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Nolan Gasser, Ph.D.  

Composer and Chief Musical Architect of the Music Genome Project

Nolan Gasser is a critically acclaimed composer, pianist, and musicologist – most notably, the architect of Pandora Radio’s Music Genome Project. His original works have been performed in such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Alice Tully Hall, La Salle Pleyel (Paris), and the Rose Bowl (Pasadena), among many others. Key current projects include an opera, The Secret Garden, commissioned by San Francisco Opera (premiered March 1, 2013), a musical, Benny and Joon, in partnership with H2H Productions and MGM On Stage, and a forthcoming book on the interrelation of music and science.

Among recent composition triumphs, his opera, The Secret Garden, held five sold-out performances at the 2000-seat Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley, CA; the production – which received rave reviews, notably by the esteemed music critic Joshua Kosman in the San Francisco Chronicle – will next move to Houston Grand Opera, where it will be filmed for a future Naxos-released blu-ray DVD, followed by a string of other performances; his Sonoma Overture was premiered to glowing reviews at the opening of the new Green Music Center in Sonoma County, CA; his Cosmic Reflection: A Narrated Symphony – the second commission associated with NASA’s Fermi mission (depicting the entire history of the Universe) received its premiere at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. (later this year, Naxos Records will release a CD of Cosmic Reflection recorded by the Baltimore Symphony, under Marin Alsop, paired withSonoma Overture recorded by the Santa Rosa Symphony, under Bruno Ferrandis); his World Concerto for Cello and Orchestra received its premiere in Oakland and San Francisco in performances by famed Israeli cellist Maya Beiser, and a trio of international soloists on the erhu, sarangi, and oud, along with the Oakland Symphony under Maestro Michael Morgan (forthcoming performances scheduled by several orchestras); the complete four-movement symphonic oratorio,American Festivals, was performed at IMG Artists’ 2008 Festival del sole in Napa Valley; hisGLAST Prelude, written for the 2008 launch of NASA’s Fermi Space Telescope – recorded by the American Brass Quintet, and featuring video by NASA Goddard – became an Internet sensation, with over 150,000 views on YouTube.

Outside of composition, Dr. Gasser is the chief musical architect of the Music Genome Project, the musical technology behind Pandora Radio – now with over 100 million subscribers in the US alone. He lectures widely at various public and private forums on the nature of musical taste and the intersection of music and science. Dr. Gasser is also the Artistic Director of Classical Archives, the largest classical music website on the Internet. He received his Ph.D. in Musicology from Stanford University, where he has been an Adjunct Professor in Medieval–Renaissance Music History. As a pianist, Dr. Gasser performs and records as a soloist, with his own jazz quartet – the San Francisco Jazz Quartet, and with such marquee artist as Steve Miller. He studied composition in Paris (and Fontainebleau) with Betsy Jolas, Gilbert Amy, and Tristan Murail; at NYU with Todd Brief and Menachem Zur; and at CSU, Northridge with Aurelio de la Vega. He lives with his wife and two children in Petaluma, CA.

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Speech Topics


The Genetics of Musical Taste

Nolan brings his experience developing the Music Genome Project for Pandora Radio, along with years of studying the relationship between music and various realms of science - neuroscience, genetics, physics, cell biology, etc. - to unravel the nature of musical taste: what makes us love the music we do, and how can we use this knowledge to improve our lives? With humor, visuals, and plenty of musical examples (performed live, if practical), this lecture is always a huge hit with audiences - regardless of their focus or musical background. Everyone loves music - and this lecture explains why!

Music, Science, and the Art of Living

This lecture dives into rich and fascinating detail regarding the relationship between music and various realms of science (mathematics, physics, genetics, neuroscience, biology), explaining the origins of musical sound, the relationship of musical structures to constructs of nature, and the connection between music and our own anatomy and evolution. The latter topic leads to a deeper understanding of music's power over us, and how "living with music" in an engaged manner is an ideal recipe for leading a fuller, more productive life. Speculum mundi: Music as a Reflection of Culture

Nolan here provides an entertaining and eye-opening look at the whole of Western music - from Ancient Greece to the present - as a reflection of the cultural, social, and intellectual world in which it was created. With compelling graphics, rich anecdotes, humor, and lots of great music, this lecture brings clarity to the broad movements of history - from the Middle Ages through the Renaissance, Enlightenment, Modern, and Post-Modern eras - in a way that will delight and surprise. You'll never hear a Beethoven symphony, a Bach cantata, or a song by the Beatles the same way again.

Cosmic Reflection: Musical Depictions of Cosmology and Physics

In this lecture, Nolan takes the audience through a fascinating tour of how composers and musicians have turned to topics of cosmology, astronomy, and physics to inspire and inform their musical works. From the music of Ancient Greece and Gregorian chant to Gustav Holst's "The Planets" to works of the 21st century (including Nolan's own "Cosmic Reflection" symphony), this talk reveals how the "music of the spheres" has helped shape the evolution of musical thought and discourse through the ages.

Custom Lectures

Custom lectures available per request on any musical topic - Pop, Rock, Jazz, Classical, Broadway, Hip hop, Electronica, World etc.: historical, cultural, musicological, etc.

  • Speculum mundi: Music as a Reflection of Culture

    Nolan here provides an entertaining and eye-opening look at the whole of Western music - from Ancient Greece to the present - as a reflection of the cultural, social, and intellectual world in which it was created. With compelling graphics, rich anecdotes, humor, and lots of great music, this lecture brings clarity to the broad movements of history - from the Middle Ages through the Renaissance, Enlightenment, Modern, and Post-Modern eras - in a way that will delight and surprise. You'll never hear a Beethoven symphony, a Bach cantata, or a song by the Beatles the same way again.

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