In Mix It Up, Novel Effect creates its first a cappella soundscape! There’s nothing but human vocals in this soundscape. A book that’s already interactive gets even more fun with silly sounds and songs. Meanwhile, it gives the reader full control over what’s going on. This read-aloud is super fun and powerful.
We chatted with Novel Effect soundscape designer Kyler Wilkins to get a glimpse into his process.
Making the Read-Aloud Playful
Its interactive nature and how it doesn’t follow the style of a particular genre drew Kyler to Mix It Up. This makes it perfect for an a cappella soundscape. Kyler noted that “a cappella is genre-less. It’s an experiment. I can play with sounds…add in different singing ideas.”
Play he did! Kyler shared with us some of the ways he used music to infuse fun into this read-aloud.
In the book, the author tells readers to press the pages together to build anticipation. As a result, they can’t wait to see what’s next. In creating the music for these moments, Kyler said, “The hardest thing was knowing where to go next from a transition to a new phase. How do you convey experimentation?”
When you read with the soundscape, you’ll notice that sometimes the songs have lyrics explaining what’s going on, like “yellow, blue, you know what I mean? Yellow and blue, we shake and make green”.
Other times, with a smidge of help from the soundscape, readers can infer what’s happening in the book. You’ll notice this when the text tells you to tilt the page, and there’s a chorus of voices slowly singing “tiiiiillllt”! Here’s a fun fact: Kyler sings this word in layers!
Creating the sound of a choir is another fun way Kyler uses layers. In the book, you’ll notice layers of gospel infused into the soundscape once all the colors appear.
His experimental composition built anticipation for the reader when needed. It also helped them transition into moments when new colors were revealed with the same excitement.
Music That Empowers Readers
The interactive nature of Mix It Up puts the reader in charge. Kyler designed the soundscape to empower readers; staying true to the author’s intent.
As a designer, he noticed the internal push-pull of composing. ‘There are moments for me to fill the space, and moments for me to invite the audience to fill the space.’
Kyler kept the book’s interactive spirit and created additional opportunities to empower the reader.
The soundscape is filled with Kyler singing the color names early on in the soundscape. Then, as the reader continues on, he leaves out the color name. This provides an empowering invitation for the reader to say or sing it.
This book and soundscape help readers and listeners take control of the story. The looping music sets the mood and keeps the book moving. In addition, a layer of beatboxing or vocals allows the reader to move in and out of the story at different points. This make it easy for reader and listener to talk about the book.
Mix-ing It Up to Keep Engagement
We asked him how he came up with music for a non-narrative book. Kyler said he kept the listener engaged with a few techniques while simulating the writing and illustrations’ energy.
In order to keep continuity, he created an underlying beatboxing beat. As a base layer, he wanted to give the listener enough ear candy to stay engaged. The beatboxing’s tempo isn’t so fast you feel rushed through the book, but fast enough that you stay present and groove to it.
Playful mouth pops, little boops, and ahhs empower the reader and listener to be silly, free and playful in their reading.
All of this will surely encourage young readers to ask, “Can we read that again?” And in no time, they’ll be moving and grooving with the music.
Connecting to the Theme
Learning how Kyler designed Mix It Up‘s soundscape was awesome. We ended our conversation curious about what he learned from designing this soundscape. He said he learned that ‘it’s okay to do more, to be goofy, and to have fun‘. And isn’t this what Mix It Up is about?
Kyler Wilkins creates vibrant soundscapes with his voice at the center. He uses a variety of instruments in his R&B, pop, soulful, and indie-folk productions. He regularly performs with just a loop station to capture his vocals and beatboxing.