The following story will sound like something from a science fiction novel but it is entirely based in fact. Three and a half decades ago, a man obsessed by the possibility of extraterrestial life recorded songs from Earth on a golden record, put it on a spacecraft and launched it into deep space. The golden record contains sounds and images gathered from many different life forms on Earth. There are sounds of babies crying, warm greetings spoken in many languages, remarks from a president, mathematical and scientific definitions, scenes from nature, and even an attempt to explain human reproductive processes. The man responsible for this impossibly hopeful communication was none other than the famous scientist Carl Sagan, and the spacecraft, NASA's Voyager 1, is only now about to enter interstellar space.
Whether or not intelligent beings from outer space may find this Golden Record or if they could even decipher it is a matter for the Science and Technology section. Since this is an Arts & Entertainment post, the real issues of interest here are the songs that made it onto Voyager's Golden Record. What music did people back in 1977 feel would best represent Earth to an alien lifeform? Do these same songs still hold that kind of importance today?
Listen to a few selections from the 90 minutes of music on the Golden Record and remember that right now copies of these same songs are hurdling at 35,000 miles per hour on the back of Voyager 1 into the cold black void of deep space. These songs etched in gold are some of the first man made objects to travel beyond the reaches of our solar system.
Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F. First Movement - J. S. Bach
Pygmy girls' initiation song
"Johnny B. Goode" - Chuck Berry
Die Zauberflöte, Queen of the Night aria No. 14 - Mozart
The Rite of Spring, Sacrificial Dance - Stravinksy
Fifth Symphony, First Movement - Beethoven
Night Chant - Navajo Tribe
"Jaat Kahan Ho" - Kesarbai Kerkar
"Liu Shui" 《流水》 ("Flowing Streams") - Bo Ya
"Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground" - Blind Willie Johnson
Carl Sagan and his team pretty well covered the wide range of human emotions for any space aliens who might be listening, but try playing interstellar DJ yourself for a few minutes. What additions would you make for the 2012 remix of the Golden Record?