Headphone Commute's ...and darkness came: Music to benefit victims of Hurricane Sandy

We were in Puerto Rico when people started talking about the “Frankenstorm.” Our immediate concern was that its arrival would keep us from getting back home—which, all things considered, wouldn’t have necessarily been bad. So we watched as the storm grew, saw firsthand its frightening potential as blinding sheets of rain battered the defenseless island, drank our rum punches indoors, and managed to make it home just in time to witness the storm’s true arrival. Now she had a name—a cruel one at that. Superstorm Sandy wasn’t through with us yet.

For the most part, my friends, family, and I suffered only minor inconveniences. But while my life has pretty much returned to normal, life for many others will never be the same. I wonder if NYC’s ability to almost magically recover from what was one of the most devastating storms in history has somehow diminished its perceived impact. In the US, Sandy affected 24 states, was responsible for at least 130 deaths, and caused over $63 billion of damage. Homes were destroyed, neighborhoods washed away, entire cities crippled.

Putting aside political, environmental, and economic issues, there remains a beautiful truth in disaster: It brings good people together. I was heartened, for instance, when our Jersey City community gathered around Kristen to help bring her beloved shop, Kanibal Home, back to life, raising enough money to restore at least some of her inventory and to get her back up and running. Kristen, I know, felt grateful, but our efforts were nothing in comparison to the sense of purpose and joy we felt in contributing to a special cause. Love can be a selfish thing.

On the morning of November 7, about a week after Sandy hit our area, the people behind Headphone Commute, a website devoted to the appreciation of music and high-quality sound, reached out to their favorite artists and asked if they’d like to donate tracks for a compilation, the entire proceeds of which would go to Doctors Without Borders and The Humane Society, in an effort to help those affected by Hurricane Sandy.

By midday, Headphone Commute had received confirmations from 10 artists, included among them acclaimed pianist Nils Frahm. Over the next several days, more artists eagerly offered contributions. Today, the roster of musicians reads like a “Who’s Who” in the worlds of modern classical, ambient electronic, and experimental music: Olafur Arnalds, Black Swan, Peter Broderick, Celer, Dakota Suite, Lawrence English, Hauschka, Ezekiel Honig, Johann Johannsson, Max Richter, Scanner, Valgeir Sigurdsson, and dozens more.

The Headphone Commute compilation, …and darkness came, will be released on December 10th, and will initially be available as a digital download via Bandcamp in 320kbps MP3, OGG, FLAC, and AAC formats. (It’s possible that a physical format will be available later. I, of course, am hoping for a deluxe vinyl set.) The cost is $10, but you can give more. Remember: 100% of the sales will go to Doctors Without Borders and The Humane Society.

Headphone Commute’s …and darkness came is just one of many ways to help victims of Hurricane Sandy. If you’re aware of other benefits and fundraisers toward Sandy relief, please list them in the Comments section.

ednazarko's picture

After Hurricane Irene trashed upstate NY, a group of NY artists did the same thing, each donated a song to a compilation with proceeds going to relief funds. "After the Flood..." (shortened a very long title) had 43 songs, each by a different artist, and many of them were songs or versions never released before.

It's become my favorite listen.  I'm still surprised by how well each of the individual songs are produced, put many mainstream commercial act albums to shame.

I hadn't heard of almost any of the artists before (only two) but I've now got lots of other music from many of the artists. I'm really looking forward to this work's availability.

R Browne's picture

I know of a couple of similar compilations make by members of the same musical community to raise money for the recovery from the earthquake that struck Japan in March of 2011.

A disc or download is a token of appreciation to those who are able to extend their generosity to help. I wish the Headphone Commute effort success.