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.
Western Wind recording of madrigal comedy is ready!
“Jukebox in the Tavern of Love” is the title of a modern madrigal comedy commissioned by the Western Wind Vocal Ensemble — a contemporary take on a 16th century music-theater form. The text is by Valeria Vasilevski and the music by Eric Salzman. Six New Yorkers — a bartender, a dancer, a rabbi, a nun, a Con Ed worker and a poet — find themselves trapped in a bar during a raging thunderstorm and blackout and they pass the time telling their personal stories about love until the lights come back on. The Western Wind gave the premiere and has performed the work at Bargemusic, the Flea Theater and Tenri Cultural Institute in New York. They have now recorded the work for Labor/Naxos and it is scheduled for release early next year together with the premiere recording of “Basket Rondo”, a new work by Meredith Monk, also commissioned by the ensemble. This will be the third in the series of recordings of Salzman’s work; the earlier releases were “Civilization & Its Discontents” (with Michael Sahl), “The Nude Paper Sermon” and the four works that make up “Wiretap” in a double album.
new review of “Civilization & Its Discontents”
From New Music Connoisseur, Vol. 20, #2
CIVILIZATION AND ITS DISCONTENTS
By Michael Sahl and Eric Salzman
Labor Records [LAB 7089]
By Nancy Manocherian
It’s years now I’ve had a vinyl copy of Civilization & Its Discontents (not Freud’s version), but sadly no turntable or incentive to pursue a path to such an antique on which to play the LP. So when I was asked to write about the newly minted (or re-released) CD, I was eager to listen to the celebrated recording written and composed by my colleague and collaborator, Michael Sahl, and my friend, Eric Salzman. Given the full disclosure contained in that last sentence, I won’t pretend I can be entirely objective about this work; I am, I think, spiritually tied to their politics and humor, something so deeply ingrained that I feel it must stem from our common Eastern European roots. Jewish humor is a fact, but I also believe there is universal truth in all things tribal, no less from these two composers with a gift for commentary, political and otherwise.
After reading the CD jacket and all the accolades, I wondered, how could I possibly add something that hasn’t already been said? I then listened from the opening line — “Boys and girls come out to play, the moon shines as bright as day–” I thought (despite knowing better), I was in for some kind of torturous version of Freud’s famous book. Suddenly — maybe 40 seconds in — the music took a turn for the better. I’d been had…I found myself curiously transported. Of course, I reminded myself, this is Michael and Eric.
From the rhyming lyrics — hilarious and unexpected, to the voices — operatic without cloying drama, to the music — melodic yet edgy and modern, I was drawn into the spell of cliché turned on its head, bopping along to the various twists and turns of the rhythm and sound. The character of the music is as unique as its creators. I am sure this was a radical piece at the time of its first release, but it still holds up as a post-Rent musical dramatization of the time in which is was conceived.
“If it feels good, do it,” was the anthem of my generation. This glorious refrain speaks volumes about the 70’s as well as sums up Freud’s ideas about repression of instinct and its consequences on the individual. In fact, Civilization & Its Discontents is like Rent before Rent was Rent and out-Bohemes La Bohème in the same way; by contemporizing the human struggle for freedom. The title, Civilization & Its Discontents may have been plagiarized, but the content came from the astute powers of observation and creation of the two brilliant, zany guys who conjured it.
Listening to it on a CD gives it new life as fresh and timeless as any modern classic.
There’s always another tango
Mezzo Laila Salins and accordionist Bill Schimmel along with cellist Lutz Rath are still performing a version of the Accord/Discord program presented a couple of years ago at the Cell theater in Chelsea and toured in Latvia. Under the name “My Last Tango”, it includes tango arrangements by Schimmel and myself. One performance already took place on May 4th in Freehold, NJ, and another one is coming up at the Latvian Cultural Center in Melville, NY, on Saturday, May 11th, at 7 pm.
New reviews of Labor Records releases
New reviews of the Labor Records releases — “Civilization & Its Discontents”, “The Nude Paper Sermon” and “Wiretap” — are in the current issue of the American Record Guide. They can be found here and here. If the copy comes up small you should be able to enlarge the type to a readable size. Like the other reviews of these releases, these are very insightful!
an on-line review of the music-theater book
Perry J. Greenbaum, a genial and insightful Canadian blogger on political and cultural subjects, has just posted a notice about “The New Music Theater: Seeing the Voice, Hearing the Body”, the book by Thomas Desi and myself published by Oxford University Press. Here’s the link.