Close-Up: Live Issue - Wieden & Kennedy makes music for Honda

After painstaking research, a 60-strong choir was coached to copy the sounds made by the Honda Civic.

Wieden & Kennedy is making a big song, if not a dance, about the launch of the new Honda Civic.

"This is what a Honda feels like," the Garrison Keillor voiceover says, at the start of the two-minute ad. A 60-strong choir, filmed performing in a London car-park, treats the audience to the sounds of the car as visuals show the Civic on city streets and on the open road.

Shot by the Partizan director Antoine Bardou-Jacquet, who worked with W&K to make "cog", the idea behind the ad was simple. "It's about the pleasure of driving, all the little emotions you could have with your car. We have tried to express this emotionally through sound," Bardou-Jacquet explains.

Although the shoot itself was relatively short, the process of developing the sounds took six months.

First, the W&K creative team on the ad, Ben Walker, Matt Gooden and Michael Russoff, together with a sound engineer, took the Civic to a test-track. Walker explains: "We wanted to convey a choir singing driving. So we recorded the Civic at ten, 20 and 30 miles an hour, driving on different surfaces. We recorded from the outside of the car, from the inside, with the windows down, with them up. We spent hours and hours recording everything, as we wanted the sounds and the choir to represent the Honda Civic, and not just a made-up car."

The team then had to establish whether the human voice had the range to make each noise. Each sound was picked apart so that every member of a ten-person choir could learn a different component that, when sung in harmony with other singers, could realistically emulate the original noise.

Steve Sidwell, the composer at Geoff Wayne Music and the conductor in the ad, explains: "My involvement, initially, was to see if it was possible to make specific car sounds with a choir. I didn't want people going 'broom, broom' and making impressions of a car. I wanted to put together a piece of music."

And he did this. The singers are seen thumping their chests to emulate the sound of the car driving over cobblestones; they tap their teeth to create the sound of rain falling on the roof; the bass singers growl the deeper rumble of the engine, while the sopranos sing out its higher whine.

Listening to a car will never be the same again, Sidwell says: "It has now become an obsession. Every engine I hear has a different tune. I've got car engines singing through my head the whole time. I'm going into therapy next week."


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