The story was over, but the music wasn’t done yet.
Novas is built out of “modules” (concept playlists) which group together into natural sets I’m going to call “programs”. To recap, the programs so far have been:
Program Zero: Novas 0, the Overture (Tomorrow) Program One: Novas 1 (Radiant Energy) Program Two: Novas 2 (Solid State Revolution Program Three: Novas 3 (Harmony Of The Spheres)
I think of these as the ‘movies’. They’re the base story, with a cinematic widescreen kind of feel. They go in chronological sequence from 1982 through 1986, and they tell a continued story with a different musical and thematic feel and ‘location’ for each one. I started to feel by the end of One that there were two main characters evident, a ‘Singer’ and a ‘Soldier’.
Program Four: Novas 4.x
These are four pieces of ‘incidental music’, two of which are set inside the universe of Novas and two outside as ‘dream sequences’. I found a place for them all inside the main timeline, before Novas 1.
Program Five: Novas 5.x
This is where it started to get complicated. Five began as a meditation on weird uses of the James Bond theme I’d discovered – from “James and the Cold Gun” to “Shadows of the Night” to “Ashes Are Burning”, turned into the characters of ‘Gloria’ and ‘the Agent’, who I eventually discovered were previous incarnations of the Singer and the Soldier, and eventually got the names of ‘Susan’ and ‘Jack’… and from there the Five project followed that direction into establishing a backstory for Susan/Gloria and how she and Jack ended up inside a computer simulation in the first place. Five ended by taking the story into the future past Susan’s transcendence at the end of Three, because all that backstory felt like it needed a conclusion.
I eventually decided that 5.1 was really telling the story of Susan’s confrontation with Jack just before the start of Three. 5.2, 5.3 and 5.4 then can be thought of as the flashbacks that Susan is telling Jack to try to wake him out of SYSTEM’s grip.
Program Six: Novas 6
Six just sort of slipped out as a riff on that strange sideways beat of ‘Solsbury Hill’, and ended up becoming something I knew was very different, and eventually decided was an alternate timeline. The music mostly wanted to be about that decade shift into of the 1990s and its Millennium fixation, the imagery was Afro-Futurist/Celtic/Chinese with ecological rather than machine overtones, and eventually (much later) it seemed to fit that the main conflict in this universe was the absence of Susan’s father (a shadowy figure who kind of symbolises the 1980s in all its dark and light sides).
Program Eleven Part One: Novas 0.1, 0.2, 0.3, 0.4, 0.5, 0.6
At this point I had a complete story. But as “Shadows of the Night” had pulled me into Five, I found myself pulled back into spy music. This time it was the idea of a musical palindrome that drew me, because I’d found odd pairs of songs that seemed to match up. Stranger Things Season 3 reminded me of “ROCK in the USA” and how I’d always thought that should match with “Back in the USSR”; Animotion’s “Strange Behaviour” had a riff that exactly matched “Goodnight Moon”; and “Dance Dance Dance” seemed to echo “Squares And Triangles”. Add “Leipzig” as the pivot and there seemed to be something exciting there about inversions and parallelism and digital spy games. And this became “The Clouds Run Parallel”. Naturally it needed a Cold War setting and there was Susan’s “Gloria” phase right there as a location… and this could serve as Jack and Susan’s real first meeting.
So why is it Program Eleven rather than Program Seven? Well, because the internal series code is 11, I found I needed exactly 11 songs to make it work, and then I discovered it was a the 50 year anniversary of Apollo 11. And it’s set before One, chronologically, so the “Novas” number of each module is no longer linked to a chronological sequence. So Eleven it is.
The Eleven project developed into what I think of as a “TV series” compared to the “movies” of One through Six. Shorter episodes, weaving in and out of the movie storyline, and focusing more on the characters and relationship between Jack and Susan.
Program Eleven Part Two: Novas 1.1, 2.2, 3.3, 0.01, 0.02
I’d thought of Eleven as being set ‘inside the Simulation’ and that’s how it’s designed. But again, after completing the first six parts, I found another song drawing me back. This time, it was discovering the Spoons movie “Listen To The City” and the song “Sundown” in the haunting early months of 2020 when COVID was creeping over China. And the idea grew that here was a story to expand on that awkward transition between One and Two, to try to develop more what’s happening in the “Real World” of 1982 vs the Simulation of 1982, and why Jack and Susan appear to be separated at the start of Two.
Eleven Part Two has three linking modules, and two prequels (which I think of as “young adult novels”) about Susan’s early life and the crises that bring her to where she is as “Gloria” in 5.2.
Program Twelve: Novas 2.8, 2.8, 2.9, 3.4, 3.9, 6.6
And so that was eleven modules for Eleven and I thought I was done there. But again, the music wasn’t.
It began with “Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)” and then “Computer Age” and I found my thoughts circling back to Susan and her climactic battle in space against SYSTEM to free Jack, which didn’t seem to have quite resolved climactically enough ‘on-camera’.
So here’s Program Twelve which is kind of a ‘remaster’ of that period between the ‘movies’ of Two and Three (and later, after Three). It’s still all in the same continuity… but like Eleven, it’s an expansion of that story.