Grammy Awards – Update

Written by dusttodigital on . Posted in Blog

As many of you know, our Music of Morocco box set was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Historical Album of 2016. Here is co-producer and liner notes author, Philip Schuyler’s write-up of both the production journey and the Grammy experience in Los Angeles.

Thanks to all for the encouragement and kind words. This project was a long, hard slog until the last couple of years, when it turned into sheer delight, culminating in the Grammy nomination for Best Historical Album.

For those who don’t know the back story, Paul Bowles conceived of an anthology of Moroccan music around 85 years ago, in the early 1930s. In 1959, he realized his dream in an intense, 4½ month recording expedition. He deposited 60 hours of tape in the Archive of Folk Song at Library of Congress, and in 1972, the Archive published a 2-LP set of excerpts from the collection. Sometime in the mid-1990s, Bill Nowlin, of Rounder Records, had the idea of reissuing the original album on CD and, at Paul’s suggestion, asked me to edit it. Time passes while I collect my thoughts. More time passes. Stlll more. By the time I finished the notes, about 15 years later, Rounder had been sold and the new owners were not interested in obscure recordings of Moroccan music. Bill Nowlin never gave up, however, and he continued to look for a home for the project until he found Dust-to-Digital, where Lance and April Ledbetter had a vision of how important this could be. Michael Graves and Rick Fisher made the music sound as good as new. Barb Bersche put it all in a magnificent treasure chest as beautiful and clever as any I’ve ever seen.

After collaborating remotely with the team for years, it was wonderful to meet Lance, April, Mike, and Barb for the first time at the Grammys. We missed all the others who couldn’t be there: Bill Nowlin himself, whom I still hope to meet someday; Irene Herrmann, Paul’s musical executor, who has been unfailingly supportive of the project; and the many people at the Library of Congress who have kept the original tapes safe through six decades, including Judith Gray, Jennifer Cutting, and the late Alan Jabbour, who oversaw the first publication at LOC, and who approved the re-edition. I think that Paul would have been satisfied with the results, and I hope that Moroccan scholars and musicians will be, too. The moral of the story is not, as you might think, “Procrastination Pays,” but rather, “We get by with a lot of help from our friends.”

Our category at the Grammys included unreleased live recordings by Vladimir Horowitz, the first wax cylinders of Gospel music from 125 years ago, and bootleg tapes of Bob Dylan in the mid-1960s. Dylan is Dylan, and the producer, Steve Berkowitz, is well known and well-liked in the industry, so it was no surprise when they won. Still, there’s no shame in losing to a Nobel Laureate, and it turns out that the cliché is true: it really was an honor just to be in the company of our fellow nominees. I like to imagine going to dinner with Bowles, Horowitz, Dylan, and the pioneers of Gospel, but it was just as much fun to hang out at the events with my son, Karim.

— Philip Schuyler, February 2017