Novel Effect syncs theme music and sound effects to stories as you read them aloud. By now, you may have explored some of the many titles available on the app. What you may not know is that Novel Effect works with award winning composers from film and gaming to custom create each and every soundscape.
We sat down with composer Ian Silver and Audio Lead Matthew Boerner, two of the talents behind some of your favorite Novel Effect soundscapes, to ask them about creating the soundscape for Baseball Saved Us, a story about a Japanese American boy and his family finding identity in baseball during WWII internment camps.
Ian Silver started his composing for Baseball Saved Us with this text itself. For him, the story drove home that being an American “is more of cerebral idea and an emotional ideal than a location” which is an idea he wanted to support with his musical composition.
“It felt to me as if there were two distinct phases to the story,” Silver explained. “There is first, the wrongful imprisonment, and the second, the triumph of the human, which in this case was also the triumph of the American spirit.” He then captured those two phases in the music.
Accompanying the protagonist as he faces his new reality in the harsh internment camp, Silver focused the music in the first phase on that emotion journey, saying, “I made sure the melodies were leaping, they were jumping and reaching beyond the fences that surrounded them.”
Audio Lead Matt Boerner added, “Ian uses a reverberant acoustic guitar and open string harmonies to describe the desolation of the camp. In the very first musical cue of the story, there are the long pauses between the guitar phrases, which sets the scene well, but it also allows the reader huge freedom of pacing.”
“For the second phase, the triumphant spirit,” continued Silver, “I went with early Americana orchestral music, heavily inspired by Aaron Copland.” For those of you with musical vocabularies, you might recognize what Boerner describes as “an underlying 8th note propulsion in the strings to capture the excitement and nerves in the narrator’s head, while the woodwinds weave in and out of the melody.”
The composer wanted to “conjure images of families setting off on an adventure into the unknown, hoping for something better. This is the story of every immigrant who has settled in America, now and then. I wanted to draw attention to their heroism. At the height of each victory was the sense of sameness and the sense of belonging. In the face of adversity, fear and discrimination they persisted and innovated.”
Baseball Saved Us is available now in the Novel Effect app, so download the app and grab your copy of the book off your shelf to read this amazing story aloud for its 25th Anniversary. Now that you know the story behind the music, see if you can identify some of the things Silver and Boerner point out as you read, or start a discussion with your students about the music.
You can download Novel Effect free here. If you want to have first access to our Android app, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matt Boerner is a composer, interactive audio designer, and songwriter. As the Audio Lead at Novel Effect, he collaborates with a team of composers to design soundscapes that explore and challenge the limits of the voice-driven platform.
Ian Silver is a composer from Oklahoma with a passion for animation. He believes that books are stories you animate internally, with some help from the illustrations and soundscapes.