We welcome a new contributor, Mark S. Tucker, who reviews a record (now in CD form) of a well-known musical pioneer of the 1970s, Eric Salzman and his Nude Paper Sermon/Wiretap. It is as much a work of contemporary life as about the power of language to persuade and control. Given that, it's as relevant today as it was forty years ago. "Eric Salzman is one of a number of electronics pioneers I informally refer to as The Nonesuch Gaggle, but do so with fondest reverence. In the 70s, we sonic-omnivore record hounds tracked down every Nonesuch electronic disc we could find, reveling in their mutant neoclassical glories. We were Zeppelin-heads, Crimsonoids, Three Man Armymen, and into every rock wrinkle under the sun, but, at least with a few of the cats I hung with, also seriously tripped out on anything that was vanguard exploratory," Tucker writes.
by Mark S. Tucker
Eric Salzman in the Reeds: In East Quogue, New York, Salzman looks out from a marsh in pursuit of birds. Photo Courtesy of Eric Salzman.
The Nude Paper Sermon/Wiretap
Labor Records: LAB7092
I almost gasped when I months ago first read this set was going to be released. I couldn't believe it. Eric Salzman is one of a number of electronics pioneers I informally refer to as The Nonesuch Gaggle, but do so with fondest reverence. In the 70s, we sonic-omnivore record hounds tracked down every Nonesuch electronic disc we could find, reveling in their mutant neoclassical glories. We were Zeppelin-heads, Crimsonoids, Three Man Armymen, and into every rock wrinkle under the sun, but, at least with a few of the cats I hung with, also seriously tripped out on anything that was vanguard exploratory. Zappa and the Mothers had provoked that and, mining the record stores for Subotnick, Crumb, Erb, Xenakis, Wuorinen, Stockhausen, and many (but too few!) others, every gem we could yank from the bins was ambrosia. I'm still, decades later, brain-stunned by Subotnick's Wild Bull, to my ears the single most outrageously righteous electronic piece ever issued, but after Morty got done frying my synapses, I ran straight into Eric Salzman's stuff, who went FZ one better.
I still have two vinyl copies of his Nude Paper Sermon in my extensive collection, the second held in abeyance against the very high probability that I'd wear the first one out (almost there now), but, search as I might, I could never locate Wiretap. That's 'cause it was issued on the Finnadar label, much of whose releases have always been hellishly difficult to track down. Well, with this new twofer, I now have an unwearoutable disc of Sermon and FINALLY a copy of Wiretap, but let me warn the average reader that one must be pretty unhinged to embrace the wild beauty of the tumultuous chaos that Sermon is, a riot of crazed sonics thrown together with consummate aplomb (if, that is, you can call insanity 'aplomb' and not get arrested for it) and nominally captained by Stacy Keach, who has always been a fellow ready to knock down walls when it comes to art.
Electronics, found sound, lunatic operatics, squeedgily jazz/neo/avant noiseuring and an array of other modes erupt that, as critic Donal Henahan put in in 1970, "attempts to make a new style out of chaos". Donal, sweetie, have your people call my people and we'll do lunch but Salzman didn't 'attempt' a damn thing, he succeeded magnificently, one could even say "unparalleledly" and do so without fear of opposition. Sermon is non-stop stream of musical consciousness, and the magnum opus hasn't been equalled since its debut, despite mighty and worthy efforts. The term 'seminal' gains its definition in such work. Then there's the other subterranean sapphire.
Wiretap was created at the request of no less a stalwart than Ilhan Mimaroglu. IlMim wanted to publish a compendium of Salzman's shorter works and 'Tap is what eventuated. The title cut commences as a song of ringing cymballine bells a la Alain Kremski or Wolff & Hennings and then gets even spacier, with a squeeling something—sounds like a sax pulling its own nerve endings out but is probably Tony Elitcher's clarinet—keening to the ten winds until the environment gets Blomdahl-esque, eerie. There are a lot of young musical minds thirsting for this kind of material, and they're going to be shocked when running across this set, realizing how ahead of their time both remain. They'll be just the same 50 years from, trust me.
Along with these epochal re-releases comes an extensive, and I mean ex-ten-sive (40 pages!), booklet that reprints the original liner notes, a lead-in by Salzman, an essay by William Gibson (not the Neuromancer author but the Head of the Journalism Dept. at SAE Institute), a bunch of performance and other photos, and so on. And, please, someone uncork that jug of absinthe over yonder, 'cause I'm ready to listen to the entire thing again.
Copyright ©2012. Mark S. Tucker. All Rights Reserved. This post originally appeared in Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange. It is republished here with both the permission of the author and FAME. Mark S. Tucker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; and David N. Pyles of FAME at email@example.com.