Melancholy Blues

“This is a present from a small, distant world, a token of our sounds, our science, our images, our music, our thoughts and our feelings. We are attempting to survive our time so we may live into yours.” Jimmy Carter, on the Voyager Golden Record

Forty years ago this week NASA launched the Voyager satellite to study the outer solar system and beyond. In 2012 it became the first human-made object to enter interstellar space traveling further than anyone, or anything, in history. 40,000 years from now, if it is still traveling, Voyager will pass within a light year or two of the star AC +79 3888 at which time it might fall into the hands (or tentacles, or something unimaginable) of alien creatures.

When and if it does, those creatures will be in possession of The Golden Record. The record contains 115 images of the solar system, humans, animals, plants, food, architecture, and scientific and mathematical properties. The record contains greetings in 55 languages (like Jimmy Carter’s), natural sounds, and the songs of birds and whales. It also contains one hour of recording of the brain waves of Ann Druyan as she thought about Earth’s history and civilizations, and about falling in love. 

The Golden Record also includes 90 minutes of music. There is Russian folk music, Navajo chanting, Peruvian panpipes, and the music of African and Australian tribes. Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Chuck Berry’s Johnny B Goode are on there as are works by Bach, Mozart, and Blind Willie Johnson. Carl Sagan wanted to include The Beatles’ Here Comes the Sunbut EMI, the owners of the copyright, refused. I guess they didn’t want those alien creatures horning in on their profits.

One of the songs included was Melancholy Blues by Louis Armstrong and His Hot Seven. It sums up life on our planet as well as anything can.

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