The Sounds Of Earth
This nOde last updated October 10th, 2004 and is permanently morphing...
(13 Cimi / 9 Yax (Green) - 26/260 - 18.104.22.168.6)
1977. That year launched the Voyager spacecraft, at the time the most ambitious attempt yet to explore the outer limits of the universe. Wishing to include a time capsule that would convey the story of our planet to whoever might find it, the agency sent a bunch of records encoded with images and music.
Along with the records
was a needle and cartridge, and indications on how to play the record rendered
in what appears to be a rocket scientist's rendition of hieroglyphics. While
the albums were sturdy, gold-plated 12-inch copper discs -- not vinyl -- in
pictures they are recognizably recordlike. There's even a label that soberly
THE SOUNDS OF EARTH
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Compiled by Carl Sagan and a handful of other scientists, the 90 or so minutes of sound include a Mexican mariachi band, heartbeats, footsteps, Beethoven, Bach, the bark of a wild dog, crickets, an initiation rite for pygmy girls, falling rain, preacher and blues singer Blind Willie Johnson, a mother kissing a child, and Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode."
Sagan, a master at understatement, placed the record's import as such: "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."
Little did he know.
Suppose, for example, that Voyager soars far past the sun's magnetic field and the outbound currents of the solar wind. Imagine that an extraterrestrial discovers Sagan's hopeful sign and that the creature plays the record, perhaps sharing it with extraterrestrial friends via some inconceivable mode of psychic transmission. Or let's say it shares the sounds of Earth with a wide swath of its advanced spacefaring civilization. What might happen if, in sharing, a psychic copy is rendered? Well, it might run into trouble -- playing "Johnny B. Goode" especially -- because the American industry built around the hopeful sign might take a dim view of the extraterrestrial's failure to pay royalties.
- _Loving And Leaving The Phonograph_ by Alec Hanley Bemis - _L.A. Weekly_ article September 15-21, 2000