posted May 1st, 2018

 Haley Fohr, of experimental folk project Circuit des Yeux, performs an original soundtrack for one of the first art films ever made---Salomé, the 1923 silent film adaptation of a play by Oscar Wilde.

The plot of Salomé has long been an inspiration for moving musical work, most notably for Strauss's opera of the same name, which reflects the shock of modernity in Wilde's text. Like Strauss, Fohr finds contemporary resonance in Salomé's sensuality and violence, scoring the film with extended vocal technique and beat frequencies to turn a mirror on our time.

Though now regarded as a classic, the film adaptation of Salomé was remarkably less successful upon its release, due in part to the perceived offstage excesses of lead actress and producer Alla Nazimova. In the years since, its combination of Art Nouveau, modernism and the glamour of Hollywood's Golden Age have led to its growing recognition as an exotic gem and a cornerstone of camp.

Live Score of Salomé 

5/12 at Howard Assembly Room in Leeds, UK  
5/16 at Barbican (Cinema 1) in London, UK
8/24 at Chicago Art Institute in Chicago, IL 



Salomé, the 1923 silent film starring Alla Nazimova, was adapted from a play by Oscar Wilde. Wilde's play was originally banned from performance & considered an all-too-risque representation of the biblical story that inspired it. I initially found the film's statement to be wildly outmoded & filled with stereotypes. Salomé is a person turned object, stripped of her name (referred to Biblically as "Herod's step-daughter"), and labeled as a dangerous female seductress through the means of Christian mythology. "Femme fatale" is a cheap and outdated trope used in entertainment, initially misidentified as a small step in female empowerment. But that was the 1900's!   This is a scene from the past, staged in the future! The modern and avant garde set design (beautifully designed by Nazimova herself) are a powerful synthesis of contextual absurdity. It lends a natural compulsion to find the usefulness of this piece within our own contemporary world. In this now-age of misogyny dismemberment I ask that we utilize this historic film and re-contextualize it into a new kind of satire - one that represents the modern female (other) psyche as it navigates the treacherous maze from innocence (purity) to womanhood (knowledge).

This is a story about a woman who is yearning to be heard, but is denied the road of truth. When I see Salomé's need for John The Baptist I see a woman's need to be heard, not desired. When I see Salomé dancing the seven veils -- an action forced onto every woman at some point in her life -- I see a woman utilizing the only tool at her means, the male gaze. When I see Salome order the head of John The Baptist, I see a woman committing her own societal suicide through a powerful act of anarchy in which she is denying the presented world. It is one in which she is not heard and cannot belong.

The end of this film leaves me with a deep sadness. The death and destruction found in this film I see mirrored in the world today. It is a product of our own design. Let us mute these one-sided conversations, this feedback loop, that leaves all others powerless, and without resources. The time is now to hear the stories of others, even if they may be in languages we yet not speak. For where there is no truth, there cannot be love, and without love, there is no peace. For Peace, Salomé.

I composed this score to a version of the film without inter-titles and as such believe it must be screened in this way. Perhaps it is a bold request, but by muting the conversation at hand I find new a story quickly sprouting in its place, and the score was composed as much to that story as to the film itself.

Circuit des Yeux currently on tour:

5/1/18 La (2) Barcelona Spain
5/2/18 Grrrnd Zero Lyon France
5/3/18 Bad Bonn Duedingen Switzerland
5/4/18 Kammerspiele Munich Germany
5/6/18 Donaufestival Krems Austria
5/7/18 Trafo Jena Germany
5/8/18 Les Ateliers Claus Brussels Belgium
5/12/18 Howard Assembly Room Leeds United Kingdom*

5/13/18 National Concert Hall Dublin Ireland (Perspectice Series)

5/14/18 Mono Cafe Bar Glasgow United Kingdom
5/15/18 Soup Kitchen Manchester United Kingdom
5/16/18 Barbican (Cinema 1) London United Kingdom*

6/20/18 Now That's Class Cleveland OH
6/21/18 No Response Festival Cincinnati OH (solo vocal set)

6/22/18 Memphis Concrete Memphis TN
6/23/18 Reverberation Vinyl Bloomington IL
6/24/18 Rozz Tox Rock Island IL
6/25/18 7th Street Entry Minneapolis MN
7/21/18 Pitchfork Music Festival Chicago IL
8/3/18– 8/5/18 Pickathon Happy Valley OR

8/24 Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL*

Live score of Salomé (directed by Charles Bryant, 1923)

Artists in this story: Circuit des Yeux