A Day Full of Wonderful Music!

This morning I took a trip to my old hometown of Rochester and made my routine pilgrimage to my favorite record store – The Bop Shop. The owner, Tom put a record in my hands and told me that I had to own it.

Tom has always been a wonderful source for musique concrete, minimalist works, early experimental electronic recordings and other lovely treasures of the avant-garde. Many of my favorite LPs are original pressings from his personal collection.

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The LP he held was John Cage • Christian Wolff, a 1963 album featuring Cage’s side-long “Cartridge Music” – one of Cage’s earliest attempts to produce live electronic music by manipulating turntable cartridges. I’ve known Tom for years and he has never steered me wrong and this latest LP is no exception. Wonderful stuff!

I also spotted a box set in his shop which I snatched up without hesitation. Readers may recall my copy of Cyril Ritchard reading Alice in Wonderland which included a facsimile clothbound hardcover copy of the 1865 first edition with all of the original illustrations. Today in store, I discovered that Ritchard had produced a reading of Through the Looking Glass as well! And it too included a copy of the 1872 hardcover. How could I pass it up?

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Upon returning home I was struck by a recollection that a Kickstarter project had been initiated for a first-ever “Earthling Edition” of the historic Voyager Golden Record, (our message to the stars). As the Kickstarter page describes:

The Voyager Golden Record contains the story of Earth expressed in sounds, images, and science: Earth’s greatest music from myriad cultures and eras, from Bach and Beethoven to Blind Willie Johnson and Chuck Berry, Senegalese percussion to Solomon Island panpipes. Dozens of natural sounds of our planet — birds, a train, a baby’s cry — are collaged into a lovely audio poem called Sounds of Earth. There are spoken greetings in 55 human languages, and one whale language, and more than one hundred images encoded in analog that depict who, and what, we are.

The closest I’d come to the Voyager disc was the limited edition “A Glorious Dawn” single from Third Man Records. The single was composed and performed by Symphony of Science and credited to an auto-tuned Carl Sagan singing about the magnificence of the universe. And etched upon the second side of the disc is the image of the Golden Record.

carl-sagan-a-glorious-dawn-by-symphony-of-science-single-sided-7%22-reverse-etched-with-the-image-of-the-voyager-golden-record

As a tremendous fan of Carl Sagan’s work and his legacy, and as a “cultural curator” of historically significant recordings, this anniversary Voyager project was something I knew I had to support, and to claim a copy for my library if at all possible.

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The beautiful box set is being remastered by Timothy Ferris – the original producer of the Golden Record, and will include:

  • A cloth-covered box with gold foil inlay
  • Three translucent gold, heavyweight vinyl LPs in poly-lined paper sleeves
  • Three old-style tip-on jackets, black ink and gold foil
  • A hardback book showcasing the photographs and art featured on the original disc
  • A lithograph of Voyager Golden Record cover diagram, gold metallic ink on archival paper
  • A full-color plastic digital download card for all audio of the record in MP3 or FLAC

What a wonderful way to celebrate our message to space!

And it turned out that my hunch was aptly timed, as I found there were only five days remaining in the Kickstarter campaign, and pledging to the project is the only way to claim a copy of this special release! I pledged immediately and look forward to the album’s launch in 2017.

Check out the short official video for the project and pledge while you still can!

Space Music (Literally)

If you had to sum up what Earth is like, what would you say?

“Sounds of the Earth” – The Voyager Golden Record was Earth’s message to the stars in 1977.  It recently exited our solar system in September of 2013 with the Voyager I space probe, and carries greetings in 55 languages, and sounds ranging from a child’s laughter, to whales singing, to a Brandenburg Concerto and Blind Willie Johnson playing the blues.

Voyager Golden Record

Sadly, only two copies were pressed, and each affixed to the Voyager I and II.  In fact, the copyright owners for the images and music on the actual record signed agreements which only permitted the replay of their works outside of the solar system.

Fortunately for we Earthlings, CD copies of the images and recordings of the Voyager Golden Record were included with Murmurs of Earth – a deluxe hardcover book detailing the contents of the historic LP.  Warner New Media would eventually release a CD-ROM version of the album in 1992.  And thankfully, each of these releases surface with some regularity on Amazon and eBay.

Murmurs of Earth Hardcover
Here is the complete LP:

But to take space music one step further – in 1993, Brain/Mind Research and LaserLight Digital ‎released a 5-disc set titled, Symphonies of the Planets.  These recordings were based on electromagnetic data of the outer Solar System, as recorded by instruments on board the Voyager I and II.

Symphonies of the Planets

The result is over two and a half hours of low-end drone frequencies.  Wonderful study-music and a great way to make your listening room feel ten times its actual size.

Disc One of Five:

And what entry on the subject of Space Music would be complete without the soundtrack to Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: A Personal Voyage?

The Music of Cosmos
The Music of Cosmos (1981 LP)

This will forever be the sound I associate with space, and I’m sure the same goes for the millions of others who grew up watching Sagan’s Personal Voyage.  More than any Tangerine Dream album, more than  Tomita’s reimagining of  Debussy’s work on the Snowflakes Are Dancing LP, and more than any Fax/Namlook/Schulze record… the Cosmos soundtrack is an album for the ages.

But on to the present day, the space music that everyone is talking about today is Alan Silverstri’s score to the new Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.

Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey
Here is a track from Vol 1 of 4, now available on iTunes.  Silverstri is known for his work conducting and composing film scores, such as the memorable soundtracks for the Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Forrest Gump,  but perhaps most importantly it was his score to Carl Sagan’s Contact film from 1997 that made him the ideal composer for this, the latest project made in Carl Sagan’s memory.

We’re crossing our fingers for a 4LP box set when the series completes.