Whose house? Kenley’s house

When people think of Winnipeg’s vibrant independent music scene, they likely consider the many local rock, folk or hip hop acts who can be found around town on any given night. But composer and music educator Kenley Kristofferson is a reminder that indie music in Winnipeg is much more diverse. 

Kristofferson composes music for band, choir, orchestra and video games. His credits include a number of indie games, as well as mobile games by Disney. 





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“Every medium has its own core repertoire,” Kristofferson says. “With orchestra, it’s Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 or Mozart. Video games and their music have their own core repertoire. I got to grow up in the golden era of video games, from NES to Super Nintendo and N64, where all of the really big game scores come from. That becomes part of your musical upbringing.” 

Kristofferson got into composing for indie video games in the early 2000s, when new provincial tax credit programs made it possible for small companies of developers to create original games. 

“There was a small local chapter of the International Game Developers Association,” Kristofferson says of his origins in the industry. “I’d go to their meetups and hang out because I wanted to be a part of that scene. Eventually someone took a risk on me, and (I scored) this game about a dragonfly who taught kids with special needs how to play video games.”



“For my last project, I scored a short film called Star Stuff about Carl Sagan’s early life. These guys from Croatia did it for almost no money. I thought, ‘I’m not going to be able to afford to do this.’ Then I saw their demo reel and thought, ‘I’ll do anything to work on this project.’ A short film is really fun. There are so many cues to nail because it’s so short. There are no four minute scenes, just small chunks.” 


“I have this thing with really old maps. One is a map of Iceland with mythical beasts. The other is from before they figured out the proportions of the oceans and continents and stuff. Apparently Papua New Guinea is really big.” 


“Usually there’s a TV in the living room, but we opted out and got a record player instead. It changes the perspective of what you do. ‘Hey, let’s put on a record.’ In 12 minutes it ends, and you say, ‘Now what do we want to listen to?’ Instead of just watching TV or having a playlist in the background, music is really part of your night.” 


“The first band piece I did, I wanted to make sure the math was right, so I wrote it all out by hand. It’s a painful process, but it’s really good for checking your work. You’ve got to get it right, or else the third trombone ends up not playing the entire song.” 


“Final Fantasy VI was one of the first experiences where I understood emotional connections to characters in a video game. (The characters) all had musical themes that would intertwine. It was transformative. The beginning of seeing musical patterns in a macro way.” 


“I’m a huge Star Trek fan. There was this hero when I was a kid who didn’t blow anything up. He thought you could solve everything with diplomacy. That was a really radical notion in the ’90s when Nicolas Cage was blowing everything up. He came to Comic Con in 2014, and I thought, ‘I’m never going to have this chance again.’”

Published in Volume 70, Number 19 of The Uniter (February 11, 2016)

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