Major record labels are always trying to capitalize on the musical trend of the moment, whether you’re talking punk and disco in the late ’70s, New Wave in the early ’80s, or grunge in the early ’90s. Nonesuch Records, however, has always forged its own path. Launched on February 14, 1964, the label, founded by Elektra Records’ Jac Holzman, has consistently issued stylistically diverse albums starting with classical, world and electronic music. In Mick Houghton’s 2010 book, Becoming Elektra, Holzman says, “So the concept for Nonesuch was quite simple: the music was proven and attractive to a college audience, the notes were musically authoritative and not pompous, and the jackets reflected a down-to-earth whimsy that said: these are not elitist records.”
Fifty years later, Nonesuch is still going strong, and its roster has included Laurie Anderson, Philip Glass, Wilco, the Magnetic Fields, the Black Keys, Buena Vista Social Club, Youssou N’Dour and Natalie Merchant. To mark the occasion BAM is hosting the Nonesuch at BAM festival beginning tomorrow, Sept. 9. and featuring performances by acts that have had a connection with the label over the years. Kicking off the program is a concert featuring Philip Glass and composer Steve Reich together for the first time in over 30 years. The festival closes with Robert Plant and the Shapeshifters on Sept. 27 and 28, and in between will be performances by artists including Tweedy (a collaboration between Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and his son Spencer), soprano Dawn Upshaw, the legendary Brazilian musician Caetano Veloso, and jazz pianist Brad Meldhau.
We spoke with Nick Schwartz-Hall, a producer for the festival.
Certainly one of the highlights—if not perhaps the main highlight–is the opening night of the festival featuring Philip Glass and Steve Reich together. For avant garde music fans, this is a dream billing. How did you manage that?