"Nazimova and her art director, Natacha Rambova, emulated the Aubrey Beardsley illustrations in the first edition of the play, and the result is highly stylised and ornately camp. Eighty-six years on, Barber’s new music for the restored film fosters a new appreciation of the work’s arthouse values.
Inspired by traditional Arabic percussion ensemble, Barber uses a vast range of instruments, including the metal-framed Egyptian sistrum and the African Djembe drum. Modern scaffolding towers house four percussionists either side of a projection screen, whose complex rhythmic pulses combine with recorded tracks of Psalm settings, sung in Hebrew and Latin, to create an evocative soundscape that mirrors Rambova’s exotic costumes and Salomé’s erotic allure. Barber’s score complements the melodrama without competing with it: Salomé’s necrophiliac kiss is veiled by a silk drape and, similarly, the most striking moments are those when Barber’s textures are at their most sparing. It says much that the hour and a quarter flies by in half the time.”
Rian Evans, The Guardian, 3 November 2009
“Charlie Barber’s incredible new score for the 1923 film version of Wilde’s Salomé continually hammers home the decadence and violence of its theme…The music is often relentless, its interludes of calm steamy and prescient.”
Nigel Jarrett, South Wales Argus, 4 November 2009
“This is a luxuriant hour and a quarter, watching a 1923 film that, to a modern eye, is fascinating and quite remarkable with the added interest of contemporary music. Composer Charlie Barber’s new score for this 89-year-old masterpiece performed by the ensemble Sound Affairs sounds so perfect for the task that it is difficult to now imagine the film without it. The score for the now legendary silent film Salomé starring Alla Nazimova – who near bankrupted herself by financing what proved just too challenging for its own period – is a decadent mixture of Arabic-inspired ensemble music and voices that are spiritual, mystical and evoke Oriental allure…Even now the film, so masterfully accompanied by Barber’s score, is deeply unsettling and oozes a perverse sexuality and immorality that tempts with a hypnotic power that stimulates and repels in equally measure.”
Mike Smith, WalesOnline, 5 April 2012