Nolan Gasser

Nolan Gasser is a critically acclaimed composer, pianist, and musicologist – most notably, the architect of Pandora Radio’s Music Genome Project and the company’s chief musicologist from its founding in 1999. He holds a Ph.D. in Musicology from Stanford University. His original compositions have been performed in such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall, David Geffen Hall (Lincoln Center), the Kennedy Center, La Salle Pleyel (Paris), and the Rose Bowl (Pasadena), among many others.


Nolan’s classical compositions include an opera, The Secret Garden, commissioned by San Francisco Opera; The World Concerto, for cello, erhu, oud, sarangi, and orchestra, premiered by Maya Beiser; Cosmic Reflection, for orchestra and narrator (relaying the full history of the universe in 40 minutes), premiered at the Kennedy Center and recorded by the Baltimore Symphony; an oratorio Repast: An Oratorio on the Life of Booker Wright, premiered at Carnegie Hall; and a 4-part oratorio, American Festivals, for orchestra, chorus, and soloists (with libretto by Robert Trent Jones) with movements dedicated to July 4th, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Memorial Day, and Thanksgiving.


His theatrical projects include the musical Benny & Joon—which recently completed successful runs at both the Paper Mill Playhouse (2019) and the Old Globe (2017) theaters; following tremendous critical and popular support, the musical is moving ahead toward a Broadway run. The cast includes Bryce Pinkham (Gentlemen’s Guide: Tony nominated) as Sam and Hannah Elless (Bright Star). The creative team also include lyricist Mindi Dickstein (Little Women); book writer Kirsten Guenther (Roman Holiday); director Jack Cummings (Summer & Smoke); orchestrator Michael Starobin (Sunday in the Park with George), and sound designer Kai Herada (Band’s Visit).


Nolan’s book, Why You Like It: The Science and Culture of Musical Taste, was just released on April 30, 2019 (Macmillan Press)—called “a work of staggering erudition and breadth… a gateway to music’s exalted state” by The Economist; and praised as “One of those rare books that both geeks and casual listeners can enjoy” by The Washington Post. Nolan speaks regularly on a variety of topics—related to musical taste, the science and culture of music, music and technology, etc.


Nolan’s forthcoming rock-world music album Border Crossing will be released in summer 2019; it features a group of world-class musicians: reed player Tim Ries (Rolling Stones), violinist Matt Szemela (Sting), oudist / guitarist Dimitris Mahlis (A.R. Rahman), percussionist Jamey Haddad (Paul Simon), bassist Carlos Del Puerto (Chick Corea), and drummer Gary Novak (George Benson). The album was recorded at Capitol Records under legendary engineer Ed Cherney (Eric Clapton), and is being produced by Grammy Award-winner Gregg Field (Arturo Sandoval).


Nolan is also the subject of a documentary for the ESPN-FiveThirtyEight series, The Collectors, entitled “Breaking Music Down to Its Genes” (2015). The film highlights his work with Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital to pilot an “algorithm” to provide personalized musical therapy for cancer patients. Nolan’s TEDx talk, “Empowering Your Musical Taste” is available on YouTube.

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More Info for Nolan Gasser
Sep 23, 2021
McGlohon Theater

Nolan Gasser

Why You Like It: The Story of Your Musical Taste