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Program Note


for bassoon and piano

by Reginald Bain

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 (2017). 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. Commissioned by bassoonist Michael Harley, the work is played in the following four attacca movements:

I. Shadow  
II. Bite - Baily's Beads - Diamond Ring

III. Corona  
IV. Reappearance  
D U R A T I O N : 11:00


Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A recording of Totality is available on Michael Harley's album Come Closer {New Focus Recordings; Bandcamp}. The world premiere was given by Michael 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 (Tymoczko 2010), hexatonic systems, and serial techniques. Triads combine to form all-combinatorial hexachord E, which is combined and juxtaposed in myriad ways to create analgous "shades" of totality in the pitch domain.


Bakich, Michael. 2014. "25 facts you should know about the August 21, 2017, total solar eclipse." – <http://cs.astronomy.com/asy/b/astronomy/archive/2014/08/05/25-facts-you-should-know-about-the-august-21-2017-total-solar-eclipse.aspx>.

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: May 14, 2022