Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Voyager Golden Record

Millions of years from now, when humanity has either evolved beyond our comprehension or been eradicated, the two 1977 Voyager spacecraft may one day be discovered by those living beyond our solar system along the path of their journeys. The two Voyagers each contain a gold-plated disc with a series of pictures detailing basic numerical equations, diagrams of the solar system, details of human physiology, life, and habitat, and ventures into space, after which there are three final panels. They are pictures of a sunset on Earth, the Quartetto Italiano, and a violin next to a musical score. I can think of no greater statement of music's place in the human equation than the experience of going through the slideshow of these images and ending with the final one.

On the other side of the disc are recordings of greetings from the UN in multiple languages, greetings from whales, and sounds of the earth, followed by a selection of diverse music from all over the globe. Among the classical selections:
  • Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #2 with Karl Richter conducting the Munich Bach Orchestra
  • Arthur Grumiaux playing the "Gavotte en rondeau" from the Bach 3rd Partita
  • Edda Moser singing the Queen of the Night Aria
  • The Sacrificial Dance from Stravinsky's Rite of Spring with Stravinsky conducting the Columbia Symphony Orchestra
  • Glenn Gould playing the Prelude from the WTC Book 2
  • Beethoven's Fifth Symphony first movement, with Klemperer conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra
The last two selections on the LP are Blind Willie Johnson singing "Dark Was the Night" and the Cavatina from Beethoven's String Quartet Op. 130 played by the Budapest String Quartet. Listening to these final two selections gave me shivers thinking about just who might be playing the original LP disc if Voyager is ever found, what kind of time will have elapsed since those few excerpts of humanity's music were selected in 1977, and that whoever finds Voyager will know that music was the experience humanity valued above all others.

You can hear the whole of the Voyager Golden Record here.


  1. Hi Chris,

    Isn't it weird to know that something human made is flying through outer space, possibly reaching other civilizations - some time?

    You might also be interested in our post Voyager's Grand Tour.



  2. Thanks, bee. Any Voyager watchers (whether from Earth or otherwise) should definitely read the Voyager's Grand Tour post linked from the above comment.