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Experiencing a Rebirth - Experiential Sound Transforms a City

Music & Sound
New York, USA
INFLUENCER: Yessian Music owner Brian Yessian on creating a full sonic experience for Ford's Michigan Central Station

I was recently involved in a branding experience close to my home and my heart. Yessian Music was brought on board, along with experiential design company Imagination, to create an immersive music and sound design experience to celebrate the Ford Motor Company’s purchase and future plans for the train station in downtown Detroit.

Built in 1912, The iconic Michigan Central Train Station was designed by the same architect as Grand Central Station in New York City. At its peak, the station saw over 250 trains a day.  More recently, this 20-story grand dame of a building had been abandoned and left to ruin. In June of 2018, the Ford Motor Company purchased the building and will completely renovate it to its former glory and repurpose it as the headquarters for its vision for transportation in the future, with a focus on autonomous and electric vehicle development.  

To generate awareness and bring a level of excitement to their forward push of ultimately benefiting the community and city of their roots while promoting new clean technologies, they wanted to create an event at the station during a 10-day winter festival, MCS Fest 2019. A nine-minute film created by the team at Imagination takes the crowd through Detroit’s past history from the initial construction of the station, to its more vibrant days during the automobile post war boom and the founding of Motown, followed by the demise/downfall of the building, all the way through to the renovations and future vision of global mobility as seen through the eyes of Ford. The film connects the history of the city with Ford’s, and was displayed using projection mapping onto the building while the sound and music fully completed the stunningly beautiful and emotional experience. 

Ford commissioned this project to promote creativity in Detroit and especially Corktown, the city neighbourhood where the train station is located, supporting Ford’s aspirations of regeneration in the city of its birth and to attract the very best global talent to Detroit. The Winter Fest is just one of the many ways Ford is regenerating a stagnating industry. They have a vision and a creatively inspired plan to propel Detroit forward.   

It was such a joy and an honour work with our Detroit team of composers, audio engineers and sound designers to create a soundscape that represents Detroit, with nods to the styles of music that have come out of our hometown including jazz, motown, techno and hip hop. In the end a fully immersive onsite sound mix was crafted utilising an array of speakers both outdoors around the building, in the main hospitality tent and also behind the tents projecting to the surrounding parks where audiences packed in to watch the show each night of the festival.  

With the way the speakers were positioned, our team had to account for sound syncing up with each audio zone given the distance the speakers were from one another so there would be no delays in the sonic experience connecting to the film projected on the side of the building. This also proved to be tricky when mixing in 20-degree weather outdoors in the days proceeding.

We’ve had the opportunity to work on many large-scale experiential projects around the globe, but this one had special meaning for our local home team. Having the opportunity to explore so many great Detroit music genres, experimenting with epic sound design and then mixing it all at the venue was a real thrill. The result was stunning, and I might just have shed a few tears as well. This experience is unique but it is also a perfect example of how a brand can combine a purpose-driven idea rich with the brand’s history and it’s connection with the community to create an exhilarating and emotionally impactful piece of content. It was genuinely a memorable and emotionally moving experience and I’m beyond proud of our team and grateful for the opportunity. 

In the end, this experience has garnered international recognition by news outlets, social media and fans that will continue to help elevate Ford Motor Company’s vision for the future of mobility and for the continued renaissance in the city of Detroit.

Brian Yessian is owner of Yessian Music

Work from Yessian Music
Phoenix Labs