The Sounds of State Parks—on Spotify

Tahquamanon Falls State Park was one of 10 sites recorded for the album.

Tahquamanon Falls State Park was one of 10 sites recorded for the album. Shutterstock


Connecting state and local government leaders

Michigan's tourism arm will drop an album this month of ambient music layered with sound recordings from 10 state parks.

Only the most nature-savvy Michigan residents would know by heart the sound of Lake Michigan lapping at the shore in Warren Dunes State Park or the rushing of water in Tahquamenon Falls State Park. Later this month, everyone can experience them—via a playlist of state park sounds mixed with original compositions of ambient music.

The project, “Pure Sounds of Michigan,” is the brainchild of Pure Michigan, the state’s tourism and marketing campaign. The 10-track album features sound recordings from 10 of Michigan’s state parks layered with songs—slow, instrumental tracks—composed and performed by 12 musicians from Michigan. Three songs—”The Rock (Bridge to a New Day),” “Forest Trails” and “Childhood Memories”—have already debuted on various streaming services. The full album drops May 22.

Courtesy Pure Michigan

The album is believed to be the first-of-its-kind project for a travel brand, and was produced in conjunction with Assemble Sound, a Detroit-based music studio. The first step was to send local composers and producers to state parks to record sounds, from indigenous bird calls to leaves rustling to the gentle rush of water. They were deployed all over Michigan—to waterfalls, to beaches, to sand dunes and lighthouses—“to capture nature at the source and bring those raw sounds back,” Kaylan Waterman, a producer with Assemble Sound, said in a video about the project.

Next, producers selected musicians—some instrumental, some classical, some with ties to hip-hop—based on their connection to Michigan and their excitement about working with “natural field recordings.” Artists “were given the freedom to mix their track as they saw fit—seeking inspiration from the sounds themselves and their personal experiences,” according to a news release about the project.

For harpist Ahya Simone, who composed the song “The Cedar and The Falls,” the connection was easy.

“I think of the harp as kind of like raindrops, so I associate the harp with water,” she said in the video. “I think it will add this kind of surreal, natural sound to it, because it just blends, like a waterfall.”

The album’s release date is set to coincide with the Michigan Department of Natural Resource’s celebration of the State Park Centennial and features tie-ins with various businesses and organizations, including Detroit’s Archer Record Pressing, which pressed a limited edition vinyl of the full album, and Detroit-based design brand Shinola, which will offer the vinyl with each turntable sold in stores across the country in June.

“The natural wonders of Michigan come to life in each of these tracks,” Dave Lorenz, vice president of Travel Michigan, said in a statement. “From the artists themselves, to our partners at the DNR and Assemble Sound, this album is truly a love letter to Michigan.”

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a Staff Correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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