Inspiration from Afar…

Posted in Uncategorized on March 14, 2010 by Kenley

Hey all,

So, I recently attended my brother’s beautiful wedding on the killer Hawaiian island of Maui and, I’ve got to tell you, it couldn’t have gone better.  There were many nights on the beach, many nights of relaxing with friends and many, many Mai Tais, but there was one night that really stuck out in my mind.

Kirk and Melissa (my brother and new sister-in-law) planned the rehearsal dinner activity for everyone on the Tuesday night, before the big day.  It was a luau in the coastal town of Lahaina (again, on the island of Maui) and, as cool as hula girls and coconut bras are, the percussionists were amazing.

I couldn’t keep my eyes off of them! They had instruments that I had never heard of before and playing these psychotic rhythms, really fast and in this really contagious groove.  A sampling of the drums… and the Tahitian dancing… is below.

One of my favourite instruments there was the pahu, which is a type of pitched log drum.  One type of log drum is below…

Very cool! The luau percussionist was incredible, but it was really the synergy between all of the drums, the dancing and the narrative that made this luau SO impressive.  It really makes me want to dabble more in island percussion – doesn’t matter which island, but Hawaii, Tahiti, the Polynesian Islands…

ALSO, the stories that accompany the music, like the colonization of Hawaii, the annexation by the US (positive or negative), the myths of the Haleakala volcano, or the stories about the islands before it became a tourist destination… like when Westerners would come to visit a friend, then get to the airport and then be unable to get on the plane, completely captured by the beauty and pace of Hawaii.  Everything, and everyone, has a story… and there’s a sort of historic poetry that takes place when one can capture that in music.

Speaking of capturing, special thanks to Winnipeg photographers, Jess and Jake from Kamp Photography, who captured the wedding and the adventures surrounding it with a heartfelt, comforting quality – some seriously awesome photography.  Make sure to follow them on twitter as well!

Now that I’m back, back to work, updates to follow!

Mahalo! (Hawaiian for “thank you!”)


Manitoba Music “Video Game Composition Seminar” 2010 – Part 1

Posted in Kenley, Local Music, Public with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 27, 2010 by Kenley

It’s been quite some time since the blog has been updated, but it’s been busy! So expect a few posts coming up!

The first thing that we can report is that Kenley was part of a seminar series for Manitoba Music (industry association for Manitoba musicians) on composing music for video games!

Alec Holowka talking about Indie Game Development (photo courtesy of Chrissy Chubala)

The line-up for the presentations was legendary! There were:

– Indie composers (Alec Holowka of Infinite Ammo, maker of Aquaria and Marion, and Danny Baranowsky, composer of such hits as Semi Secret’s Canabalt, as well as the upcoming and highly-anticipated, Super Meat Boy).

– Film and TV (Steffan Andrews of Orchetect, composer for YTV’s League of Super Evil and of the animated feature Kung Fu Magoo)

– Audio Engineering (Andrew Yankiwski and Skot Moat from “Precursor Productions” here in Winnipeg)

– Writing and Game Development (Ryan FitzGerald of “Rogue Nations Studios,” who have worked on everything from ARGs to online media.  I’m a big fan of RadioFreeKrakow, so definitely check them out!)

I hope that I didn’t miss anyone!

In which case, we had five students from all walks of writing – from songwriting, to writing for bands, to writing for NBC!

I spoke about a few different topics of composing for games, 4 of the 7 sessions, actually.  I gave the “Introduction to Composing for Video Games,” “Repertoire,” “Loops” (with Alec) and  “Traditional Orchestration Techniques in VGM Composition,
(with some killer input from Steffan).

All the sessions were really cool – Ryan’s totally blew my mind.  In particular, he spoke about the ideas of narrative involving free will (agency) and of rewards (affordances).  I don’t want to give his whole presentation away, but he looks at storytelling in a way unlike any other – in a very interactive, open and collaborative way.  It’s as though it’s more about the dialogue creating the story rather than the “sage on the stage” model of telling and listening.  Put another way, it’s more like going to the bank and setting up your financial future with a manager and both crafting your economic tale together, rather than the deposit/withdrawl pattern of an ATM.  I could listen to that guy talk all day – go check out his work.

There will be subsequent parts, so stay tuned! I’ll leave you with a teaser – if you were to write a caption for Danny Baranowsky’s moment below, what would it be? Write your answer in the comment box!

What will the caption be?

Good luck!


Local Music that Kenley Wants to Share!

Posted in Kenley, Local Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 31, 2010 by Kenley

After a heavy last post, it’s time to lighten up and share some local music with you!

Moses Mayes

First, in the “Paris of the Prairies,” we have the Fusion Funk band, “Moses Mayes.”  Moses Mayes isn’t a person, but rather, the name is a dynamic and hard-groovin’ group that I’ve seen MANY times – if you haven’t seen them yet, there is no time like present!

I first saw them in Grade 10 at the Winnipeg Jazz Festival and they blew my mind – I don’t think that I’ve ever danced so hard in my life.  The tune below is called “Intrafusion” and it’s from their third disc, Second Ring, which I recommend as highly as possible!

Moses Mayes’ Website –
Moses Mayes’ MySpace –

The ladies of "Oh My Darling."

Next, we have the killer all-female folk group, Oh! My Darling, consisting of the very awesome Vanessa Kuzina (vocals/guitar/songwriter), Allison de Groot (banjo/vocals), Rosalyn Dennett (fiddle/vocals) and Marie-Josée Dandeneau (upright bass) – all of them are brilliant musicians.

Manitoba Music (the industry association for MB’s musicians) describes them as “…a powerhouse of superb female musicianship. Utilizing their keen sense of stylistic versatility, these young women have an vastly eclectic repertoire. Drawing inspiration from traditional music, their original songs are energetic and moving. They infuse their unique brand of country music with Appalachian Old Time, a Southern twang, and some funk inspired bass lines that’ll get your hips swinging while your toes are tapping…”

Their tune, “Pixou Falls” is one of the some pensive, yet driving lines that I can think of.  It’s a weird combination, it’s almost mournful, but it’s got this forward momentum that just pulls you along for the ride.

Pixou Falls – Oh My Darling (care of
OMD’s Website
Buy their Album (which I highly recommend!)

Singer/Songwriter and Fiddler, Sierra Noble

Next on my list is singer/songwriter (and unbelievable fiddler!), Sierra Noble.  She’s hardly a hidden gem anymore, with a strong new EP called “Possibilities” and having played with some of the best fiddlers in the world on radio and TV, but she had humble Manitoba beginnings; therefore, making it onto the list!

I’ve only met her once, but she’s super cool and super nice, which is always a bonus.  I’ve included the title track from her EP below, which is a really nice track (earning her a spot on CMT, which is pretty incredible!), though I’ve also included a fiddle duet with Donny Parenteau that she did at the 2008 Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards this past year.  It’s totally unbelievable…


Sierra Noble and Donny Parenteau at the 2008 Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards:

Okay, that’s enough for right now, but expect me to post more about local music that is amazing and deserves to be highlighted! We live in a great area for the arts and for music, so let’s support our local musicians!


Many Hands…: The Importance of Collaboration

Posted in Kenley with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2010 by Kenley

Hey all, Kenley here and, as promised, I’m writing about collaboration.

Many hands...

I would put money in saying that Winnipeg’s New Media sector is different than most other New Media sectors in the world because rather than looking in for inspiration, it looks outward to its colleagues, compatriots and counterparts.

That needs clarification.  One company from out west moved over to Winnipeg approximately one year ago and asked me about “the way that we do things here in Winnipeg.”  I happily replied that we’re really all on the same team and we commonly discuss what we’re working on, how it’s going and ask for ideas or feedback.  The head of given company (who shall remain nameless, because I haven’t asked him if I can blog about our conversation) gaped at me as though I had broken the cardinal rules in business… oh wait, I have.

In many big cities and big companies, secrecy and protectionist tendencies are of paramount importance and collaboration is a faux-pas that no company can afford: What if their product leaks? What if someone tries to copy it? What if someone does it better?

I appreciate that those are valid concerns and they are in place for a reason – Blue Harvest and Rory’s First Kiss helped to quell the fans from discovering that the companies were really making Star Wars and The Dark Knight. But, why did they have to keep the secrecy? This does the opposite of a tried and true marketing force, perhaps one of the strongest marketing forces out there: Hype.

Many Indie game companies understand this better than most.  In fact, they do the opposite: They post their developmental material as well… and blog about it… it’s almost like they bring their fans into the creation process. One killer example of this is with Bit Blot’s 2007 release of Aquaria, made by Derek Yu and Winnipegger, Alec Holowka.

The Seven Days of Aquaria

On the first day, they take you through Concept Art and conceiving the basic elements of the game; then, on the second day, Music and a cool mix from some of the 53 tracks from the game; on the third day, we meet Jenna Sharpe, the voice actor for the game’s protagonist, Naija… you see where I’m going with this: Opening up creates hype and builds a relationship with your fans.

Other awesome examples of this include Bear McCreary’s blog on writing/conceiving/recording the music for Battlestar Galactica and Super Meat Boy Blog.  To be REALLY fair, Alec Holowka’s independent company, Infinite Ammo, has “Marion Mondays,” where  new design aspects of their new game, Marion, are released and discussed.

Where am I going with this? Many hands make light work, or in short, collaboration makes everyone better.  The last few examples weren’t ENTIRELY about collaboration, but focusing more on the idea of secrecy and how a sense of “intellectual protectionism” can be detrimental to everyone.

Winnipeg shares everything and attracts the best people from its pool to do the best work.  Winnipeg’s chapter of the International Game Developers’ Association has regular meetings every two months to showcase new ways of using lighting effects, manipulating gravity in the Unity engine and/or showcasing new games that are in development.  All of get to be inspired by crafty coding, beautiful artwork, beautiful sound design, excellent 3D modelling and stunning animation – there is no fear of stealing ideas because we are all on the same team.

One company in Winnipeg manifests that credo in everything it does: New Media Manitoba.  New Media Manitoba is like an umbrella that helps enrich all of the New Media companies within its subscription by holding seminars, bringing in speakers, running courses, hosting events and promoting the cutting-edge work that’s being done in our fair city.  New Media Manitoba had a hand in the course that Jeremy just attended… amazing work.  But again, it is through this collaboration that a shared and exponential success is nurtured – not only happening once, but a continual growth of the industry.  Again, collaboration.

Author Seth Godin discusses this idea at length in Episode 97 of CBC’s technology program, Spark and I recommend this listen for everyone  – it’s terrific.

Pick your cliche:

– Many hands make light work.
– The whole is more than the sum of its parts.
– The more that hold the net, the less that fall through…

… All of these make sense and that’s one of the reasons why Winnipeg’s New Media industry is growing by leaps and bounds.  The unified strength of our many companies is creating something special in the Paris of the Prairies and I think that it has a lot to do with collaboration and our sharing of skills.  Imagine how much further ahead we could be if we all shared our strength to create great arts and services for the world around us… if you can’t imagine, ask a friend.

First Post by Jeremy!

Posted in Jeremy with tags , , , , , , , on January 30, 2010 by Jeremy

When not in the studio...

Well, I guess it’s about time I introduced myself to this blog. So I’m Jeremy and I am the Creative Sound Designer/Audio Engineer at NDB Studio Productions. If you have read Kenley’s posts you know about the studio already. So I don’t need to really talk about that. Hmm… I guess I’ll just rant about something then.

I’ve spent years sitting on the fence, thinking that it is a strange thing to blog and share your life with the world. Then I realized, wait a second, I share my life on Facebook and twitter every day, what difference is blogging about it going to make?! I feel kind of like the person who finally decided to get on Facebook years after all their friends, mostly due to the desire for social interaction, like I’m missing out on something that everyone else is rockin’ hard. So, I’m not really sure what I’m going to share with you. To be truthfully honest, I am quite glad that I am only a co-author of this Blog. We can all rest assured that Kenley will likely contribute the majority of content to the NDBlog. Although I think that the idea of a blog as a place to rant might be growing on me the more I think about it!

So on Thursday, January 28th, I attended the All Access – The Digital Incubator conference, at the Fairmont Hotel in Winnipeg, as I sat there listening to some great minds talking, it became clear to me Digital Media is on the rise. If NDB is to grow into what we want it to, that means staying up to date and growing digitally.  Getting on board with anything Digital and Interactive, it’s the future, the development of all things digital…..the digital Brand.

NDB Studios is working hard to build our digital brand. Our new website is in the works, and were super pumped for its launch in the near future. The old website, which was a sad attempt at web design made by us (lol), is definitely an antique in the world of New/Digital Media. So keep an eye out for that.  Your reading this so you know about the NDBlog, but make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss out on anything!  You can also follow us on Twitter, or become a fan of NDB Studios on Facebook. We’ve got our hands in all kinds of cookie jars, so keep your ears open for our Brand of Local Organic Audio coming to Digital Media near you!

Pirates Ahoy!

Posted in Projects with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 23, 2010 by ndbstudios

Good morning, everyone!

NDB is pumped to have worked on the music for Complex Games‘ release of Pirates Ahoy, for the Facebook platform! It’s a social/casual, so you get to play with people, but you don’t have to devote 10 weeks of your life to get through it – you start when you want and you end when you want.

But, that’s not to say that you can’t devote a lot of time.  I (Kenley) love customizing and outfitting – I know, it’s a weakness, but I want to pick my captain (name/picture/all that fun stuff), then hire out my crew, pick my ship, set up all of its weapons and colours and make it exactly the way that I want.  You can do that in Pirates Ahoy, and that makes me happy.

There be swabbin' on this deck... some killer artwork by Jonas van Niekerk

I do want to talk about Complex Games for a little bit too.  They’re a Winnipeg-based game developer that has been on the scene for quite some time.  They’ve worked on (and are working on) multiple titles for multiple platforms, be they PC, Mac, Wii or iPhone.  The CEO of the company, Noah Decter-Jackson is the head of Winnipeg’s chapter of the International Game Developers’ Association (IGDA) and has been instrumental in Winnipeg’s growing New Media industry.  We’ve done a lot of work for them and, like all the developer’s we work with, we want to help them get their project off of the ground as much as possible, including blogging about it, sharing the final copy with our friends and other colleagues, sharing media on facebook – it’s all about collaboration.

Wait for that post, that’s going to be a good one – I want an entire post to be on the awesomeness of collaboration.

In which case, if you want to check out Pirates Ahoy on facebook, then click the link here to have a go at it.  Also, make sure that you become a fan of them on facebook and follow up on what’s happening with the game!

I bet you want to hear some music too – okay, you win.

This is the music playing from the Volcano Level of the game, where there are lots of deep browns/blacks and reds.  The music should a “slave ship”-type, with big drums and sleighbells driving home the beat, while a mournful and haunting melody sails overtop of the ostinato with Irish tin whistle and solo violin.  Then, as we move into the A Section for the second time, the bagpipes come in with a deep drone and take over the melody, while the strings break into harmony and fill in that harmonic blanket, deepening the sound into a lamenting, yet persistent feel…

The next music is a short loop when you’re in your home port and customizing your ship (a task which in which I relish!).  It’s very reminiscent of “home”, but not just in geography, but more the feelings that are associated with the idea of “home:” Comfort, Security, Happiness and really, the notion of “everything being as it should be.”

I tried to accomplish this with keeping in the Irish-style of writing, with an Irish whistle holding the melody and a really warm blanket of strings and a resonant harp underneath.  The bodhran (pronounced “BEAU-ron,” with “beau” like the front of a ship) keeps the compound meter running and the music, while relaxing and peaceful, always has a sense of forward momentum.

It’s just… home.

Stay posted for updates on Pirates Ahoy!

Clones – Tomkorp Computer Solutions!

Posted in Projects with tags , , , , , , on January 15, 2010 by Kenley

Hey all!

NDB is happy to say that we’ve worked on a home-grown, independent puzzle game called “Clones,” by Tomkorp Computer Solutions! Jeremy covered all of the sound effects, while Kenley composed half of the music (with other half independently-composed by Eric Nordquist, of the VGM cover band “Mode 7,” a band of which everyone should become a fan on facebook!

Clones is a game that is similar to Lemmings (for PC/Mac/SNES… well, almost every console after 1983), but has a boss battle and awesome multiplayer functionality.  The artwork is great, the animations are clean, the programming is slick and yeah, the sound is pretty epic too! It’s a really fun game, and I mean that it’s presented in this really bubbly, cute and colourful way.  I love it because it’s not a game that it takes itself too seriously – you never feel emotionally drained after, but you always feel lighter and happier when you’re done.

They’ve put a lot of work into level design and puzzle setup, so that the game is never impossible, but it’s always challenging, which is key.

Just so you get a sense of all of these different aspects, take a look at one of the trailers and you’ll see exactly what I mean!

For more information, check out!