Michigan Made an Album of Ambient Music to Attract Tourists

Weber Shandwick crafts 'Pure Sounds of Michigan'

Swirling synths, swelling strings and ethereal harmonies define a collection of 10 ambient tracks created by local artists for Travel Michigan's award-winning "Pure Michigan" tourism campaign. 

Working with Weber Shandwick, the client sought to interpret the region's natural beauty in a range of mellow styles and celebrate 100 years of Michigan State Parks. Field recordings from such locations, featuring rushing waves, galloping horses and cascading waterfalls (among other sounds), informed the compositions and weave their way through the tunes.

In the video below, Garret Koehler, general manager at Assemble Sound, the Detroit recording facility where the "Pure Sounds of Michigan" album was put together, notes: "There aren't very many albums where you get this sort of diversity of artists working on the same thing, and from the same materials. It's a really unique project where the bed for the music is all pulled from real-world sounds."

This is ambient music, so the tracks mostly exude a tranquil vibe. Still, there's plenty of variety among the selections. 

"I think of the harp as kind of like raindrops, so I associate the harp with water," says Ahya Simone, who accompanies New Age maestro Blair French on "The Cedar and the Falls." Striving for a surreal ambience, the track builds from playful arpeggios to shimmering fast-finger runs. 

Composer Sterling Toles' hip-hop chops inform "Campfire Ritual," as a bass flute duels the crack-crack-pops of flickering flames to forge an insistent, invigorating soundscape. 

On "Dark Sky Dunes," Greater Alexander's moody keyboards fuse with a watery backdrop in an aural tapestry as smooth, and sharp, as glass. 

"We hope to connect with Michigan natives, those with fond memories or a connection to the state as well as those who have yet to make memories in the Mitten State," Dave Lorenz, vp of the state's tourism board, tells Muse. "Being the first album of its kind from a travel brand, and such a unique project, we believe this will not only reach potential travelers through traditional channels but also new avenues you do not typically associate with travel inspiration. People respond to different techniques, and we're confident this will generate attention from millennials and other new audiences." 

Michigan has such a rich pop-music tradition—why no Motown-style soul or Eminem? 

"With this project, ambient was the right genre to incorporate the natural sounds," says Lorenz. "The result is an album that takes listeners on a sunrise-to-sunset tour of the state." 

Marketers of all types—from KFC to Long John Silver's to Casper and even a schizophrenia awareness group—have created playlists of late. They provide added value and utility, with music amplifying the connection between consumers and brands. 

"Pure Sounds of Michigan" streams on Apple Music, Spotify, SoundCloud, Google Play and Amazon Music. For vinyl fans, Shinola even made a limited-edition record for turntables. Movement will host an ambient lounge experience for Memorial Day and share the tracks on social.

CREDITS

Brand: Travel Michigan
Agency: Weber Shandwick
Album Production: Assemble Sound

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David Gianatasio
David Gianatasio is senior editor at Clio Awards.