Photo: At the keyboard. René Salm
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“What a privilege it was to hear your music tonight and to truly appreciate your talent.”
—Anonymous concertgoer.

René Salm received degrees in Music and German at the University of Oregon, excelling in musical composition—with a special fondness for counterpoint and the stricter forms (fugue, canon, stretto). By the age of twenty-one he was composing five-part canons, inventions, and fugues “of a perfection rivaling the greater masters of the Baroque,” according to a music professor. Salm also studied piano with the Polish pianist Adam Kapucinsky.

“If I had not found one book,” Salm states, “perhaps my skill in music composition would never have advanced beyond a rudimentary stage—at least, not when I was still fairly young.” The book is Johann Fux’ Gradus ad Parnassum. Salm discovered it at the age of fifteen in a small music store in Beirut, Lebanon, where he grew up, the second son of an American embassy official. The Gradus formed the early basis for his formal technique. That little manual has also been used by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, and other great composers.

Salm has made his living as a professional helping the mentally ill in hospitals, another great love, but has reserved his off hours towards crafting and enjoying musical composition. After living on both U.S. coasts over the years, he has happily settled back in Eugene, Oregon, where he once attended college.

Besides composing primarily for acoustic piano, Salm has explored the limits of electronic music, helping to evolve the medium as a cutting edge composer and performer in the 1990’s. During that time Salm performed concerts using both synthesizers and piano, and composed the first Concerto for Piano and Synthesizers (‘Voyager’ Concerto) using a single performer. The work was featured in Keyboard magazine under the rubric “Bach goes quad.” Salm’s cover article, “Electronic Orchestration” appeared in Electronic Musician magazine and continues to be used in university courses as a standard reference.

Salm also has a deep interest in the history of religion, with two books to his credit. He continues to be active as composer, author, and mental health professional. His music has been featured on National Public Radio, recorded in Europe and the United States, and continues to be sought after by performers on the lookout for new, melodious music which is “classical” in the very best sense of the word.