40 composers from the NYC music community and around the globe, seeking a way to deeply speak about the times, collaborated to write and record an album called “The People of 2020” over a 14-day period (a ‘quarantine length’ from 3/29/20 – 4/12/20). Each musician had a 24-hour window to write and record their own part and pass it to the next musician. The album’s songs and moods are based on the ‘social curve’ of 2020, entitled “The Climb,” “Flattening,” and “Slide Out.”
Our lives have all been transformed. In so many ways. No question.
As musicians, we document the times in our own way. We use sound to express ideas, culture… and experiences. But in a way, the events of this year have been so unreal, that it’s become almost too obvious or even easy to achieve the goals that artists usually toil upon to ultimately transmit to society. Case in point: perhaps a simple springtime photograph of the streets of Manhattan is all that is required to catalog enough meaningful sentiment right now. Looking back, maybe we will feel a bit differently. Nonetheless, life itself has become the surreal.
This project – The People of 2020 – ends its story with something jazzy, modern-classical, cinematic, rockish, worldly, hip-hop, 2020-funky and soulful, which conjures feelings of exhilaration, tension, desperation, perseverance, vigilance, hope, fatigue, playfulness, honesty, and reality. Like everyone else, musicians haven’t been forced to work with such a great degree of physical separation before, and this music uniquely reflects that. But this album is really an attempt to fully embody and document the 2020 experience as whole, at least as we currently understand it. Let me explain.
Many musicians have been feeling the need for something to pour themselves into, something that deeply tells the story of what is happening now.
Some collaborators and I at Pinch Recording in NYC began talking about writing music in quarantine, by passing our parts from person to person. That was already a great idea within itself, but there was a hunger to do something more. Was a simple collaboration enough? Maybe not enough to do justice to such an unprecedented, rapid global shift in everyones’ lives.
“What if we made this project 14-days long… to represent the ‘quarantine length?’… and each musician had 24 hours to write and record their part, one after another?”
A quick social media post to gauge interest from other musicians resulted into 100+ immediate responses from players in NYC and around the globe, with their own remote studios, at home and eager to collaborate. These were some of the world’s best, with Grammys on their shelves and resumes that speak for themselves (collaborators of Stevie Wonder, Sting, The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, The Roots, Ed Sheeran, Beyonce, and others).
Seeing these responses pour in inspired an emotional impetus, a kind of mission. There had to be a way to bring more of the musicians together during this time and do something special together.
“What if we ran 3 songs separately and there were 40 musicians, all recording and composing together in those 14 days? What if the 3 songs were based on the experiences of this ‘Social Curve’ of 2020 – ‘The Climb,’ ‘Flattening,’ and ‘Slide Out?'”
What if the band was called “The People of 2020?”
So we went for it. The writing and recording kicked off on March 29, 2020, to run for 14 days. 80% of the funds raised would be equally split between all the musicians and engineers, and 10% would go to the Grammy MusiCares fund to support the greater musician community.
What resulted, was music that couldn’t have been predicted.
Whether coming from horns, strings, world percussion, voices, keyboards, or anything else, each day a new and unique musical part arrived that changed the overall complexion and trajectory of the songs, further enriching the story that was being told. The concepts for each song were broadly outlined from the start, aimed at interpreting the experiences and the emotional journey of society overall and ourselves personally alongside the three phases of the curve (as entitled “The Climb,” “Flattening,” and “Slide Out).”
‘The People of 2020’ became a way for the musicians to express art not just about these times, but through these times. One of the creators caught coronavirus during the project and seriously struggled through it. Another musician almost skipped his turn – but didn’t – because his father was fighting the virus in a New York City hospital during his turn to compose. And so on. We set out to weave our collective stories through this music, but the all-encompassing reality made that happen without trying at all. The heart of such experiences became entrenched into the sound.
The goal of most music projects is to create quality work that stands on its own by the end, and this project is no exception. The unique feeling of eclecticism in the record is something I think could only arrive through this many composers – 40 – in this many locations – 40 – in addition to dedicated mixing and mastering engineers – all in quarantine with strict, symbolic project deadlines. It was an amazing test of group collaboration, an example of surrender to circumstance, and a re-shaping of the literal boundaries of creativity. It is unlike anything we’ve participated in before.
I hope this album inspires you, speaks to you, and lives through you as much as it did for us in creating it.
– Adam Ahuja, Infinity Gritty
Producer & Musician/Composer of The People of 2020
The Composers / Musicians
Day 1 – Pablo Eluchans (Chile/NYC) – drums
Day 2 – Adam Ahuja (NYC/PA) – keys
Day 3 – Carlos Mena (Ecuador/NYC) – bass
Day 4 – Agustin Uriburu (Argentina/NYC) – cello
Day 5 – Benni von Gutzeit (Germany/NYC) – viola
Day 6 – Tomoko Omura (Japan/NYC) – violin
Day 7 – Chris Stoeger (Munich) – percussion
Day 8 – Gavi Grodsky (NYC) – guitar
Day 9 – Andrew Gould (NYC) – alto sax
Day 10 – Mike LaBombard (Philadelphia) – tenor sax
Day 11 – Nadav Nirenberg (NYC) – trombone
Day 12 – Matt Cappy (Philadelphia) – trumpet
Day 13 – Ratish Chadha (India/Dubai) – percussion
Day 14 – Raycee Jones (NYC) – vocals
Day 1 – Kevin Soffera (PA) – drums
Day 2 – Jordan Rose (NYC) – drums
Day 3 – Justin Goldner (NYC) – bass
Day 4 – Aleksi Glick (NYC) – guitar
Day 5 – Tripp Dudley (NYC) – tabla
Day 6 – Adam Ahuja (NYC/PA) – keys
Day 7 – Johnny Butler (NYC) – soprano sax
Day 8 – Paul Jones (NYC) – tenor sax
Day 9 – Jimmy O’Connell (NYC) – trombone
Day 10 – John Lake (NYC) – trumpet
Day 11 – Will Hanza (NYC) – guitar/fx
Day 12 – Rachel Ombredane (Paris) – flute
Day 13 – Liz Fohl (LA) – keys sound design
Day 14 – Joe Mixon (PA) – steel pan
Day 1 – Isaac Monts (CT) – drums
Day 2 – Johannes Felscher (Germany/NYC) – bass
Day 3 – Stef Avellaneda (Paris) – percussion
Day 4 – Eddie Moore (Kansas City) – rhodes
Day 5 – Jordan Peters, (Montreal/NYC) – guitar
Day 6 – Jon Ramm (New Orleans) – trombone
Day 7 – Brian Donohoe (Austin) – tenor sax
Day 8 – Matt Carrillo (NYC) – tenor sax
Day 9 – Adam Ahuja (NYC/PA) – keys
Day 10 – Sean Richey (NYC) – guitar
Day 11 – Alex Asher (NYC) – trombone
Day 12 – Olivia Harris (NYC) – vocals
Day 13 – MH the Verb (Oakland) – emcee
Day 14 – Alvaro Kapaz (São Paulo) – guitar
“The People of 2020” is written by 40 musicians collectively from NYC and around the globe. Between 3/29/20 and 4/12/20 (14-day ‘quarantine timeline’), each composer had 24 hours write and record their part, and pass a rough mix of the song’s current progress to the next musician. This process ran simultaneously for all 3 songs and is conceptually based on the events (‘the social curve’) of 2020.
Produced by: Adam Ahuja (Infinity Gritty)
Mixed by: E Scott Lindner (Pinch Recording)
Mastered by: Kevin Blackler (Blackler Mastering)
Cover Art by: Adam & Shaun Ahuja