a moment while watching Albert on a date. Image courtesy of Showtime.

Another Blue Rose Blossoms

I couldn’t talk about the script or reveal Tammy’s eminant and unusual career development so the excitement was spiraling within me with no sense of release. So naturally, as a musician, I started writing music to have a creative relief for everything I was experiencing.

The idea that kept coming to me as I drifted to creation mode was no surprise and frankly, inescapable. The first bits of a vocal melody for the song “Blue Rose” came to me when I was driving on one of my many trips to LA from Oakland (where I lived) a couple of months before filming began. Many of my song ideas come when I’m driving on long trips. Something about the open road and active meditation of going down a highway alone with my thoughts really gets the juices flowing. At some point the lyrics “he calls me Blue Rose, my true love” came to me with romantic glissandos on the words “blue” and “true”. I liked it, it was soothing for me to sing it and for awhile it was all I had. I thought it was a strong start to something but I was worried it was a too reminiscent of “Blue Velvet” and I kept trying to modify the melody. But sometimes things just stick and there is nothing to be done but see it through.

When the rest of the lyrics came to me they came in full verses, and it was clear this song was about a cosmic kind of love. A love that crosses dimensions of time and space and life and death.
This kind of love some would say does not, could not exist. Just like the blue rose isn’t found in nature.

The next time I traveled to Texas I sang “Blue Rose” for my songwriting partner, Christopher Smart, who I had known by that time even longer than I’d known David. After hearing it he reminded me that when we had first met he used to play a record for me by Rosemary Clooney and Duke Ellington called, can you guess? Blue Rose. I had no conscious memory of this so he went to his record collection and pulled out the album and played it. Rosemary didn’t sing any words on the mid-tempo big band arrangement of the song “Blue Rose”, she vocalized as if she were a lead instrument in the band.
As we listened I let it sink in: 17 years before I came to Chris to help orchestrate and arrange my song called “Blue Rose”, born as a therapeutic release from the heightened emotions around being asked to join the Blue Rose Task Force in Twin Peaks, he and I drank red wine while listening to the album Blue Rose, and specifically the song “Blue Rose”, sung by the mother of Miguel Ferrer. Of course, it’s Miguel’s character, Albert Rosenfield, who asks Tammy to join the Blue Rose Task Force. Let’s take it one notch deeper, the song was performed by an orchestra led by Duke Ellington, who Miguel accompanied on drums when he was only a teenager.

Deep breath. 
Yes, this could all be a coincidence, but I choose to believe there is something more to it, and it’s a thing that enriches life with some truly wonderful and significant moments of deep gratification.

 

Holding the album Blue Rose from Chris’s collection

Albert shares the origins of the Blue Rose to Tammy. Image courtesy of Showtime.

The (not so)Intrepid Waltz of the Blue Rose

To my budding lyrics and melody for “Blue Rose”, sung in 6/8, the cadence of a waltz, Chris added a lush string accompaniment with some eerie sound design which I loved. I was super excited about where the song was going but I was also nervous.
Blue rose imagery and concept are so closely aligned with Twin Peaks, and I didn’t want David to feel like I was impeding on his turf, even though I have never known him to be like that. But this was so close to home and the last thing I wanted to do was upset him.
If he had even blinked funny about it I would have shelved the song. I played the demo for “Blue Rose” for David from my dinky phone speaker one day as we were filming at the airport in Lancaster, and he smiled. He said it was nice. I asked him if it was a bummer for him that I called it blue rose and he said “no!” And chuckled. God I was relieved!

When Twin Peaks: The Return aired after what felt like an eternity of waiting, and the scene of Major Briggs’ face floating through space saying “Blue Rose” appeared, I about died and went to heaven.
My lyrics in “Blue Rose”- “like music in my mind, floating through space and time…” so closely mirrored the scene it made my head spin.
This scene had nothing to do and everything to do with my song. The remarkable alignment was yet another gift bestowed by the mystical and enchanted world of Twin Peaks.

 

When the band and I were recording the EP Chrysta Bell in Austin last February, I really wanted “Blue Rose” to make the cut. Chris produced the track and it really came to life in the studio by adding orchestral drums from drummer Jayson Altman and soaring guitar sounds and feedback from guitar player Jon Sanchez. When we listened back after it was all done, I just felt it had a real “thing”.
As much as I loved it I was still concerned that other people might think I was taking the blue rose concept a little too far and I should find an original idea to sing about! But that’s just part of it. When a song comes to you and it’s relentless and inspiring, you can’t question it too much. You gotta just take it and see if it soars. I have decided to include “Blue Rose” on my upcoming full length album as well, entitled Feels Like Love coming out in Spring of 2019.

I asked the talented director and animator Joseph Skorman to make a simple, mesmerizing “listening” video for the song, and he did just that.

The song “Blue Rose” has nothing and everything to do with Twin Peaks. Be a dear and listen with headphones? I hope you enjoy it.

Love, Chrysta Bell

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  • Delphine Barbillon says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this incredible post about the significance of the Blue Rose!
    It is both fascinating and touching to read your journey while entering the world of Twin Peaks and the moment when You,Tammy and the Blue Rose Task Force all merged together is so marvelously well written.
    The genesis of the creation of your otherwordly beautiful Blue Rose song could have been a Blue Rose case in itself: so mysterious and filled with secrets and unexplained elements.
    I guess you were meant to become Tammy and enter the magical universe of Twin Peaks for your own universe is so rich and sacred!
    I will never listen to the Blue Rose song the same way now that i know all the story behind it and all the metaphysical meaning of it.
    You are such an unique human being and artist, you are and will forever be my Blue Rose, so far and yet somehow a part of me.
    Sending so much love to you my dear Chrysta Bell!

  • Michael O'Connor says:

    To continue your little synchronicity trip, have you checked the track number of Blue Rose on Rosemary Clooney and Duke Ellington’s Blue Rose album? It’s song number 8 🙂

  • Dia Dahl says:

    Love the state of mind i get from listening to that song 💙

  • Sesu says:

    Twin Peaks seems to be my life & Tammy mesmerized me…..I’m pleased you were on the Blue Rose Task Force & hope to continue the journey together. Until then I’ll listen to you music & reflect……Thank you.

  • Jon Sheard says:

    I love the song Blue Rose. I loved you as Tammy Preston. Hearing the links between the two is fascinating.
    Can’t wait to hear you sing again Manchester!

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