High-speed creativity supporting excellent causes.
On an icy cold January night in 2012, 10 musicians crowded into a small Manhattan apartment with the goal of writing an album from scratch -- and recording it -- in a single weekend. They had a bunch of blank paper, a theme (the idea was to record an imaginary, lost Brian Eno pop album) and a few rules. One rule was absolute: Come midnight on Sunday, the album would be done, like it or not. Not another note was to be written or played after that.
Two days later they emerged from a basement studio, bleary-eyed and full of pride, with a complete, recorded album. The entire process, not including sleep and meal breaks, had taken 29 hours.
Thus was born 29 Hour Music People, whose debut album, "Volume 1: Soft Eno Blessing," was released on March 19, 2013.
The album is available as a "pay what you want" download from Bandcamp (29hourmusicpeople.bandcamp.com
). All proceeds from downloads will go to the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, which pays the medical bills of working musicians.
29 Hour Music People is led by Rob Christiansen, a musician and producer, whose bands have included Eggs, Grenadine and East Ghost West Ghost, and includes writers and musicians from such diverse backgrounds as the New York Choral Society, Maracatu New York, "Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles," and the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls.
"In this game that we play there are no rules about what style of music each collaborator brings," Christiansen says. "There's not even a rule that someone's contribution has to be in song form. I'm always pleasantly surprised."
Most of the musicians met in 2011 while playing in the Brian Eno tribute project "Here Come the Warm Jets Live." After a performance of the classic Eno album at Joe's Pub in New York, they wanted to bring the collaborative energy of that show to another project.
Two weeks later, they were in that Manhattan apartment writing lyrics --scrawling lines on notepads, iPads and laptops, and passing them back and forth until 12 or 13 complete lyrics had emerged. One song, "Nog-Fed Eric (Tomato Tomorrow)," started life that night as an Excel spreadsheet.
The group reconvened in a basement studio on Saturday morning, with everyone randomly picking up the previous night's lyrics and going off to various corners to make up some music. As soon as a song was finished, it would be shown to the rest of the group and immediately recorded, live. Vocals and handclaps were added Sunday, and that was that. "Volume 1: Soft Eno Blessing," 10 songs in all, was done.
"Contemporary records are way too over-thought," Christiansen says. "A creative project made quickly isn't just as good as most records; it's better than most records."
Collaborators in 29 Hour Music People have included Alan Black, Alan Blattberg, Rob Christiansen, Kate Edmundson, Kim Howie, Matty Karas, Cheri Leone, Chris McBurney, Dave Satkowski, Meave Shelton and Pam Weis.
The group has already finished a second album, "Volume 2: Summer Music," which will be released later this year. That album was made under the same rules as "Soft Eno Blessing," which have since been codified as a written charter. Planning for album number three is under way. Those albums, too, will benefit the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund.
©+℗ 2013, 29 Hour Music People