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Super Nova (Music for an Imaginary Video Game) (Grade 4)

Super Nova (Music for an Imaginary Video Game) was commissioned by James Kunz and the Okoboji High School Band (Milford, IA). The concept for the piece was inspired by student recollections of the excitement and joy they experienced playing certain video games as children, as well as the memorable soundtracks to those games, which continue to trigger those memories. This particular game, Super Nova, is completely fabricated, but in the words of their director, Mr. Kunz, the story-line is as follows:


The evil tyrant, Gamma Ray, seeks to destroy the galaxy by stealing the essential childhood feelings of Passion, Wonder, and Enthusiasm. He has placed each emotion on distant planets, isolated from the children of Star Harbor.


Without these emotions, the Star-children will implode, spreading massive amounts of radiation, leading to the ruin of their peaceful town. 


As Nova, the fate of the world is in your hands. Can you reclaim these emotions and forever change your destiny?


By the end of the game, Nova collects all three emotions, defeats Gamma Ray, and becomes a supernova, exploding (rather than imploding) into the brightest star in the galaxy, and becoming a beacon of hope and an inspiration for all. 


The number three becomes a unifying element in the work: there are three worlds visited by our heroine, the main motive is comprised of three notes, harmonic motion by third is common throughout the piece, and the descending triplet is a unifying element. The piece also includes the use of an iPad in the percussion section to generate additional game sounds.

The various sections of Super Nova include Nova’s Theme, Storm Sphere, Land of Mystic Mirrors, Puffy Prairie, Boss Battle, and, once Nova is victorious, a final return to Nova’s Theme. Storm Sphere is aggressive and percussive, with lightning strikes, booming thunder, and a presentation of Nova’s Theme in minor. The Land of Mystic Mirrors has an ethereal quality, sparkling and shimmering, including the use of whirlies and crotales in the percussion section. The main melody is played concurrently in its original form and in its inversion, mirroring itself in real time. Puffy Prairie is a whimsical, light, and bright place. Nova’s Theme is transformed into a difficult clarinet solo that develops into a full band outburst, followed by a lighter presentation of the theme using a technique called Klangfarbenmelodie (in which the melody changes timbre with each note). The final Boss Battle explores the descending triplet from Nova’s Theme, transforming it into an ascending triplet that gradually builds tension as the harmonic motion ascends in thirds. This builds to a dissonant and dramatic climax before Nova wins the game and a return of her theme signifies a successful conclusion to her adventures.

Super Nova
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