Reviews

The Crucible Reviews


Streetcar composer Peter Salem delivers music as perfectly suited to this tale as his surname, his lively electroacoustic score benignly folksy one moment, genuinely sinister and thunderously modern the next – The Daily Telegraph

It’s all brilliantly realised by the company, and supported by a shattering score by the aptly named Peter Salem. With great skill he matches sound to action: a great clatter of drums for Proctor’s unleashed passion; a whomp of violins for the wild and whirring Walpurgis night dances in the woods; screeches of strings as people meet their fate. – The Observer

This International Festival premiere is everything you want it to be: dramatically cogent, compact and clear, starkly handsome (the costumes are by Emma Kingsbury, who shares credit for the set with the chief lighting designer David Finn), superbly scored by a composer, who eerily happens to be named Peter Salem, and beautifully danced. In short, with this bewitchingly good touring production Scottish Ballet has a hit on its hands – The Times

Much atmosphere also comes from the pools of moody lighting (David Finn), but the most striking non-dance element is Peter Salem’s score – played live by the Scottish Ballet orchestra and reinforced with found sounds – a bird flapping (a raven one fancies), a tolling bell and some electronic oppressive darkness. It’s deeply layered and is very tightly integrated into the work – at times the sounds and stage action sync to millisecond accuracy which adds breath-taking punch to what you see. It’s no surprise to learn that Salem first did a soundtrack to a National Theatre version of The Crucible back in 1990 – he is steeped in the plot, and it shows/hears – dancetabs

Peter Salem’s extraordinary score – by turns urgently percussive, eerily screechy and sweetly romantic in the strings, with cello undertones throughout – matches the choreography moment for moment. – Dancing Times

Peter Salem’s atmospheric score mixes devotional songs with jolting electro crow caws and shrieking strings, while David Finn’s spare set and lighting amplifies the gloom. – The Guardian

Peter Salem’s music (played live) has a wonderful cinematic sweep, echoed in the swift scene changes on a starkly bare stage that ensure the pace never flags. A triumph for the company. – The Scotsman

[Helen Pickett] is supported in this task by composer Peter Salem, whose score matches the movement of the dancers in all its violence and odd moments of tenderness. His jagged, often dissonant score is vital to this production’s success. – Scottish Daily Mail

Played live by the Scottish Ballet Orchestra, Peter Salem’s unsettling, detailed and carefully-textured score underpins the dark narrative with a light-and-shade balance of bubbling, edgy percussion and zig-zagging strings, weighed-down with ominous bass legato – often rich and rhapsodic, but never murky or dense, and always descriptive. – ArtMag

Peter Salem’s score ingeniously intertwines solemn, liturgical sounds with rich melodies and discordant electronic passages, bringing to life the community’s fear of the supernatural, creating an other-worldliness. The low strings and percussion build unease and tension, then seamlessly evolve into rich, melodic accompaniments to the Proctor’s pas de deux. The incorporation of sound effects throughout, from familiar church and courtroom sounds to whispers, screams and bird calls, mirrors the fear of the encroachment of the supernatural into the community of Salem and the distrust among its population. – Reviewsphere

It is hugely atmospheric, and it sets just the right tone as religiosity, repression, righteousness and revenge all come together in a fatal storm. Salem’s score is haunting, as the other worldly voices of young girls singing psalms is cut with folk tunes and the techno-beat of a rave in the forest where the teenagers throw off their clothes in a hormonal rage. – Edfest Magazine

The original musical score (by, I kid you not, Peter Salem) is a fascinatingly diverse offering, including electronic, jazzy music (appropriate in its tumultuousness) for the opening forest scene, and, elsewhere, grand, sweeping, filmic compositions that evoke the momentousness of Miller’s story. – The Herald Arts (Scottish Herald)

Peter Salem’s superb original score is deeply emotional, with a wide range of styles, textures and colours: seductively sinuous when Abigail tempts John, lushly lyrical when John and Elisabeth express their love for each other; rigid and repetitive when the ministers lead the services in the Meeting House; feverishly frenetic when the girls follow Tituba, the slave girl, into the woods and work themselves into a frenzy in which they rip off their clothes and dance naked; building intensity and feeling of impending doom during the trial scenes; screaming with the girls when they accuse many of the community of witchcraft, thus condemning them to death; and building to an extreme intensity when John has to decide whether to save his own life or go to his death alongside Elisabeth his wife. – SGFringe

FRIDA Reviews


The percussive composition of Peter Salem, which is based on Mexican music genres, is as compelling as a film soundtrack. – Het Parool

What stays with you is a ballet drama with beautiful music by Peter Salem (known from, among others, BBC dramas) – Cultuurpers

In a word, this new choreography by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa to music by Peter Salem is breathtaking. . . . . . The ballet is a feast for the eyes and ears – Theatrekrant

Peter Salem’s expanded score integrates well with the narrative, providing clarity of themes for each character and group in Frida’s imagination and linking fluidly with the story (Nancy Meckler again providing dramaturgical support). In addition to the beautiful La Llorona (The Weeping Woman) song , recorded by Chavela Vargas, Lopez Ochoa added two more of her evocative songs to the second act (Noches de Ahuatepec and Que te vaya bonito) bringing an authentic vintage ranchera sound to enliven Salem’s excellent bespoke score, performed by the Het Balletorkest under the direction of Matthew Rowe – dancetabs

A Streetcar Named Desire Reviews


Composer Peter Salem’s beguiling music, performed by the Opera House Orchestra, included a mix of jazz, swing, mournful saxophone and unnerving piano notes that wafted like smoke and doom, all of which imbued the ballet with just the right off-kilter atmosphere. — Sarah Kaufman, The Washington Post

Peter Salem’s superb commissioned score uses a diverse combination of live and recorded music. Lyrically classical strings accompany love and heartbreak, and upbeat jazz transports action to the vibrant nightlife of New Orleans. — londondance.com

The score, most of it live from a band in the pit, some of it recorded atmospheric noise, is the chief motor of this Streetcar. Drawing on a range of styles, from polite wedding waltzes to juicy New Orleans jazz to Philip Glass-ish noodling, it doesn’t just underpin the action but offers emotional pointers ahead of the game. A blind man would know where he was in the story. The climax, where the “Paper Moon” theme shatters into a pile-up of discordant shards, isn’t just a stirring aural metaphor for the chaos in Blanche’s head, you can imagine it really is the sound in her head. 

. . . an atmospheric and sustaining new score by Peter Salem – dramatic and evocative 

. . . Peter Salem’s excellent new score 

. . . Peter Salem’s score is a crucial narrative ingredient, both in it’s graphic soundeffects and in the musical colours of it’s fractured percussion and insinuating jazz.

The dancers were brilliantly served by Peter Salem’s atmospheric score, which blended elements of jazz, obsessive minimalist figures, dissonant crashes and keening string romance.

… the excellent music is deeply integrated with the choreography, sometimes even telling the story alone. — Edinburgh Evening News

Peter Salem’s heady score veers from lush, decorous waltzes to a hypnotic minimalist brume, fragments of New Orleans jazz and jukebox, occasionally shattered by the shrapnel of industrial sounds. — The Huffington Post

Peter Salem’s score, acting like a long, cinematic tone poem that fits the action like a tailor-made suit. — Seen and Heard International

They also had the good fortune of being able to build on an earthy, sensuous score by Peter Salem whose music captures Tennessee Williams’ myriad elements of sexual attraction, psychological tension, class conflicts and human naiveté. — Charleston Today

Broken Wings Reviews


Peter Salem’s score is extraordinary. The wonderful ENB Philharmonic are set challenges with all three works, not least needing to co-ordinate with recordings, and they rise to it magnificently under the ever skilful baton of Gavin Sutherland. Everything was polished and exact. The percussion must be especially commended as they have to play a bicycle wheel and traditional Chinese instruments! Not to be left out, the horns get to pretend that they are Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass but playing a version of The Internationale that appears to have been arranged by John Cage. Fragments come and go, sometimes distorted, as if they were written on scraps of paper which the orchestra have been told to play at random. — seeingdance.com

And its triumph is inseparable from Peter Salem’s score, a vast exotic landscape in itself. Blasts of Tijuana brass and louche maracas summon the heat of a Mexican fiesta, a husky Mexican balladeer croons along with the love affair, and Salem even finds a musical solution to the crash on the public bus. Here is a composer who understands exactly what a ballet needs to motor it along. Hats off, too, to conductor Gavin Sutherland and the ENB Philharmonic. This is exciting work, excitingly executed. — theartsdesk.com

At any rate, the piece that breaks that cycle of Rojo’s, opens this programme and inspired Perry’s offering, turns out to be really rather special. Entitled Broken Wings, and reuniting Lopez Ochoa, Meckler and Streetcar composer Peter Salem, it explores the life and mind of the celebrated Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (1907-1954).

It begins noirishly and abstractly, with the young Kahlo (Rojo) emerging on top of a large cube, surrounded by a part-playful, part-menacing cohort of demons adroitly decked out as Day of the Dead participants. Thereafter, these characters – deftly conceived, unmistakably Mexican emblems of psychological torment and malign fortune– are never far away, constantly waiting to pounce. As, indeed, they soon do.

With Rojo effortlessly passing for 18, Kahlo dances an engagingly carefree duet with a young fellow (Cesar Corrales), whereupon Salem’s light-hearted but rhythmically complex music suddenly screeches to a halt, the colour instantly drains from the stage, and she is brutally snatched into the air by her skeletal coterie.

But for all the breathtaking imagery, what ultimately drives the performance is Cao’s indomitable Frida, paired with Max Westwell’s compassionate and charismatic Diego Rivera, and Peter Salem’s Mexican-flavored score. With humor, grit and visceral physicality, “Broken Wings” tells the story of an artist shaped by hardship, but ultimately defined by triumph. — huffingtonpost.com

Peter Salem’s tuneful mix of South American style tunes fits the action perfectly. — CriticalDance.org

Peter Salem’s original music, interwoven with mariachi bands and Mexican folk was rhythmically extraordinary at times and perfectly simple at others, revealing the inner world of Ochoa’s Frida. — Theatre-News.com

The Little Prince Reviews


One would hope that there is an eventual recording of composer Peter Salem’s original music for this ballet. Salem performs the score at the back of the stage with an array of acoustic and electronic keyboard instruments.  From electric violin and harpsichord and banjo, world folk themes and synth drives give way to mystic sound-fields. – The Dance Journal & PhiladelphiaDANCE.org

Lopez Ochoa’s vision and the dancers’ captivating performances combined with innovative set design and Peter Salem’s original score make me eager for more full-length works from both this choreographer and BalletX’s stellar company. – broadstreetreview

So, it was with great interest that I went to BalletX’s The Little Prince choreographed by fast-rising choreographer Anabelle Lopez Ochoa to a brilliant score composed and miraculously played by Peter Salem – theatrescene.net

Camino Real Reviews


While the various costumes by Sandra Woodall were divine and the large, wiry set design by David Finn and Emma Kingsbury was impressively detailed, the show stealer was the combination of composer Peter Salem’s new score with the vast emotions explored through the many characters, expertly depicted under Pickett’s mentorship. Salem, who has previously composed a score for A Streetcar Named Desire, another Williams’ play turned into a full-length ballet in Scotland, created this rich and complex soundscape that was performed wonderfully by The Atlanta Ballet Orchestra. His music is beautifully suggestive of the love, greed, disappointment, anxiety and hope danced on stage. — danceinforma.com – digital dance magazine

Music, choreography and emotion were as intertwined as the characters, whose fraught stories unfolded through strains drifting in and out as in a dream. Performed by the Atlanta Ballet orchestra under conductor Ari Pelto, Peter Salem’s score evoked a circus; the hypnotic Gypsy, with violin melodies both plaintive and seductive; a toreador’s horn; the indefatigable Klezmer; and an after-hours vaudeville show. Kilroy’s sparkling minimalist theme was light shining in darkness. — ArtsAtl

Salem’s music is richly evocative of love, hate, tenderness, pain, fear, and hope. The powerful drums are the heartbeat of the main character, but also the heartbeat of life itself, pounding above the poignant melodies. I think Tennessee Williams’ story has been waiting for this music ever since the play was written; perhaps it took this collaboration to bring everything together. The score is very complex and, I suspect, incredibly difficult to play. The Atlanta Ballet orchestra was in its element. — thebackstagebeat.com