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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!”)
Kenley

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!

Kenley

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 – http://www.mosesmayes.com
Moses Mayes’ MySpace – http://www.myspace.com/mosesmayes

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 manitobamusic.com)
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…

Possibilities:

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!

Kenley

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 Aquariahttp://www.bit-blot.com/?p=27

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.

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 ClonesGame.com!

First Post by Kenley!

Posted in Uncategorized on January 15, 2010 by Kenley

Hey everyone!

It’s Kenley here, from NDB Studios and the blog is finally up! There are definitely some things to work through, but it’s functioning and it’s a good time!

So, I’m Kenley and I’m the composer for NDB Studio Productions, here in Winnipeg.  While we can do all sorts of projects – film, live music, solo acts, commercial media – we really focus on New Media.  We’ve done quite a number of video games now for all sorts of consoles, including PC, Mac, iPhone and iPod Touch and we’re still having a blast doing it!

I live in Winnipeg, MB (Canada) and I’m a composer and music teacher.  I’m really into jazz (all types… I go through phases of what I listen to), music from video games, Classical, but Irish and Celtic music are really my weapons of choice right now.  I’m learning the Irish Whistle and it’s super fun – really intense stylistically… and really quick… but super fun.  There’s just something about Celtic Music… it’s full of texture, innate beauty and they are tunes known by the people, which I love.  It’s not about the audience, the pressure of performance or the formality of a lot of other Western music; it’s about kicking back at a session (or a pub), having drinks (or tea) with friends, then getting up to play some tunes.  Then, as you’re playing the tunes, there are children who Irish dance and they get up and dance as the band is playing! Everyone cheers and sings along and it becomes an all-inclusive artistic, but fun night!

But, even still, there are some tunes that can be played with a sense of unequivocal beauty.  Below is a video of Michael Wong playing Steve Baughman’s arrangement of “Fanny Power,” which is a standard air in Irish music.  It’s in Orkney tuning for the acoustic guitar, which is (from lowest to highest in pitch) C-G-D-G-C-D.  It’s just… magical, there’s something that moves in my heart every time I hear this tune…

Totally spell-binding.

Okay, that’s a solid little rant about Irish Music.  I will post more, as will Jeremy, as will NDB itself, so subscribe and stay tuned for updates!

Thanks a bunch,
Kenley