Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood among performers at Nonesuch Records 50th anniversary shows

Johnny Greenwood

Johnny Greenwood - Credit: Archant

This weekend, the Barbican is hosting a series of sessions to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Nonesuch Records.

Set up in 1964 by Jac Holzman with the aim of providing ‘‘fine records at the same price as a trade paperback’’, the label was initially a subsidiary of the more established Elektra Records specialising in classical chamber and baroque music.

Over the decades though, it has since spanned countless genres to become one of the world’s most eclectic major labels.

Owned by Warner Brothers, recent mainstream successes include The Black Keys and Wilco, but it has also produced Charles Wuorinen’s Pulitzer prize-winning Time’s Encomium and a diverse range of artists including Ry Cooder, Randy Newman and Phillip Glass.

Having corresponded with the label for many years, the Barbican has long toyed with a Nonesuch-themed event.

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This year’s landmark anniversary however cemented plans and the venue’s contemporary music programmer, Chris Sharp, has been collaborating with current Nonesuch boss Bob Hurwitz to come up with five unique in-house performances, as well as a host of additional events in the surrounding borough.

“Over many years, quite a lot of their artists have crossed our threshold, trod our boards as it were, so there’s always been a connection there,” explains Sharp.

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“There’s a shared creative endeavour that we recognise in what Nonesuch do. The diversity they have is quite unique – it’s that idea of cross-fertilisation in music and the opportunities it gives us. On Friday night, for instance, we had Devendra Banhart and Rokia Traoré on the same bill and that’s the kind of evening you can do with Nonesuch artists that you wouldn’t consider doing elsewhere.”

Highlights of the five weekend sessions include performances from Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood, Kronos Quarter and Timo Andres – a New York pianist who dazzled the Barbican last year when asked to perform coincidentally alongside Philip Glass.

Satellite events are also taking place at venues like Oval Space and St Luke’s on Old Street up until May 30, with acts like former Battles front man Tyondai Braxton and American singer-songwriter Emmylou Harris, who will be performing her Grammy Award winning album Wrecking Ball.

Sharp continues: “Coming from a major label background, I know that as an artist, the record company is often perceived as the enemy, so I think it’s quite interesting that so many artists were willing to come and do something with Nonesuch.”

nExplorations: The Sound of Nonesuch Records runs this Saturday and Sunday at the Barbican. Visit

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