Looking for hits in ATLAS

30 November 2009

In the studio, via cellphone

Roll up, roll up. The ATLAS CD – a secret project that you may have heard whispers of – is close to completion. The project, dreamt up by Markus Nordberg and Chris Thomas, teased a whole crop of musically talented collaborators out of the woodwork over the summer and ushered them into a recording studio in October to lay down tracks for the forthcoming release.

The CD will actually be two discs – one featuring pop, rock, jazz and blues, and the other taking in more classical and acoustic/instrumental pieces. Each of the acts performing has at least one member from ATLAS, and some are entirely made up of ATLAS musicians. While there are those you will likely already know of – e-News’s resident rapper AlpineKat (word) and the ever-present Canettes Blues Band – others may come as a bit of a surprise: Fabiola Gianotti, classically trained pianist, performing a Chopin solo, anyone?

Shooting the DVD

As well as the music, there will also be a short ‘Making Of’ DVD included in the package. Neal Hartman and Matt Ryan shot over 20 hours of footage both in and out of the recording studio, and will soon condense that into 20 minutes of visual gold. Neal, who interviewed many of the artists, asking questions such as, ‘What purpose does music serve in your life?’ and ‘How do you find time to play?’ suggests the most special aspect of the project is the way its evolution has mirrored the democratic approach of the ATLAS collaboration: “The interesting thing is that it’s basically been built like ATLAS. Anyone can join in.”

While Neal interviewed artists in a bar downtown earlier this month, others were happily philosophising about the links between music and mathematics, and about whether the CD might provide a human face for what some outsiders see as a baffling scientific enterprise.

“People misperceive scientists as chasing irrelevant ideas… People understand music though. Humanising science can only serve to bring it closer,” said Jon Butterworth who stepped in as guest guitarist on The Danglers’ tracks.

For some of the musicians, such as seasoned session drummer Frédéric Rosset, being in a studio was old hat; for others, like Celtic harpist Genevieve Steele, this was new territory. “I’ve performed live before, at weddings and things, but no-one’s really listening then,” she joked at the interview session, “you can make a mistake and no-one knows!”

Many of the artists played covers or sheet music, but several recorded original songs, including a tongue-in-cheek offering written specifically for the CD by Martin White. Points Of Order, performed by his band The TLAs is “a protest song about the number of meetings we have in ATLAS”. But what does TLA stand for? “Three Letter Acronym.” Yeah, I know it is, but what does it… Ohhh. How very apt.

Once it’s ready, the CD will be available to buy from the ATLAS Secretariat for around 20 CHF, with any profits being donated to the Happy Children's Home in Pokhara, Nepal to help them build their orphanage. As we go to press, the final mastering is underway, while Chris Thomas is attempting to navigate the legal minefield that recording and distributing song covers throws up. If the organisers are very lucky, the CD should be printed, packed and shipped to Geneva in the new year. Watch this space.




Ceri Perkins

ATLAS e-News