Musician and educator Kenley Kristofferson is a composer for independent games, based in Manitoba, Canada. He partnered with Jeremy Macintosh on founding the music recording and digital editing house NDB Studios in 2006. Their sound design can be heard in independently developed titles including Air Traffic Commander, Pirates Ahoy! and Skipping Stones by Complex Games and 2011 IGF entrant Clones by Tomkorp Computer Solutions.

Online, Kenley is perhaps best known as the host of the Into the Score podcast, a popular audio program that investigates the design of prominent videogame scores. He has been a major player in Manitoba Music's educational initiative known as the Video Game Composition Seminar. Speakers have included game composers Alec Holowka of Aquaria and Danny B of Super Meat Boy.

We had the chance to catch up with the audio designer to get a better sense of the Winnipeg indie scene. In this interview we hear about Manitoban developments, from the Winnipeg Winnitron cabinet and NDB Studios, to the game score composition seminar.

Last year at the at the Canzine Canadian zine festival, Toronto indies constructed an arcade cabinet running builds of their games, dubbed the Torontron. It's inspired a Winnipeg indie game cabinet called the Winnitron. What can you tell us about the device?

Kenley Kristofferson: The Winnitron is put together by local developers, and I've gone to the meetups to check it out. The game cabinet is traveling around Winnipeg, with locally produced indie games like Leap4Blue by Liam and Noel Berry, and also Paper Moon and c4ke by Infinite Ammo. Alec Holowka spearheaded the project together with this dynamic group of local talent, also including Kert Gartner, a graphic designer. Winnipeg is becoming very much an indie gaming scene.

Going on simultaneously with these social gatherings are educational initiatives aimed at empowering independent devs. What has been your experience aiding in the organization of the Manitoba Music events?

The Video Game Composition Seminar has been publicly funded by Manitoba Music, the industry association for musicians around the province. The aim is to get our local composers, mixers, remixers and people in bands to come in to a space (in this case, New Media Manitoba) and learn about composing music for interactive entertainment. Scott Honsberger was one of the outreach guys at Manitoba Music, and he contacted Alec to gather participants: from Danny B and Steffan Andrews, to Andrew Yankiwski and me.

I was the guy who took the brunt of the teaching part. I spearheaded the pedagogy of the seminar, talking about looping, repertoire, gear, all that kind of stuff. From there, Alec put together a demo and then the class of six people would write music to it. It was a very cool experience and I hope it happens again and spreads to new locations.

Those outside of your local area have the opportunity to learn something from your podcast. What have been among your principle aims in hosting Into the Score?

Taking music apart and putting it back together can be a really cool experience, especially in something as personal as gaming. That's kind of where people know my pedagogical approach to videogame music, and I'm always happy to share it. It's so fun to deconstruct the medium, the art form, especially with students who are really eager to learn how it works.

Sometimes people get upset when an art form is deconstructed because they feel that some of the magic is lost, when in reality it's just the opposite. The majesty is enhanced when we see the clockwork put together by the composer and, through understanding, it becomes more beautiful and elegant, not less.

You've dedicated an Into the Score episode to taking a look at the music of Aquaria. Are there other indie game soundtracks that you feel would be worth focusing attention on for a future installment?

Currently there are more subscribers than ever for the podcast, which is strange because there hasn't been an episode in a very long time, but I think that it's great that people are discovering it and going through the archive of shows. I'm a school teacher by day and have irons in a lot of fires, but I would like to talk Super Meat Boy with Danny B. Braid is also interesting because the music is beautiful. Even if the compositions aren't original, the concept of music supervision for licensed tracks is interesting to cover. There's still so much out there to play and to learn about.

For people out there who are interested in engaging you in a dialog about the methodology of indie game design, are you open to discussion or collaboration through the web?

I'm always available to collaborate! I love that storytelling is such an integral part of most indie games because that is the main ingredient in my own composing. If the project is a good fit, I would love to be part of the team.

NDB Studio has a range of audio composition and engineering methods for varying media, though there appears to be special attention paid to games. As a musician, what interests you in particular about the realm of gaming?

The thing I love the most about games is that you're in control of the protagonist. I know it sounds like an obvious thing, but there are times in movies for example where the camera will be panning over a wicked forest or a really cool landscape and you want it just to stop so you can take a deeper look. In gaming, you generally can do that. You can stop what you're doing and go somewhere new. Whatever you want to do, the protagonist will follow.

Music really aids as a storytelling agent, and in an interactive medium there are so many parts coming together at once in telling the story: it's the visual design, the soundscape, the narrative storyline all converging, guided by the player. A great example of that in the indie game sphere is Aquaria. The non-linearity allows for you to stop and listen, or explore parts of the environment that aren't central to the storyline just yet . The music is interwoven with the other elements of the game. To me that's great gamemaking.

To find out more about Kenley's music and podcasting, visit NDB Studios and Into the Score.

"Into the Score #28 - Into Aquarian Waters"