The Golden Record

Written by on September 15, 2012

 Today’s show is a going to be quite different to the normal show and doesn’t really even qualify as a Classical music show. Todays show is called the Golden Record and it is inspired by a story in the media about the spaceships Voyager 1 and 2 – two space ships that were launched in 1977 to travel out of the solar system and off into space. The news story was based on the fact that Voyager1, now 11 billion miles from the sun is now regarded as having left the solar system.

So in honour of this event I’m going to play side 1 of the golden record that contains some truly strange and wonderful sounds, ranging from greetings in 55 languages, whales songs, pygny tribal music, rock and roll and Johan Sebastian Bach.  So farewell to you Voyager 1 and bon voyage.

What is the Golden Record?

 Pioneers 10 and 11, which preceded Voyager, both carried small metal plaques identifying their time and place of origin for the benefit of any other spacefarers that might find them in the distant future. With this example before them, NASA placed a more ambitious message aboard Voyager 1 and 2-a kind of time capsule, intended to communicate a story of our world to extraterrestrials. The Voyager message is carried by a phonograph record-a 12-inch gold-plated copper disk containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth.


The contents of the record were selected for NASA by a committee chaired by Carl Sagan of Cornell University, et. al. Dr. Sagan and his associates assembled 115 images and a variety of natural sounds, such as those made by surf, wind and thunder, birds, whales, and other animals. To this they added musical selections from different cultures and eras, and spoken greetings from Earth-people in fifty-five languages, and printed messages from President Carter and U.N. Secretary General Waldheim. Each record is encased in a protective aluminum jacket, together with a cartridge and a needle. Instructions, in symbolic language, explain the origin of the spacecraft and indicate how the record is to be played. The 115 images are encoded in analog form. The remainder of the record is in audio, designed to be played at 16-2/3 revolutions per minute. It contains the spoken greetings, beginning with Akkadian, which was spoken in Sumer about six thousand years ago, and ending with Wu, a modern Chinese dialect. Following the section on the sounds of Earth, there is an eclectic 90-minute selection of music, including both Eastern and Western classics and a variety of ethnic music. It will be forty thousand years before they make a close approach to any other planetary system. As Carl Sagan has noted, "The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced spacefaring civilizations in interstellar space. But the launching of this bottle into the cosmic ocean says something very hopeful about life on this planet

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