When VP Kevin Weist, over at Nickelodeon, called on Wade Tonken of Noize Factory Inc. to create a unique Handmade sound to re-brand the Nick Jr. block on Nickelodeon, the challenge conjured images of pots, pans and pennywhistles. Ultimately, it would take the melding of a huge array of technology with the most organic of instruments, the human voice, to pull it off. The job would be a huge package of interstitial pieces. Twelve songs, twelve beds, twenty five stings and eight throws, all with multiple versions, would end up being a show unto itself teaching kinds all kinds of stuff like how to make colors, the concept of opposites and more abstract concepts like What Happens If. This would all run in between the familiar Nick Jr. shows like Little Bill, Bob the Builder, Dora the Explorer and all the others.
"I considered using only live players," Mr. Tonken said, but it wasn't until I started fooling around on a microphone one day that I realized I had it! I sampled myself mimicking instrument sounds, then spread these samples across the keyboard so I could trigger the recordings musically. So, for instance, when I needed a bass sound I made mouth noises like a bass and then went into the software sampler and manipulated it until I had a sound I liked. I could have just sung as a bass into every spot but that wouldn't have allowed me to trigger my own vocalization and use effects on it in a way that I never could have performed.
The same thing went for drums and percussion, pops and other odd noises that Mr. Tonken turned into virtual instruments. With the addition of ukulele he had the palette he needed and the people at Nick approved. Nickelodeon VP Kevin Weist adds, "This would eventually be the palette for all the music beds, throws and lots of the stings but I didn't want the sounds to be overused. I thought it would add a third dimension if the theme songs and some of the other work explored a wider spectrum. To this effect, Nick wanted to bring in Stuart Kollmorgen of Red Dog Music (Stanley and Jo Jos Circus-Disney/Cartoon Pizza) and Tonken suggested Joe Carroll of Manic Moose Music to the project.
As a member of the newly formed Manhattan Producers Alliance, Tonken says he had no problem integrating Kollmorgen and Carroll into the Nick Jr. job. Tonken elaborates, the Manhattan Producers Alliance was a really cool part of the production process and a very unique way of working. Using the Alliance as a hub, we were able to interface virtually from remote locations and work simultaneously. Kollmorgen worked on his tracks without ever having to leave his own studio. He wrote and arranged his work at Red Dog and uploaded the tracks to Noize Factory at the Alliance via the Internet. On the other hand, much of Carrolls work was created onsite at the Alliance. Carroll says of his role in the project, Wade wanted everyone's contribution to be related in some way but not to be overly similar in style or content. The virtual instruments were the signature sounds of the show, so he networked them to me and I incorporated them into my pieces. It kept the overall sound intact and gave us the freedom to use our own styles.
While Carroll and Kollmorgen were completing their production tracks, Wade was producing vocals in one room at the Alliance while mixing was going on in another. The finished mixes were then uploaded to server space that the people at Nick could access for final approval. Several times Nick producers called from the set while shooting with last minute changes. The fixes were made and new files were uploaded and available on the set within minutes.
Mr. Tonken summarized by saying, whats important here, is that the people at Nick got to use several different companies without the headache of how to fit all the pieces together. Advances in technology allow music companies to exist without walls, making it possible to turn former boundaries of competition into creative alliances.