Programmed with earthly sounds like Beethoven’s fifth, Chuck Berry’s guitar and a baby’s cry, the two original copies of the Voyager Golden Record are, right now, flying through space, billions and billions of miles away. The discs were mounted to two NASA spacecraft, Voyager I and II, in 1977, and sent on an interstellar journey that its visionaries — including Carl Sagan — hope will end someday with their discovery by other intelligent (and curious) beings and help tell the story of our planet.
The Voyager Golden Record was packed with songs by Louis Armstrong and Blind Willie Johnson, along with popular music from Japan, Peru, India and other parts of the world. It also contained more than a hundred images, scientific knowledge, greetings in 55 languages and sounds ranging from a heartbeat to the chugging of a train.
Just how organizers crammed all that knowledge onto single discs is ingenious as well. The original was cut to be played at 16 2/3 revolutions per minute, making it possible for the material to fit, and the images were encoded in analog form. The cover of the record contained the diagram and scientific explanation on how to play it.
The project has always been a fascinating chapter in NASA history, but given the exclusivity of those records — considerably less accessible than that one-off Wu-Tang Clan album — few have had a chance to hear what its creators envisioned on vinyl. An ambitious new project to mark the upcoming 40th anniversary of the Voyager launches will change all that.
Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition is the brainchild of David Pescovitz, Timothy Daly and Lawrence Azerrad, and will mark the first public vinyl release of the Golden project. (The only other time the entire record was made public was in a 1992 CD-ROM, packaged with the book Murmurs of Earth. It’s long out of print, but can often be found on eBay.) The special box set is a year in the making and the subject of a just-launched Kickstarter by the trio to go towards the high production costs, licensing and creation of the reissue.
“The Voyager Golden Record was a testament to the power of science and art to ignite humanity’s sense of curiosity, delight, and wonder,” writes Pescovitz on the team’s Kickstarter page. “And that is the mindset with which we approached this project.”
The limited edition, cloth-covered box set will include three translucent gold vinyl LPs, a digital download card (MP3 and FLAC formats), a lithograph of the record cover’s how-to diagram and a hardbound book containing historical images, essays and photos taken on Voyager’s 40-year journey. “It is the ultimate album package of the ultimate album package,” organizers say. It is only available through Kickstarter (by donating $98 or more) and will be the debut release from a new record label called Ozma Records, co-founded by Pescovitz and Daly.
Timothy Ferris, the producer of the 1977 Golden Record, has signed on to help remaster the original audio for vinyl.
The Kickstarter project has already raised over $55,000 towards a goal of $198,000, with 29 days to go. Organizers say that if they hit the goal, they’ll donate 20 percent of their net proceeds to the Carl Sagan Institute: The Pale Blue Dot and Beyond at Cornell University.
Pescovitz tells Billboard that they’ve committed to delivering the box set in August 2017, in time for the 40th anniversary of Voyager I’s launch, but that they “may deliver sooner than that.”
See below for a full list of audio tracks from the Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition:
- Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F. First Movement, Munich Bach Orchestra, Karl Richter, conductor
- Java, court gamelan, “Kinds of Flowers,” recorded by Robert Brown
- Senegal, percussion, recorded by Charles Duvelle
- Zaire, Pygmy girls’ initiation song, recorded by Colin Turnbull
- Australia, Aborigine songs, “Morning Star” and “Devil Bird,” recorded by Sandra LeBrun Holmes
- Mexico, “El Cascabel,” performed by Lorenzo Barcelata and the Mariachi México
- “Johnny B. Goode,” written and performed by Chuck Berry
- New Guinea, men’s house song, recorded by Robert MacLennan
- Japan, Shakuhachi, “Tsuru No Sugomori” (“Crane’s Nest,”) performed by Goro Yamaguch
- Bach, “Gavotte en rondeaux” from the Partita No. 3 in E major for Violin, performed by Arthur Grumiaux
- Mozart, The Magic Flute, Queen of the Night aria, no. 14. Edda Moser, soprano. Bavarian State Opera, Munich, Wolfgang Sawallisch, conductor
- Georgian S.S.R., chorus, “Tchakrulo,” collected by Radio Moscow
- Peru, panpipes and drum, collected by Casa de la Cultura, Lima
- “Melancholy Blues,” performed by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Seven
- Azerbaijan S.S.R., bagpipes, recorded by Radio Moscow
- Stravinsky, Rite of Spring, Sacrificial Dance, Columbia Symphony Orchestra, Igor Stravinsky, conductor
- Bach, The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2, Prelude and Fugue in C, No.1. Glenn Gould, piano
- Beethoven, Fifth Symphony, First Movement, the Philharmonia Orchestra, Otto Klemperer, conductor
- Bulgaria, “Izlel je Delyo Hagdutin,” sung by Valya Balkanska
- Navajo Indians, Night Chant, recorded by Willard Rhodes
- Holborne, Paueans, Galliards, Almains and Other Short Aeirs, “The Fairie Round,” performed by David Munrow and the Early Music Consort of London
- Solomon Islands, panpipes, collected by the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Service
- Peru, wedding song, recorded by John Cohen
- China, ch’in, “Flowing Streams,” performed by Kuan P’ing-hu
- India, raga, “Jaat Kahan Ho,” sung by Surshri Kesar Bai Kerkar
- “Dark Was the Night,” written and performed by Blind Willie Johnson
- Beethoven, String Quartet No. 13 in B flat, Opus 130, Cavatina, performed by Budapest String Quartet
- Greetings from the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kurt Waldheim
- Greetings in 55 languages
- United Nations greetings
- Whale greetings
- The Sounds of Earth: “Music of the Spheres” by Laurie Spiegel, Volcanoes, Earthquake, Thunder, Mud Pots, Wind, Rain, Surf, Crickets, Frogs, Birds, Hyena, Elephant, Chimpanzee, Wild Dog, Footstepts, Heartbeat, Laughter, Fire, Speech, The First Tools, Tame Dog, Herding Sheep, Blacksmith, Sawing, Tractor, Riveter, Morse Code, Ships, Horse and Cart, Train, Tractor, Bus, Auto, F-111 Flyby, Saturn 5 Lift-off, Kiss, Mother and Child, Life Signs, Pulsar