Red Hot received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to design and produce a music app, extending its innovative approach to media further into the digital age. At the same time, Red Hot co-founder and creative director, John Carlin, had wanted to do an ambient instrumental album since the late 1990s when he approached Brian Eno to work on a tribute to Erik Satie, but couldn’t get record label backing. With the support of the NEA, Red Hot returned to the idea, but focused on the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, the great 18th century German composer who kicked off the great tradition of European classical music.
The idea was to reinvent Bach for the 21st century in terms of music recording, but also experiencing music through the App, which let people create visual imagery along with the music and explore layers of the music. The App also featured a live video of the Kronos Quartet recording on the wax cylinder machine devised by Thomas Edison at the first commercial recording studio in the world at his factory in West Orange, NJ. The recording was captured on wax as well as a 78rpm lathe, analogue tape and ProTools; and people can toggle between these four different types of sound recording while they watch Kronos play.
While the App was being programmed, Chuck Mitchell, who had signed Red Hot to do the Rio album while heading the Verve label, brought the project into his new position at Sony Masterworks. This allowed for more extensive recording and a full exploration of how Bach’s music remains relevant in the 21st century to a diverse group of musicians from jazz, DJ, indie rock, classical and ambient. The finished album was dedicated to Carlin’s mother, a lifelong fan of classical music, who died while the album was being produced.