The best music to play during the solar eclipse (that isn’t Pink Floyd’s “Eclipse”)

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On Aug. 21, 2017 a total solar eclipse will be visible for much of North America. It’s the first such event since 1979, and understandably there are many parties around the U.S. being held in its honor.

And what’s a party without music? Many parties will no doubt play the entirety of Pink Floyd’s  excellent 1973 album, “Dark Side of the Moon,” which ends with the song “Eclipse”– a fitting finale for a spectacular solar event.

But everyone will play that, so what other left-field songs might be suited for the event? Below are a few suggestions, with video links for reference.

5. Pink Floyd:”Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun”

Though we stipulated we wouldn’t include “Eclipse,” it’s tough to not include a song by the band who would be famous for inventing “space rock.” What better substitute than this pre-Dark Side song? “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” is a hypnotic, meditative dirge with vaguely poetic lyrics to ponder while watching the moon take its course. Bonus points for the live performance of the song in Pompeii, a city that would have had its own hellish eclipse when the ashes of Vesuvius blocked out its sun in 79 A.D.

4. Johann Strauss’ :”Blue Danube Waltz” from “2001: A Space Odyssey”

Once again we’re avoiding cliches by not including the bombastic “Also sprach Zarathustra,” itself famously used in an eclipse-style scene of the opening credits of “2001” and all other parodied momentous events in countless films. The space ballet of the “Blue Danube” sequence is another chance to drift away at an eclipse party, contemplating the slow steady movement of the moon just like the satellites and spaceships in “2001.” Or, as Leonard Nimoy in “The Simpsons” put it, “the cosmic ballet goes on.”

3. John Cale:”Sun Blindness Music”

Prior to joining The Velvet Underground, John Cale was an accomplished avant-garde musician who was part of New York’s “Theatre of Eternal Music”, a drone music collective created by La Monte Young and influenced by noise music pioneer John Cage. The minimalist atonal droning in this 42-minute piece comes in long sustained waves of one chord. The variations grown and lessen in intensity and texture; sometimes a particularly loud blare can sound like a prolonged stare at the sun. And a safety tip for August 21: don’t stare directly at the eclipse or you will definitely hurt your eyes.

2. Radiohead:”Everything in its Right Place”

Radiohead teased being the new Pink Floyd with “OK Computer,” but with their follow-up they went completely into space. The instrumentation on “Kid A” very much makes it a night-time album. The lyrics can be interpreted as OCD-driven, or just a simple reflection on the purpose of everything in the universe, as the moon makes its dutiful way in front of the sun just as its meant to.

  1. Bill Withers: “Ain’t No Sunshine”

The beauty of this simple song is its two-minute length, around the same amount of time it will take for the total eclipse to occur. Give this song a spin at your eclipse party as it the solar event happens– think about your first sweetheart who left you years ago during the last total eclipse, and try not to lose your breath when singing along with Bill’s 26 repetitions of “I know.”

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