Eric Salzman: Composer, Author, Music Theater Innovator


new review of Nude Paper Sermon & Wiretap

Here is a new review by Dustin Mallory of “The Nude Paper Sermon” and “Wiretap” from the current (April/May) issue of Cadence. More information, listening excerpts, etc. are at <>

“The career of Eric Salzman includes the titles of music critic, author, educator, academic, and producer. His work in these areas frequently overshadows his wonderful gifts as a composer and a visionary of the future of musical theatre. This two-disc release reissues the late ‘60s and early ‘70s performances of his musical drama “Wiretap,” and probably his most famous composition, “The Nude Paper Sermon.” Both pieces are very difficult to perform, but the ensembles successfully handle the undertaking.

“The Nude Paper Sermon” blurs the lines of time and genre by mixing the sounds of a Renaissance consort and The New York Motet Singers, with a modern inclusion of electronic sounds and an actor/narrator. The actor positions himself as a media/cultural voice that frequently dates the performance to the late ‘60s with references to segregation, Pete Seeger, and Martha Graham. The collage of sounds personifies the second half of the 20th Century as an intricate and often overwhelming experience of overstimulation and complication.

“Wiretap” is the slightly lesserknown collection of four movements on American life. Each subject seeks to “tap” into the mind of the listener to discover an awareness of the self and its multifarious relationships with the world. Spatial existence, discomfort, manifestation, struggle, fantasy, and reality are all explored using musical sensibilities. Philosophically, the piece seems to suggest that music is not the “art in life,” but rather that music, social interactions, and media as an entire experience, are the “art of life.” From a musical perspective, innovative techniques in vocalization, electro-acoustic textures, and instrumentation are explored. Silverman’s guitar plays a fascinating role juxtaposed against Ross’s voice. Nagrin’s voiced sounds seem to symbolize
the haunting and longing nature of the human spirit for something unknown. The real interest here will be how this compressed psychosomatic journey will affect the twenty-first century listener.”

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

SIGNAL TO NOISE article published

SIGNAL TO NOISE calls itself “The Journal of Improvised, Experimental and Unusual Music”. I’ve now seen a copy of the latest issue (#63; Spring 2012), just published. It includes a major article by William Gibson about new music on Nonesuch  about half of which is devoted, in some detail, to a remarkable shout-out for The Nude Paper Sermon. (see also my last post below). This is especially timely because the original Nonesuch recording is about to be reissued by Labor Records (and distributed by Naxos) in a boxed set together with the four pieces that make up my old Finnadar album Wiretap. The magazine is distributed by Barnes & Noble, the Downtown Music Gallery in NYC and many stores around the country. You can find a full list on  their web site <> or by e-mailing them at <>. Or you can just send $10 to SIGNAL TO NOISE, 1128 Waverly Street, Houston, Texas 77008.

Date Posted // April 29, 2012
In Categories // Music Theater, News, Recordings, The Nude Paper Sermon, Wiretap, Works and Productions

William Gibson Article on The Nude Paper Sermon in Signal to Noise Magazine

The Spring 2012, issue of Signal to Noise magazine has an article by William Gibson on the Nonesuch contemporary music recordings of the 1970s that is, in fact, mostly about The Nude Paper Sermon. This was the second Nonesuch commission (after Mort Subotnik’s Silver Apples of the Moon). It was written for the Nonesuch Consort, an early-music ensemble of voices and renaissance instruments (founded and directed by Joshua Rifkin), to which has been added an actor (Stacy Keach), a chorus (the N.Y. Motet Singers) and electronic sounds (Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Studio). It was one of the first works of contemporary music to be written for recordings, making original and creative use of the then-new multi-track recording technique to craft a multi-media or music-theater work in sound. This was also some of the first new music to be written for Renaissance instruments in half a millenium! The recording uses the illusion of depth produced by stereo to produce the effect of listening through the surface of the loudspeakers (defined by aural graffiti in the form of electronic sounds) to some distant, mythical golden age. Also close to the surface is the voice of Stacy Keach who is, in turn, a preacher, a politician, an evangelist, a new-age guru–in short, an amalgamation of all those bloviators who use language to control others. The actor’s text was created especially for this work by poet Steven Wade (Wade Stevenson), not as a parody, but as a prose poem about contemporary life; these words are scored with accents, rhythms, tempi and dynamics as they rise above and are submerged by the musical textures. The sung texts are John Ashbery’s Three Madrigals which he had coincidentally sent me just at the time that I was thinking about this work.

The Nude Paper Sermon is scheduled to be re-released by Labor Records in conjunction with Naxos this summer. More on this shortly.


Date Posted // April 20, 2012
In Categories // Music Theater, News, Recordings, Reviews, The Nude Paper Sermon