Scientists, including one of Indian origin, have created an original music composition using data from the movements of the Sun, the Moon and the gradual darkness during the total solar eclipse in the US. This is the first time researchers have made music with eclipse information. The team from Georgia Institute of Technology in the US watched countless videos of total eclipses to develop the correct tone and pacing for the piece. They also used live data from the total solar eclipse, that swept across the US on August 21, to add more musical elements to the existing piece. The researchers, including Avrosh Kumar, talked to two blind people. One had previously seen an eclipse.
The other described how she listens to her surroundings, allowing researchers to better understand how visually impaired people use ambient sounds to develop a sense of their environment and the moments in their lives. The audio experience, which at times sounds both hopeful and ominous as it builds anticipation toward the moment of the total eclipse, includes several segments. During first contact, as the Moon starts to slide in front of the sun, high tonal sounds – representing the moon – gradually increase in volume and consistency. During second contact, or the beginning of totality, the musical tension continues to rise, even as the overall pitch and loudness begin to diminish as light levels fade.
In this portion of the music, the sound of crickets is also heard to signify the “false dusk” effect created when the moon completely covers the sun. During maximum totality, or halfway through second contact, the piece falls nearly silent. The composition continues with the end of totality, or third contact, as the tension diminishes and the feeling of hope dominates. As the sun re-emerges from behind the moon, the light returns, and the music becomes brighter and more active; bird chirps highlight this “false dawn.” A continually more uplifting tone concludes the composition.
“There are so many things during an eclipse that you can attempt to translate through audio,” said Kumar, who graduated from Georgia Tech. “Our main motive was to use music and sound to demonstrate what’s going on in the sky. At the same time, we wanted to create a pleasing, dramatic composition. It was a fine line to walk in order to achieve both goals,” he said. Researchers built and paced the soundtrack with a focus on Hopkinsville, Kentucky. The city was on the centre line of the eclipse and experienced two minutes and 40 seconds of totality. A second pre-recorded composition, which uses the same sounds but with different pacing, was developed to match eclipse conditions in Atlanta.