To fully appreciate this eclipse story, WPLN recommends the audio version (above).
An experimental musician brought his weather-controlled synthesizer to the roof of Jack White’s Third Man Records in Nashville for the total solar eclipse. The so-called “Weather Warlock” made a soundtrack based on the atmospheric conditions of wind, temperature and sunlight.
Before the eclipse, those factors created a peaceful droning hum, which echoed out from the record store while also being live broadcast online.
“It’s a beautiful, clear day. Perfect for an eclipse,” came the first dispatch from the machine’s inventor, New Orleans-based musician Quintron.
He could turn a few dials to alter the sound, but the most obvious sign of what was really in control was visible — and audible — when the breeze would rise or fall. The whirring wind anemometers would slow, and the pulsing sounds with them.
Quintron said he has slowly improved the Weather Warlock, which operates as an F major chordal drone, over several years. He said he worked on it most diligently after a serious illness, during which time he studied the healing abilities of musical tones.
“I got it to work right away, but it was just wretched awful noise. And working out those kinks in the circuitry, that was the biggest challenge, actually,” he said. “It became apparent early on that this needed to be relaxing music and randomized music from the skies that you could leave on in the background for hours and hours and hours.”
With a raft of options for eclipse viewing, hundreds chose Third Man Records, congregating in good spirits in the street while Quintron’s tones emanated from the rooftop above.
Synth fanatics like Matt Marcus, of Rockville, Md., quickly recognized the analog methods at play.
“As soon as I heard this, I’m like, ‘I’m going to be hearing filter sweeps all day, it’s gonna be lovely' — you can hear it right now, you can hear the resonance!”
And as darkness fell, the soundtrack became deep, halting pulses. Quintron had said he was unsure how the UV sky sensor would react.
As the moon fully blocked the sun, the synth thumped to a halt.
“We have reached totality,” Quintron declared as cheers rose.
Pigeons circled. A streetlight flickered on. And a moment later, the space-tinged tone resumed.
“It was one of those rare moments where this was not about taking a picture. It was about being there. That was definitely worth a 12-hour drive,” said Matthew Moseley, 31, of Dallas. “The fact that it was obscured at the end was beautiful. I wouldn’t have that any other way.”