A record, in old-fashion pre-cd vinyl-style, was launched into space years ago and is now moving away from earth at a speed of 17.2 km per second. This record contains a weird collection of sounds of earth, which, in the 1970's, Carl Sagan, his wife and friends thought were representative for mankind.
Gone for good
The records are on board of the Voyager, a spacecraft designed to examine the planets of our solar-system. Well, that duty is over now, but Voyager is still moving away from us, while it's out of our solar-system for good and is travelling at an unthinkable speed towards the winking stars far far away.
The ears of ET
In space you don't need a drive to keep you going. A spacecraft needs its engines only to accelerate or to slow down. But once it has its desired speed, the engines can go down while the spacecraft will continue its speed for thousands of years. The Voyager-spacecrafts (there are two of them) will move around our galaxy, for billions of years, being a playing-ball for the force of gravity that rules the universe. In that time it's not unthinkable that other species, capable of moving through space, will catch the craft to find out what that strange thing is. They will discover the record and its diamond element. Even if they don't have DJ's overthere, they can find out how to play it: there is a 'manual', a few simplistic symbols that can't be mistaken by a specie that is intelligent enough to travel through space. Of course they must have ears...
This is truly a cosmic message in a bottle. But this message doesn't say: "Help us out of here" but instead tries to show other species our satisfaction with this blue planet, our respect for fellow-ET's and our trust in the future.
"Hi, how are you doing?"
This 12-inch copper disc contains voices from 'common people' in 60 languages, sending their greetings to the extra-planetary beings. These friendly greetings like "Hi. How are you doing? I wish you peace, health and happiness" won't be understand by the aliens, unless they are telepathic. But these voices will at least raise their curiosity. Then there are some diagrams, coded into sound, which tell about our position in the universe (the position of the sun in relation to important neutronstars), our DNA and our human body. Furthermore the starmen will here how our planet is formed. If they're having any imagination they will see our planet revolving around the sun, the eruption of vulcanoes, animals like birds, whales and dogs, a human baby crying, being pampered by his mother, see a locomotive passing by and be a witness of the launch of a rocket.
Also registrated on the disc is an 'official' spoken message of the secretary of the United Nations of that time, Kurt Waltheim.
"As the secretary-general of the United Nations, an organisation of 147 member-states, who represent almost all of the human inhabitants of the planet Earth, I send greetings on behalf of the people of our planet. We step out of our solar-system, into the universe, seeking only peace and friendship, to teach if we are quart upon, to be taught if we are fortunate. We know fool well, that our planet and all its inhabitants are but a small part of this immense universe that surrounds us, and it is with humility and hope that we take this step."
Are they emotional types?
We can in no way imagine what life will be out there. Everything we know comes from this earth, even our wildest fantasies are based on it. Science-fiction gave us some clues, but mostly these SF-creatures just show too much resemblance with us, even though they're green and have twelve fingers. Extra-terrestrial beings could even have an other chemistry! Instead of carbon-based, as we are, could they well be based on other elements like silicium. To ease their thirst maybe they'll drink methane. And what about their emotions? Do they have these? And if they do, do they laugh or cry? Be angry or shy? Or are they blourt, kosvic and meltamic? Instead of tears, is there a long hair growing on the top of their nose?
If so, they will get hairy noses from listening to this Voyager-record. Carl Sagan and his Voyager record-committee decided that emotion should be the most important part of this record, as it is in our lives as well. And what better way to communicate your feelings than through music? Can melody be a cosmic Esperanto? Certainly music has a logical shape, a mathematical structure, but that alone doesn't make music for what it is. A mystery still remains, even after thorough analysis, fortunately. We know our cosmic listeners will recognise the mathematical structure, but will they experience beauty, even get goosebumps... will they understand that this is our way to express love, to show our awe to this immense universe? Nobody will probably ever know.
Music for the trillions
So what music is on this record? The number-one summerhit of 1977? Science-fiction themes? This was the hardest thing to do for the record-committee: to make a collection of music that would represent mankind, for it was mankind that was the sender of this message, even though 99.999% probably never knew this record was made! It's an utopical way of representing mankind to the universe. But who knows, by the time this spacecraft is found by extra-terrestrials, probably million years in the far-future, Utopia is here and there is one planet, one voice. In that case the Voyager-committee of 1977 must have had a clairvoyance view.
The music of the record starts off with the Brandenburg Concert no. 2 of Bach. This is a very rhythmical piece of work, typical for Bach and even if the creatures on that star far in space won't have a sense for music, they will notice the periodical arrangement of the sounds.
Of course there where many 'world-music' pieces registrated on the copper plate. From Indians to a pygmy girl, singing during her initiation, a very honest and sensitive song, the Voyager-committee tried to be as diverse as possible in its choice. This is the list of music which has truly been immortalised.
(Soon with RealAudio-samples)
Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F. First Movement, Munich Bach Orchestra, Karl Richter, conductor. 4:40
Java, court gamelan, "Kinds of Flowers," recorded by Robert Brown. 4:43
Senegal, percussion, recorded by Charles Duvelle. 2:08
Zaire, Pygmy girls' initiation song, recorded by Colin Turnbull. 0:56
Australia, Aborigine songs, "Morning Star" and "Devil Bird," recorded by Sandra LeBrun Holmes. 1:26
Mexico, "El Cascabel," performed by Lorenzo Barcelata and the Mariachi México 3:14
"Johnny B. Goode," written and performed by Chuck Berry. 2:38
New Guinea, men's house song, recorded by Robert MacLennan. 1:20
Japan, shakuhachi, "Cranes in Their Nest," performed by Coro Yamaguchi. 4:51
Bach, "Gavotte en rondeaux" from the Partita No. 3 in E major for Violin, performed by Arthur Grumiaux. 2:55
Mozart, The Magic Flute, Queen of the Night aria, no. 14. Edda Moser, soprano. Bavarian State Opera, Munich, Wolfgang Sawallisch, conductor. 2:55
Georgian S.S.R., chorus, "Tchakrulo," collected by Radio Moscow. 2:18
Peru, panpipes and drum, collected by Casa de la Cultura, Lima. 0:52
"Melancholy Blues," performed by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Seven. 3:05
Azerbaijan S.S.R., bagpipes, recorded by Radio Moscow. 2:30
Stravinsky, Rite of Spring, Sacrificial Dance, Columbia Symphony Orchestra, Igor Stravinsky, conductor. 4:35
Bach, The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2, Prelude and Fugue in C, No.1. Glenn Gould, piano. 4:48
Beethoven, Fifth Symphony, First Movement, the Philharmonia Orchestra, Otto Klemperer, conductor. 7:20
Bulgaria, "Izlel je Delyo Hagdutin," sung by Valya Balkanska. 4:59
Navajo Indians, Night Chant, recorded by Willard Rhodes. 0:57
Holborne, Paueans, Galliards, Almains and Other Short Aeirs, "The Fairie Round," performed by David Munrow and the Early Music Consort of London. 1:17
Solomon Islands, panpipes, collected by the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Service. 1:12
Peru, wedding song, recorded by John Cohen. 0:38
China, ch'in, "Flowing Streams," performed by Kuan P'ing-hu. 7:37
India, raga, "Jaat Kahan Ho," sung by Surshri Kesar Bai Kerkar. 3:30
"Dark Was the Night," written and performed by Blind Willie Johnson. 3:15
Beethoven, String Quartet No. 13 in B flat, Opus 130, Cavatina, performed by Budapest String Quartet. 6:37
What will be the consequences of Voyager's mission? What will happen when astronauts of a highly intelligent civilisation, living on a yellow planet around a blue sun, find the Voyager, catch it out of the void and bring it into their space-laboratory to examine it with their high-developed equipment. As this will all happen in the far-future, the highly radio-active plutonium that is on board will have decayed into harmless elements. Their instruments will be so sophisticated that they even won't need the primitive diamond needle enclosed and immediately start to scan the surface of the record with a four-dimensional laser-beam. They will notice that the shape of the groove corresponds with a longitudinal disturbance of air, called sound. So they will transform the information on the record into sound.
For the first time in 2.5 million years, the sound of earth is resurrected from oblivion. These sounds tell about mankind as it was long ago, because in the meantime the people on earth have developed, even have evolved into a different shape, with different thoughts. We will probably have become a different specie, living on Earth, the Moon, Mars and making love in rubber suits while floating in space. We won't know anything about this Voyager-record, maybe because a disaster faded out our history, but most probably because the launch of the Voyager-rocket disappeared between the trillion other historical events. We evolved into a being that is likely to have no identification anymore with that primitive creature that once lived on their Earth, as we hardly feel a bond with the Cro-Magnon man of many thousands years ago. And of course there is the possibility that mankind has become distinct. Because of a cosmic disaster, because of an atomic, chemical or biological war, because of a deadly virus or maybe simply because of a lack of resources.
If the listeners of this record are really intelligent beings, then they should notice that the record sounds familiar. Spitting in their cosmic sound-archive they come up with recordings they made of radio- and TV-waves from a very far star, millions of years ago. The sounds of that recording match exactly with those on the Voyager-record. Bingo! The source of the space-probe has been localised. So, while the Voyager snail-mail was creeping through space, the e-mail was zooming through the stars a ten-thousand times faster.
Soon to be completed.