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New album captures Pure Sounds of Michigan state parks
Water lapping against shore and shoes crunching along leaf-covered trails are combining with musical instruments and technology for a new kind of tourism soundtrack for the state of Michigan this week.
"Pure Sounds of Michigan," a 10-track album launched by Travel Michigan, will be released on May 22 for streaming and download and in limited edition vinyl. Curated by Assemble Sound in Detroit's Corktown, the set features songs built from field recordings taken from 10 state parks and then given to a dozen Michigan musicians, who used them as foundations for their tranquil, ambient compositions.
The project is in conjunction with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources' State Park Centennial celebration and is designed, according to Travel Michigan vice-president Dave Lorenz, to provide an audio travelogue to promote the sites, both at home and beyond.
"A lot of this is to play to not only the Michigan audience but to people around the world as well," Lorenz explains. "I think if nothing else it will remind some people and show to others the experience they can have when they come to pure Michigan and just relax and really have a good time."
In addition to digital music merchants, elements of "Pure Sounds..." will be used on the michigan.org/puresounds web site. Vinyl copies will be included with the sale of every Shinola turntable and outfitted to rooms with turntables in Detroit's new Shinola hotel. The Movement Music Festival during Memorial Day weekend in Detroit's Hart Plaza, meanwhile, will host a Pure Sounds lounge as well as use the music on its online networks.
"Itís' very unusual for a state government arm to curate an album," notes Garret Koehler of Assemble Sound. "We have a world class ambient album in hand because Pure Michigan trusted the talent of the artists to interpret the sounds of our state through the lens of ambient music."
Lorenz credits Travel Michigan's public relations firm, Weber Shandwick, with the "Pure Sounds..." concept to build on the successful Pure Michigan campaign. "Pure Michigan is known for our TV ads and print ads and our billboards and all the traditional ways we advertise the value of a visitation experience here in Michigan," Lorenz says. "But even though people who have come to know the voice of Tim Allen and the music of 'Cider House Rules', the team felt we could do more with sounds."
Assemble Sound's Koehler says that "it's hard to overstate how surprised I was" when he got a call from Weber Shandwick about "creating a meditative album comprised of natural sounds recorded from all over the state." But he felt that Assemble -- a recording studio and artist development hub housed in a restored church -- was "uniquely positioned" to take on the project.
"It's not because of our work in advertising and film, which we do a lot of," Koehler says. "It's because somehow all the artists we work with aren't surprised when we call them and ask if they'll make a two-week camping trip around Michigan in the middle of the cold and rain in October to record literally everything.
"I immediately knew we had to be a part of it."
Assemble brought in Blair French and Eddie Logix, producers and composers, who took a 12-day trip capturing sounds from state parks such as Belle Isle, Mackinac Island, Porcupine Mountains, Tahquamenon Falls, Tawas Point and more. They assigned each park's recordings to a cadre of artists, who created evocative pieces such as Dave Graw's "Lighthouse at Sunrise," Todd Modes' "Island Drift," Windy & Carl's "Forest Trails," John Beltran's "Childhood Memories" and Waajeed's "The Rock (Bridge to a New Day)," among others.
"Initially I was very surprised," says Detroit harpist Ahya Simone, who joined forces with French for "The Cedar and the Falls" from Tahquamenon Falls. "I've never been asked to do a project like this before. When they told me more about it I listened to some of the field recordings and was like, 'Omigod, this would sound amazing with harp'...which kind of mimics rain drops. I just thought, 'Oh, this is fab. I need to add my little twang to it'."
Simone was also a bit of a test case for the "Pure Sounds..." goal. "I had never really traveled to many of the state parts," she says, "yet those sounds from the field recordings felt so familiar, like I had been there before. It didn't necessarily make me nostalgic as much as they helped me create, like new memories about these places I haven't been to but definitely want to visit now."
Three of "Pure Sounds..." songs came out as singles prior to the album's release and, according to Lorenz, listenership has been "pretty phenomenal," with more than 50,000 stream listens so far. "There's only a certain niche of listener who will look for this music, but apparently they really are looking for it," he says. Travel Michigan hasn't yet decided if it will use the "Pure Sounds..." music in future tourism ads, while another volume may be considered after the agency sees how the album performs.
"This is a whole new dimension of what Pure Michigan means," he says. "This is bringing to life a travel experience in a way that perhaps has never been done before and can help transport people, by ear, to Michigan and hopefully get them to want to experience it in reality as well."
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