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for bassoon and piano

by Reginald Bain

Totality is available on Michael Harley's 2019 New Focus Recordings release Come Closer (fcr40).

On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse was visible from the continental United States for the first time since 1979. The composer lives within the extremely narrow path of Totality. Inspired by his anticipation of this rare astronomical event, he created a set of imagined musical impressions of selected phases of an eclipse – exploring the triadic universe along the way.
I. Shadow  
II. Bite - Baily's Beads - Diamond Ring

III. Corona  
IV. Reappearance  
D U R A T I O N : 11:05

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In the album notes for Come Closer, David Lippel writes:

"Reginald Bain’s Totality was inspired by the August 2017 total solar eclipse, and consists of four movements, each representing a different impression of select phases of the phenomenon. A lyrical introduction captures the mystery surrounding the event, and leads into a Phillip Glass-esque section of excited, driving music outlining major and minor triads. Haunting, sequenced chords characterize the next section, laying the ground for halting music in the bassoon. The bassoon plays muscular, virtuosic arpeggios in the subsequent section, before the texture zooms in to focus on delicate chords in the high register of the piano. The work closes with a return to the minimalist music heard earlier, balancing out the sense of patient wonder in the work with music of exuberance."

Commissioned by bassoonist Michael Harley, the world premiere was given by Harley and pianist Phillip Bush on March 19, 2017 at Goshen College's Rieth Chamber Series (Goshen, IN).

In music theory, the term triadic universe (Cohn 2012) refers to the set of all possible major and minor triads in 12-tone equal temperament. Major and minor triads are the fundamental objects in this work, and the triadic universe is systematically explored via geometric models including Douthett and Steinbach’s Cube Dance (Tymoczko 2010), hexatonic systems, and serial techniques. Triads combine to form all-combinatorial heachord E, which is combined and juxtaposed in myriad ways to create analogous "shades" of totality in the pitch domain.


Bakich, Michael. 2014. "25 facts you should know about the August 21, 2017, total solar eclipse."

Columbia SC, Total Eclipse Website – http://totaleclipsecolumbiasc.com

NASA, Total Eclipse: August 21, 2017 –  https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov


Cohn, Richard. 2012. Audacious Euphony. New York: Oxford. {GB}

Tymoczko, Dmitri. 2010. "Geometrical Methods in Recent Music Theory." Music Theory Online 16/1 (March 2010). Available online at: <http://www.mtosmt.org/issues/mto.10.16.1/mto.10.16.1.tymoczko.html>. See Douthett and Steinbach’s Cube Dance in Figure 3.

Updated: July 12, 2022