Drumroll Please! A Performance For The Solar Eclipse

1:32 minutes

an outdoor stone amphitheater with seven people on a stage with a few snare drums, two timpanis, and a gong. a crowd of a dozen people look on. the solar eclipse totality is happening, casting the scene as dark while the sun shines in the sky
A percussion section performed a drumroll for the solar eclipse in Akron, Ohio on April 8. Credit: Avery Mags Duff

People found all manner of ways to celebrate the solar eclipse that happened earlier this week, but one Science Friday listener found a particularly musical way to take in the experience.

Matt Kurtz, a sound artist and musician based in Akron, Ohio, realized his town would be in the path of totality for the April 8 eclipse. So with some funding from Akron Soul Train, a local artist residency, he put together a percussion section (complete with a gong) to perform a drumroll and build suspense up until the moment of totality. They performed in Chestnut Ridge Park to a crowd of onlookers.

“When you hear a [drumroll], it forces you to be like, something’s about to happen,” he said in an interview. “It’s a way to pay attention.” 

As the gong rang out and the crowd cheered, Kurtz put down his sticks and experienced his first solar eclipse totality. “It was a release,” he said. “I had a couple minutes of peace where I got to look at the stars and feel where all this work went to.”

Segment Guests

Matt Kurtz

Matt Kurtz is a performance sound artist and musician, based in Akron, Ohio.

Segment Transcript

KATHLEEN DAVIS: I don’t know about you, but I’m still thinking about the eclipse from this past Monday. Well, a listener named Matt Kurtz, from Akron, Ohio– which was in the path of totality– found a special musical way to celebrate it. Here’s Matt.

MATT KURTZ: The basic concept is that I perform these drum rolls that start quiet and then they build up and get real loud and then kind of stop at the moment of an activity that you wouldn’t expect it to. I think when you hear a drum doing that, it forces you to be like, something’s about to happen.


Akron was in the center of the path of totality for the total eclipse, and it felt like a perfect continuation to do a drum roll before the total eclipse reaches totality. And so, with the magnitude of the eclipse, it felt appropriate to get a small percussion section.

We found out the time that the total eclipse would reach totality at the outdoor stone amphitheater. We went up about five minutes before that and began a slow drum roll that built up and stopped right at the moment of totality.



And then I had a couple of minutes of peace, where I just got to look at the stars and kind of feel where all this work went to.

KATHLEEN DAVIS: Thanks to listener Matt Kurtz for that special message.

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About D. Peterschmidt

D. Peterschmidt is a producer, host of the podcast Universe of Art, and composes music for Science Friday’s podcasts. Their D&D character is a clumsy bard named Chip Chap Chopman.

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Kathleen Davis is a producer at Science Friday, which means she spends the week brainstorming, researching, and writing, typically in that order. She’s a big fan of stories related to strange animal facts and dystopian technology.

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