His name is Nova. It really is.
I have never met anyone named Nova, boy or girl.
He is small compared to the other kids in his class. He is frighteningly articulate for his age. He knows things that I don’t know. Who is this kid? I’m told he reads far above his age level. Clearly, he’s being trained at home by intelligent, proactive parents. Or, he carries more than the usual amount of extra-terrestrial DNA.
When he wants your attention he doesn’t raise his hand, like everyone else. He says, “Um, excuse me? Um, excuse me?” He can be very persistent, but never raises his voice. Yes, he’s being schooled.
And he likes it. It makes him feel strong and very, very powerful. Is this parental compensation strategy? Is this how they help him feel not so little, not so less-than?
“Today, we’re going to do something different,” I start out. “Today you’re not going to use loops for creating a music mix. Other people created that stuff. Today you’re going to start learning how to create your own music from scratch.”
“Um, excuse me? Um, Excuse me?”
“Um, I would prefer to use the loops today.”
“We’re not going to use the loops today. We’re going to learn how to start making our own music.”
Nova looks down at his pad, or possibly the table, or possibly nothing, and his face tightens, constricts. He looks pissed. It happens.
Then, the tears start. Ope, he’s not angry. He’s sad, possibly mad-sad because he can’t have his way. But this is, after all, extended learning time. He knows the ropes.
Then he mumbles something.
“What’s that, Nova? I can’t hear you?” says the high school helper sitting next to him. I lean in.
“I don’t think I can do this,” he says. His voice is quivering.
Oh, of course. Sometimes I forget. He’s afraid. He’s scared stiff. I’ve hit that nerve. I’ve seen that before, too, but mostly in teenagers who say, “I’m bored,” or, “I don’t feel so good.”
Nova may be a high-level reader and he may know stuff, but he’s a kid. He’s a little kid, and kids can feel vulnerable at the drop of a hat, especially if they have superpowers. Kryptonite is real shit.
I came right alongside of him and said, “What’s your name?”
He looks up at me as if possibly I just lost my marbles. “Nova,” he says.
“That’s right. Do you know what it means?”
“Yes. It’s the explosion of a star.”
“Well, that’s part of it, yes. They gave the name Nova to that kind of thing. But do you know what Nova means? Nova comes from the Latin,” I say.
I get out my smart dictionary.
“Latin is a dead language,” he proclaims. He knows stuff.
I show it to him: Mid 19th century (originally denoting a newly discovered or newly visible star or nebula): from Latin, feminine of novus ‘new’.
“Your name means New.”
He’s looking at it, then at me. Apparently, no one told him.
“Today you’ll know the real meaning of your name. You’re going to make music that is new because it’s yours, not anyone else’s. It will be something that no one else on the planet has ever done.”
I show him how to get started. I tell him to turn on his metronome (he knew what that was before anyone else in the room).
“Listen to it,” I say. “Listen real close. Now punch this chord.” He does. “Now this one.” He does.
Within a minute he’s punching chords to the beat, which he understands. Which we’ve clapped a hundred times. I hit the record button. After eight bars I press stop.
“Okay, go to your track window.” He knows how to do that.
“Play it,” I say. He does.
“Listen to what you did.”
“That sounds good, Nova!” says the high school helper. She’s not blowing smoke. It really does.
“Okay, now, now choose a beat loop that fits your piano part.” Reward time, but with a kick.
I walk away. He knows how to do loops. When I return after checking on other students, I see that Nova has six other tracks added. He looks up at me.
“Okay, I’m done,” he says. In that way that kids do when they are ready to show you what they’ve accomplished. He hits play. There it is.
“That’s your music, Nova. That’s new music and it’s yours. Way to go.”
I tell him he should save it. He knows how to do that. This is the title he gives it: Supernova.