Yessian Music has offices in New York, Los Angeles, Hamburg, and…Farmington Hills?
Yes(sian)! In fact, the music and sound production company is headquartered in Farmington Hills, where Dan Yessian founded it in 1971. Metro Detroit was the perfect location for this kind of company, which initially worked with local advertising agencies and the automotive industry to produce TV commercials and industrial films.
Dan was never interested in expanding the business outside of metro Detroit or doing the kind of traveling that would require, but his sons, Brian and Michael Yessian, were, and under their leadership Yessian Music has expanded globally.
The high-profile projects that Yessian has been involved with around the world are almost too many to name, but here's a quick (and entirely incomplete) inventory of some of their clients and projects: commercials for BMW, Audi, Chrysler, MINI Cooper, Ford, and Coca Cola; multiple Super Bowl commercials; TV campaigns and in-flight films for United Airlines; a TV campaign for Hong Kong Disneyland's Frozen attraction; additional sound and music for David Guetta's "Dangerous" video; and work for Lucasfilm's Industrial Light & Magic – and that's barely scratching the surface. The company is fully global now, with clients all over North America and Europe as well as in Singapore, Shanghai, Russian, India, and the Middle East, and 30 employees scattered throughout each of the offices.
Brian, CCO of Yessian, says the company started doing themed attraction work about eight or nine years ago, working with theme parks and museums on projects like Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi, the Shrek 4-D adventure at Universal Studios Singapore, and Wanda Movie Park in China. He explains they've been meeting people in the themed attraction industry for years now, so when experiential design firm The Hettema Group in Pasadena was brought on board for One World Observatory, they brought on Yessian with them.
The newly-opened One World Observatory, perched 102 floors atop the deeply symbolic One World Trade Center, is Yessian's latest triumph.
"This project is not associated with the memorial aspect," explains Brian Yessian. "This is all about looking to the future and talking about the American spirit – how we come back and build again. This is about the future of our country versus the memorial."
The One World Observatory is an astounding achievement in experiential immersive technology: visitors are led through a series of different "experiences" before entering the elevator to climb to the top of the Observatory. Yessian composed thematic music for each portion of the Observatory experience.
Beginning with the "Global Welcome Center," where visitors are greeted with large video screens welcoming them in multiple languages, guests are then led through "Voices" and "Foundations," audio-visual programs that tell the personal stories of the men and women who built One World Trade Center and shows the bedrock foundation it is built on.
After that, guests will enter the Sky Pod Elevators, the fastest in the world right now, where they experience 515 years of Lower Manhattan history unfold in front of them in 48 seconds on the ascent.
"I've never seen anything like this before," Brian says, a veteran of themed entertainment and immersive experiences throughout the world. Floor-to-ceiling LED screens line the walls of the elevators and show New York City evolve in photo-real CGI from watery farmland to present-day massive metropolis in virtual time lapse. The final seconds even show One World Trade Center itself being built around the cabin.
After emerging from the elevator, guests are met with another 80-foot LED screen for a two-minute semi-abstract film experience, a depiction of the New York City skyline pulsing with life and set to full orchestral music that becomes very "sweeping and grand" towards the end, when the entire screen retracts from the center to reveal the city itself. "It's very emotional," Brian says. "No one is expecting it and everyone always applauds. It brings tears to your eyes. I still get chills every time I see it and [we've been working on it for] a year and a half now."
From there visitors are free to wander the Main Observatory with 360-degree views, the Sky Portal (video mimicking a glass-bottom floor looking 102 stories down), and the restaurant and gift shop. Yessian created about an hour's worth of background music to play lightly as guests make their way through the observation areas.
Then, on the descent, the elevators once again provide a unique experience: the screens create the effect of the elevator car floating outside of the building and swooping through the air around the Financial District before returning to the building and sinking into the bedrock. For this, Yessian created a whole music score and sound design that is, as Brian describes, "very epic and positive, creating an uplifting feeling as the cabin swoops back into building."
Yessian got involved with this project two years ago. "It’s been a long process with a lot of planning and a lot of strategizing," Brian says. "This is such an amazing project to be a part of. We do a lot of themed attraction work all over the world, and doing something like this is legacy work. Opportunities like this don’t come around too often; this is a once-in-a-lifetime project, something millions of people from all over the world are going to come to see."
Despite their global audience, Brian and Michael have every intention of keeping Yessian right here in Oakland County. "It's a great thing both be able to live here and continue to be based here," Brian says. "We travel all over the world and get to see all these amazing places, but we still prefer to live here – the low cost of living, the lifestyle, the lakes. It's really nice to be able to raise a family and stay in Oakland County."