(NEW YORK, N.Y., October 14, 2020) – Years in the making, Salomé: Woman of Valor, a spoken-word-with- music collaboration between poet Adeena Karasick and composer/musical visionary Frank London, is now available in recorded form.
Like Patti Smith before her, Karasick draws upon history, literature, religious iconography, and pop culture for her dense, heavily dusted sound poetry. Married to London’s richly evocative chamber arrangements, which seamlessly fuse elements of jazz, rock, funk, electronica, klezmer, Arabic, and Indian influences, the result is a rich, Kabbalistic dreamscape connecting antiquity to the 21st century.
Salomé: Woman of Valor, heard now in its debut recording on London’s NuJu Music label, is the first collaboration between Karasick and London. Also experienced as a live multimedia performance, Salomé takes its inspiration from the historical figure who has become typecast as a lurid femme fatale, especially via Oscar Wilde’s play and Richard Strauss’s opera, which depicted Salomé as the seductress who danced the infamous “Dance of the Seven Veils” for her stepfather Herod, and had John the Baptist beheaded.
Karasick’s libretto explores, exalts, and reclaims the figure of Salomé in a feminist light—using references to Hebrew texts and Kabbalistic practices, popular music, sound poetry, and neo-Fluxus performance styles—to reveal an apocryphal figure who refuses to be locked into a world of subjugation and misrepresentation.
In an official statement, the composer and librettist offer this introduction to their work:
“Salomé: Woman of Valor addresses the social and political necessity to speak the unspoken, resist outdated notions of identity and ethnicity. It critiques a received narrative, historically accepted as truth, and opens up a space where difference and otherness can be celebrated. All set to a hypnotically ecstatic, electric bhangra trance/dance score.”
Over the last three decades, the celebrated East Village-based Canadian poet/performer Adeena Karasick and Grammy Award-winning composer/trumpeter Frank London—best known as a cofounder of the Klezmatics—have each transformed the worlds of poetry and music with work that is sensual and political, steeped in Jewish mysticism, exploding notions of high and low culture.
London, a lover of poetry/music collaborations, has transformed poems into opera (Hatuey Memory of Fire), oratorio (A Night in the Old Marketplace), and pop song (the Grammy-winning Wonder Wheel, featuring lyrics by Woody Guthrie). His Salomé score is drawn from many musical traditions—klezmer, Bhangra, Arabic, and jazz (with a big nod to Miles Davis’ electric work and to trumpet innovator Jon Hassell).
Featured on the recording, which London produced and whose trumpet serves as the chief melodic voice, are Punjabi percussion virtuoso Deep Singh and Middle Eastern jazz electronica guru Shai Bachar, with guest appearances by world renowned actor, director and ubu god, Tony Torn (renowned actor in the companies of Richard Foreman and Reza Abdoh, featured in Chasing Amy, 30 Rock, The Good Wife, Ubu Sings Ubu), and singer Manu Narayan (Bombay Dreams, My Fair Lady, The Love Guru).
Salomé: Woman of Valor is the culmination of seven years of work. Karasick’s text was published in 2017 in English (click here to download the book from Gap Riot Press, Toronto) and Italian (University of Padua Press, trans. Pina Piccolo, Serena Piccoli); and sections have been published in Bengali, Arabic, Czech, and Malayalam.
In 2018, Salomé: Woman of Valor was performed internationally, a live immersive art experience described as “groundbreaking in its interplay of poetry, music, video and dance” (SeeTorontoNow) and “a brain-teasing mix of semiotic play, pop-culture references, and erudite historic-religious touchstones… a mix of high academia and high camp” (Georgia Straight).
Ironically, the global pandemic gave Karasick and London—two of the busiest touring artists—the gift of time together in New York to complete this recording.