Magazine article Mother Jones

One Click from Broadway

Magazine article Mother Jones

One Click from Broadway

Article excerpt

The CDZA crew makes musical comedy for the YouTube era.

"whenever we sit down to write our stuff, we always say, 'Man, this is the stupidest shit!'-but then when it all comes together, it works!" On that note, Michael Thurber ends his break and heads back into Terminus Recording Studios, which is something of a landmark in the Manhattan Theater District. Paul McCartney and Liza Minnelli have recorded there. It's in the same building where Tupac Shakur was shot five times.

It's also where Thurber's crew, CDZA (Collective Cadenza), creates musical videos with a meta twist. "The Beatles Argument" features a lovers' quarrel sung almost entirely in Beatles lyrics. "Hip Hop Shopping Spree," a three-minute rap medley, is accompanied by a calculation of the cumulative retail value of the songs' product placements-almost $57 million. Another video samples the history of misheard lyrics, from Carl Orff to Pink. In yet another, the theme song from the '90s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is translated into foreign languages and back to English with Google Translate; the broken lyrics are performed to violins and a rhythm section. "We were drinking a little bit, and that idea just sort of came out," admits Joe Sabia, the group's lead "conceptor" and director.

CDZA's young founders met in 2011 after Sabia, an hbo and Myspace alum, reached out to Thurber (composer and "chief music guy") for help scoring a corporate video. Thurber knew Matt McCorkle, an audio engineer who has worked with the likes of John Legend and New Found Glory. Together, the new friends came up with the idea to create viral videos starring Juilliard-trained musicians, local rock and jazz artists, Broadway singers, and sketch comedians-done in a single Steadicam shot. "Our creative process looks like us sitting in an apartment, saying, 'This would be funny, this would be cool,'" Thurber explains. …

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