Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — In 1977, a group of space and music experts led by Carl Sagan thought the best way to communicate with aliens was through sound. And so they made a golden vinyl record (in two copies) containing selected pieces of music that encompass all communicable human interaction and experience, as well as the sounds of the earth — classical and blues, ethnic music, spoken greetings in 55 languages, whale moans, birds, Morse code, a salutation from the secretary general of the United Nations, among others — and strapped the two gold-plated copper discs onto two Voyager spacecrafts. Launched by NASA, Voyager 1 was set to survey Jupiter and Saturn, and has reached interstellar space in 2013, while Voyager 2 is on its tail.
The record is a shout to the void, Earth’s tiny cry to the universe similar to those messages in bottles that we throw out, but this time it is meant to let other civilizations out there — whether present or a billion light years away — know that we exist. Images of human life are encoded in the record, and a diagram explaining how to play it is etched on its gold-plated aluminum jacket.
The two golden records are the only physical copies of their kind, and today they are still out there, hanging onto the space probes, floating in space. A year after they were launched, Carl Sagan had the dilemma of not being able to obtain the extra copies — according to his letter addressed to NASA published in The New York Times — and so for the time being it seems they were for extraterrestrials’ ears only. Thankfully, humans can now have the chance to listen to the music in a remastered and repackaged format, as a celebration of the record’s 40-year anniversary, powered by a Kickstarter project.
Set to be released in August 2017 under Ozma Records, “The Voyager Golden Record: 40th anniversary edition” will come in a box set of three translucent heavyweight golden LPs containing nearly two hours of audio remastered from the original Voyager Golden Record. The LPs will be accompanied by a hardbound book of the images found in the vinyl, as well as essays and photographs sent to Earth from the Voyagers themselves.
With the record nesting on “the intersection between science and art,” the producers of the Kickstarter project — David Pescovitz, Timothy Daly, and Lawrence Azerrad — were driven by the need to “ignite our imagination” and to remind ourselves that we are in full control of our future. Indeed, these golden time capsules are a way of preserving our culture because of art’s capability to immortalize our humanity. To replicate the music contained in them is to recognize our ultimate need to encapsulate our feelings, as the best way to show the cosmos who we are as humans, in our quest to make sense of it all.
“Music could convey our feelings in a way that words couldn’t,” says Daly, who is also a manager of the renowned chain Amoeba Music.
The makers of the 40th anniversary edition of the LP were lucky enough to have Timothy Ferris by their side. Ferris was one of the producers who worked on the original golden record, and the one who inscribed on it the words, “To the makers of music — all worlds, all times.” When we sent those discs to space, we forgot that those makers included our own.
None of us will ever know if and when aliens will get to listen to this golden mixtape. In the meantime, we can listen to it ourselves, bringing the experience back home to Earth while we wait and hope that someday, maybe, the void will shout back.