A music professor conducts a group of college students.

Dr. David Wilborn’s Original Composition To Mark Solar Eclipse’s Arrival At Century Square Event

The much-anticipated solar eclipse on April 8 will arrive to the tune of an original composition by Dr. David Wilborn, associate professor in the Texas A&M School of Performance, Visualization and Fine Arts.

“Prelude and Fanfare” will premiere during an eclipse event April 8 at 1 p.m. at The Green at Century Square. The Friends of Chamber Music of Bryan-College Station commissioned Wilborn’s piece for the occasion, which is co-presented by the Brazos Valley Astronomy Club. Wilborn will conduct and perform with a brass quintet ensemble.

Bryan-College Station sits just outside of the path of totality, where the moon completely blocks the sun, but the area is expected to reach 98.6 percent totality at 1:39 p.m.

“Prelude” will be performed as the eclipse causes the sky to darken, and will feature percussion instruments and a trumpet solo. Members of the brass quintet will create an ethereal sound by rubbing crystal glasses filled with different levels of water to produce various pitches, Wilborn said. As the light returns, “Fanfare” will lead with the brass quintet, with Wilborn joining on keyboard to produce an organ sound.

“The opening of ‘Prelude’ is very loud, but the opening of the ‘Fanfare’ is very soft,” Wilborn said. “‘Fanfare’ is creating this celestial concept, with the addition of the organ being added to the brass quintet at the end of the piece. It is a huge celebration of the sun.”

Musicians in the brass quintet ensemble will play trumpets, a French horn, trombone and tuba, he said. The percussion and keyboard instruments include tom-toms, wind chimes, snare drum, orchestra bells, crotales and electric pianos.

Wilborn said he pondered some of his favorite movies about space in composing the piece.

“I thought about ‘Star Trek,’ ‘Battlestar Galactica,’ and then I started thinking about Stanley Kubrick films,” Wilborn said. “There are these harmonies that are just readily identifiable with space in those films, and those are the ones I really zoomed in on, in ‘Fanfare’ especially.”

Elena Reece, artistic director for Friends of Chamber Music, said the organization wanted new music created specifically for this “once-in-a-lifetime occasion.”

“We are so excited to have commissioned this work to Dr. Wilborn, whom we have known for a number of years as a wonderful person and a great collaborator,” Reece said. “The world premiere of this new composition, being performed at this event that will never be replicated, is going to be amazing.”

In addition to Wilborn’s performance, guests will hear a presentation from Dr. Ray Garner, postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. His presentation will cover the basics of eclipses — how and why they happen — and eclipse-viewing safety, he said.

Garner said his favorite eclipse moment is seeing daylight suddenly change to an “eerie twilight” in a few seconds, where everything becomes quiet. The sun vanishes and is replaced by a “black orb” of the moon, he said.

“You sort of experience the ‘music of the spheres,’ as German astronomer Johannes Kepler called the mechanics of the solar system in action,” he said. “It sort of brings you out of yourself, watching and being a part of these events that we can in no way affect or stop. It’s humbling, really.”

The event also includes NASA’s livestream of the eclipse on large screens. The first 200 guests will receive free solar glasses, Reece said. Randall Light and Mark Spearman of the Brazos Astronomy Club are sponsors of the event.

Wilborn said the eclipse performance elicits a “celebratory ending,” and hopes guests leave with a memorable experience.

“I hope that they are able to listen to the music and really relate it to what is happening in the sky,” he said. “To develop that sort of relationship between the music and the solar eclipse.”

Top image by Igor Kraguljac Photography.

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