Eric Salzman: Composer, Author, Music Theater Innovator


New Releasings

Labor Records in collaboration with Naxos is releasing a series of recordings of my work covering more than half a century! The most recent release is "Jukebox in the Tavern of Love" paired with a new work by Meredith Monk. "The Nude Paper Sermon" and "Wiretap" is a double album containing no fewer than five works; see below for details. "Civilization & its Discontents" is a words-and-music collaboration with Michael Sahl. More information, reviews and ordering (physical or digital editions) is available below or by going to Labor Records.

Jukebox in the Tavern of Love Nude Paper Sermon - Wiretap Civilization Discontents

“Big Jim” is a US Artists project

“Big Jim” has been selected as a US Artists project and the following has gone out over their logo:


UnitedStatesArtists is plugging for my most recent opera/music-theater piece “BIG JIM & THE SMALL-TIME INVESTORS” — libretto by Ned Jackson and myself, with a full musical score by me.

This piece is a major step forward for me and Ned and the help of US Artists is much appreciated — but we need your support. As some of you know, we had a very successful reading last spring at The Flea Theater in downtown NYC and, as a result, the work is scheduled for performance by the Center for Contemporary Opera next year. But this is a shoestring operation and we are way short of funds. The aim of US Artists is to help raise some of those funds and they have a great track record doing this with contributors from all over.

“Big Jim” is about an L.A. con man, a kind of televangist who is peddling a virtual reality scheme that purports to let its viewers imagine that their wildest fantasies have come true. It is a mixture of innovative and popular elements in the script, score and staging that are both amusing and scary…not to mention timely.

I’m sharing this project at this stage of development because I’m trying to raise $12-$15,000 in order to finish up the composition, make the necessary revisions, orchestrate, and meet various other costs connected with printing, copying and setting up auditions — virtually all expenses that fall on me. If you can support this project with a donation, in any capacity or amount, we can make “Big Jim” a reality! Shoring this project with others and sending me your thoughts are also very valuable ways to show your support.

Want to learn more? If you go to you can find lots of information about “BIG JIM” (including a talking head video in which the talking head is me). And, most importantly, information on how to help!

US Artists is a wonderful non-profit whose aim is to help artists create or complete major projects. It was founded by Ford, Rockefeller, Rasmuson and Prudential Foundations and has supported the work of individual artists since 2005. Donating through USA’s micro-philanthropy initiative, USA Projects, supports the work of accomplished artists all across American and is tax deductible. The great thing about this is that it is directly plugged into the creators; this is an organization with an excellent record helping artists raise the funds that are so desperately needed these days! It’s a great way to help art in America grow!

If this is irrelevant to you, just hit the delete button. Otherwise let me know what you think. Whatever you can do (including any suggestions you might have) will be much appreciated!



Date Posted // February 11, 2013
In Categories // Big Jim and the Small-Time Investors, Music Theater, News, Works and Productions

La Bonne Ame de Setchouan in Montreal with Salzman score

Antoine Laprise is rehearsing a new version of his production of “La Bonne Ame de Setchouan” (“The Good Woman of Szechuan” by Bertolt Brecht) with my music. The production is scheduled for Montreal in mid-March. The score was originally written and performed for a production by the Theatre du Trident in Quebec City in 2002-03.

Date Posted // February 02, 2013
In Categories // Events, La Bonne Ame de Setchouan, Music Theater, News, Works and Productions

a new review

Reviews of the Labor/Naxos release “The Nude Paper Sermon” and “Wiretap”  <> continue to appear. The latest is from Grapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review (Grego Applegate Edwards):

Re: The Nude Paper Sermon: “…A narrator, in a lengthy and sometimes rapid-fire monologue, personifies a sort of voice of the media, pontificating in a disjointed and sometimes surreal manner on anything and everything while an acoustic-electric collage of Babel crowd voices, a Renaissance style vocal group, noise, Boschian effects from a modern hell, all combine to make a soundscape that is both funny, mind expanding and, especially at the time, terrifying. It is one of the better multi-stranded collage pieces of the era, at the same time leaves you with an acute and aesthetically satisfying portrayal of a contemporary world so overloaded with messages and input that meaning is in short supply.”

“…(Wiretap) captures the experimental excitement of the era, some of the excesses of expression the era produced, and the urgent impetus to create relevant works that somehow commented on the vitality and critical impact of the passing scene.”

You can find the full review at <>

Date Posted // December 05, 2012
In Categories // Music Theater, News, Recordings, Reviews, The Nude Paper Sermon, The Nude Paper Sermon, Wiretap, Wiretap

Labor/Naxos to release “Nude Paper Sermon” & “Wiretap”

Labor Records and Naxos will release Eric Salzman’s The Nude Paper Sermon and Wiretap as a double album on October 30, 2012.

The Nude Paper Sermon, the 2nd Nonesuch Records commission, was an innovative music-theater work in every dimension, a multi-media work in recorded form. It features an actor/narrator (Stacy Keach), a Renaissance ensemble (the Nonesuch Consort under Joshua Rifkin with William Zukof, countertenor, Alan Titus, baritone, plus an array of early instruments), a chorus (the N.Y. Motet Singers) and electronic music (from the Columbia/Princeton Electronic Music Studio), all put together in what was the then-new multi-track technology. Texts are by Steven Wade and John Ashbery.

It was Ilhan Mimaroglu, the legendary electronic-music composer, jazz producer and Atlantic Records guru, who asked Salzman to put together an album of his shorter works under the rubric of Wiretap. These ‘wiretaps’ or ‘braintaps’ in sound lead off with Helix, a Quog Music Theater festival performance from the famous WBAI Free Music Store. The title piece, Wiretap, comes from Salzman’s score for Daniel Nagrin’s anti-war dance epic, “The Peloponnesian War“. Queens Collage, an ‘academic festival overture’ and a souvenir of Salzman’s career at Queens College in New York, is made up of ‘found sound’ from an urban collage campus put together in cinéma verité style. Larynx Music, written in the 1960s for Cathy Berberian, was newly recorded at Atlantic by Elise Ross, one of Europe’s leading performers of new music, with composer/guitarist Stanley Silverman and Mimaroglu as producer.

More on this release including reviews and ordering information can be found at <>

Information on the previous Labor/Naxos release in this series, Civilization & Its Discontents (Michael Sahl & Eric Salzman) can be found at <>.


Date Posted // October 18, 2012
In Categories // Music Theater, News, Recordings, The Nude Paper Sermon, The Nude Paper Sermon, Wiretap, Wiretap

a new review of Civilization & Its Discontents (Sahl/Salzman)

This review just appeared on blogcritics.rog <>

by Jack Goodstein

Civilization and Its Discontents, the 1977 genre-bending musical stage production written and composed by Michael Sahl and Eric Salzman, not to be confused with Sigmund Freud’s more famous tome of the same title which may bend some ideas but has no music, was originally recorded in 1978 and reissued earlier this year by Labor Records. Whether the appropriation of Freud’s title is meant to suggest that the collaborators have something more in mind that satirizing elements of modern civilization, I leave to more analytic minds. As far as I’m concerned farcical socio-cultural satire is enough for me.

What form a work of art takes is always an important consideration; you don’t want to criticize a novel as though it were a sonnet, or a string quartet as though it were a symphony. In the liner notes to the original Nonesuch release, the composers take a lot of time discussing operatic traditions, operetta, and musical theater by way of explaining what they see themselves as doing as far as form is concerned. They see their work in the context of those operatic traditions where comic elements often turn up as serious critiques. Musical comedy may do the same thing, but it caters to a more popular sensibility, or at least it often does. In essence, it would seem that as far as Sahl and Salzman are concerned their work looks to take what they need from both traditions.

The music itself is either all over the place or, as New York Times critic Peter Davis called it back then, “a brilliant amalgam of jazz, pop, blues and classical forms.” The trouble with amalgams is that not everyone who is happy with an evening of jazz is equally happy with pop intrusions; and blues lovers aren’t necessarily going to love what they might hear as operatic caterwauling. But when it comes right down to it, operatic forms and musical ideas dominate here. This is clear from the show’s very opening notes. It may not be the opera of Puccini or Verdi, but opera it is. That is not to say that there aren’t these other formal elements scattered through the show, it is simply to say that pop elements are not emphasized.

This is not a highlights album. It includes the whole of the show, which is divided into scenes following an ABA structure. The first scene opens in Club Bide-A-Wee where the heroine Jill Goodheart and her boyfriend Derek have an argument and he leaves. Jeremy Jive arrives and tries to pick her up with a line something like: “Can you explain what Patti Smith means to you.” There is a lot of internal monologue, against the background of the club’s mantra: “If it feels good, do it.” The scene ends with a show-stopping jazz number.

The second scene is a farcical description of Jeremy’s attempts to seduce Jill in her apartment in the face of constant interruptions including the return of Derek. Jeremy and Derek discover a business connection involving a singing chicken. The third scene takes the trio back to the club for an absurdist finale.

Jill is played by Candice Earley, Derek by William Parry, and Jeremy by Paul Binnotto. Karl Patrick Krause plays Carlos Arachnid who seems to be something of a combination of club owner and master of ceremonies as he invites the audience into the club. This, with the exception of Parry, was the original cast of the off-Broadway production, which won an award as the best off-Broadway show of the year. It was recorded for broadcast on National Public Radio in 1980, I would assume with some of the language cleaned up.

Civilization and its Discontents has some very engaging music and dynamic performances. The show’s album manages to capture much of that dynamic appeal. In the end, though, I suspect that this is a musical that needs to be seen for best effect. The album is fine; a new production would be better.

Date Posted // September 03, 2012
In Categories // Civilization and Its Discontents, Music Theater, Recordings, Reviews