Salzman, Eric

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Salzman, Eric

Salzman, Eric , versatile American composer, writer on music, editor, teacher, and pioneer of new music theater; b. N.Y., Sept. 8, 1933. His maternal grandfather, Louis Klenetzky, was a song-and-dance performer in the Yiddish theater and his mother, Frances Klennett Salzman, a founder- director of a children’s music-theater company. He studied composition and theory in N.Y. with Mark Lawner while still in high school; then studied composition at Columbia Univ. with Luening, Ussachevsky, Mitchell, and Beeson (B.A., 1954) and at Princeton Univ. with Sessions, Babbitt, Kim, and Cone (M.F.A., 1956); in addition, he took courses in musicology with Strunk, Mendel, and Pirotta. In 1956–58 he was in Rome on a Fulbright fellowship for study with Petrassi at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia; also attended courses of Stockhausen, Scherchen, Maderna, and Nono at Darmstadt (summer, 1957). Returning to the U.S., he was a music critic for the N.Y. Times (1958–62) and the N.Y. Herald Tribune (1964–67); from 1984 to 1991 he was ed. of the Musical Quarterly and from 1962 to 1964 and again from 1968 to 1972 music director of the Pacifica Radio station WBAI-FM in N.Y, where he founded the Free Music Store. He taught at Queens Coll. of the City Univ. of N.Y. (1967–68); also lectured at N.Y.U., Yale Univ., Brooklyn Coll., Hunter Coll., Instituto Torquato di Tella in Buenos Aires, the Banff Centre for the Arts et al. Salzman has long been active in creating new music theater for contemporary performing arts; he founded and was artistic director, in N.Y, of the Electric Ear (at Electric Circus; 1967–68), New Image of Sound (1968–71), Quog Music Theater (1970–82), and Music Theater/N.Y. (from 1993); also was founder and artistic director of the American Music Theater in Philadelphia (1982–93); his works for Quog Music Theater include Ecolog, music theater work for television (1971; in collaboration with J. Cassen), Helix for Voice, Percussion, Clarinet, and Guitar (1972), Voices, a capella radio opera (1972), Saying Something (1972–73), and Biograffiti (1972–73). From 1975 to 1990 he produced and directed some 2 dozen recordings (2 receiving Grammy Award nominations, a Prix Italia, and an Armstrong Award), featuring works by Weill, Partch, and Bolcom et al., as well as his own music; also produced numerous programs for public radio. He is the composer, author, and/or adaptor of more than 24 music-theater works; in all capacities, he merges the most advanced techniques in mixed media with ideas and forms derived from popular music and theater. He made a significant reconstruction and adaptation for the American Music Theater Festival of the long-unperformed Gershwin/Kaufman Strike Up the Band (1984) and the Kurt Weill/Alan Jay Lerner Love Life (1990), and a translation/adaptation of a French music-theater piece, Jumelles, by James Giroudon, Pierre Alain Jaffren-nou, and Michel Rostain (as The Silent Twins, London Opera Festival, June 17, 1992). In 1994 he commenced work on a new music theater piece commissioned by the National Theater in Quimper, France. His writings include Twentieth Century Music: An Introduction (Engle-wood Cliffs, N.J., 1967; third ed., rev, 1988; tr. into Spanish, Portuguese, Hungarian, and Japanese), Making Changes: A Practical Guide to Vernacular Harmony (with M. Sahl; N.Y., 1977), and The New Music Theater (Oxford, 1998). Salzman is also a seasoned and enthusiastic ornithologist and has contributed writings on natural history to various publs. He is married to the environmentalist Lorna Salzman, with whom he has twin daughters, Eva, a poet resident in England, and Stephanie, a music-theater and pop song lyricist and composer.


String Quartet (1955); Flute Sonata (1956); Night Dance for Orch. (1957); Songs for Voice and Piano, after Whitman (1955–57); Cummings Set for Voice and Piano (1958; also for Orch., 1962); Partita for Violin (1958); Inventions for Orch. (1957–58); In Praise of the Owl and the Cuckoo for Soprano, Guitar, Violin, and Viola (1963–64); Larynx Music, verses for Soprano, Guitar, and 4-track Tape (1966–67); Verses for Guitar (1967); Foxes and Hedgehogs, verses and cantos for 4 Voices and 2 Instrumental Groups with Sound Systems, after John Ashbery (N.Y., Nov. 30, 1967); Queens Collage, academic festival overture for Tape (1966); The Peloponnesian War, mime- dance theater piece (1967–68; in collaboration with D. Nagrin); Wiretap for Tape (1968); Feedback, multi-media participatory environmental work for Live Performers, Visuals, and Tape (1968; in collaboration with S. Vanderbeek); The Nude Paper Sermon for Actor, Renaissance Consort, Chorus, and Electronics, after Stephen Wade and John Ashbery (1968–69); Can Man Survive?, environmental multi-media piece for the centennial of the American Museum of Natural History (1969–71); Strophe/Antistrophe for Keyboard and Tape (1969; rev. 1971); The 10 Qualities and 3 Madrigals for Chorus (1970–71); Fantasy on Lazarus for String Orch. (1974); The Conjurer, music theater work (1975; in collaboration with M. Sahl); Accord, music theater piece for Accordion (1975); Stauf, music theater piece, after Faust (1976; rev. 1987; in collaboration with M. Sahl); Civilization and Its Discontents, music theater comedy (1977; in collaboration with M. Sahl); Noah, music theater miracle (N.Y., Feb. 10, 1978; in collaboration with M. Sahl); The Passion of Simple Simon (1979; in collaboration with M. Sahl); Boxes, music theater piece (1982–83; in collaboration with M. Sahl); Variations on Sacred Harp Hymn Tunes for Harpsichord (1982); Big Jim & the Small- time Investors, music theater piece, after N. Jackson (1985–86; rev. 1990); Toward a New American Opera, mixed-media piece (1985); Birdwalk for Tape and Optional Keyboard (1986); Signals, structure for conducted improvisation for Any Number of Vocal or Instrumental Performers (1988); The Last Words of Dutch Schultz (1995–96; in collaboration with V. Vasilevski); Body Language for Singers, Dancers, Violin, Piano, and Accordion (1995–96; in collaboration with M. Sahl).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire