Beyond the morning star: the real tale of Voyagers’ Aboriginal music

5

Earlier this year, NASA spacecraft Voyager 1 left our solar system after a 35-year journey, carrying with it a golden record containing sounds, images and music from Earth.

Its sister craft, Voyager 2, carries an identical record. The records were designed to encapsulate the aural heritage of Earth in 90 minutes – but some preliminary investigation, however, reveals that there a few inaccuracies in the official NASA documentation about the golden records.

When senior Aboriginal men Djawa, Mudpo and Waliparu gathered one night in 1962 on Milingimbi mission in Arnhem Land for a recording session with Australian anthropologist Sandra Le Brun Holmes, they little dreamt that their music would be heading to the stars on the famous spacecraft.

More than a decade later, American astronomer Carl Sagan put together a committee to discuss a “time capsule” for NASA’s Voyager interstellar mission, to be launched in 1977.

Astronomer Frank Drake suggested a record rather than a plaque, as was used on the earlier Pioneer 10 and 11, and suddenly, music was on the table.

The process of selecting this “world music” is described in Sagan’s book Murmurs of Earth. Many factors determined the final cut: the quality of the recording, cultural diversity, geographic and chronological range.

Written By: Alice Gorman
continue to source article at theconversation.com

5 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve sent this to a friend who worked with dot artists in the Northern Territory.

    Sadly, this is a typical tale of exploitation of artists, which reminds me of what shits some people are; usually wealthy shits who’ve become wealthy by being shittie.

    In my experience such people are pathetic and become more so the richer they get.

    • In reply to #1 by Stafford Gordon:

      I’ve sent this to a friend who worked with dot artists in the Northern Territory.

      Sadly, this is a typical tale of exploitation of artists, which reminds me of what shits some people are; usually wealthy shits who’ve become wealthy by being shittie.

      In my experience such people are pathetic and be…

      Who is shitty here? The anthropologist who sought to record and write about aboriginal people when most people in this country thought of them as vermin? Sagan who wanted to represent as many cultures on Earth as he could and send it in a message to the stars? How is this exploitation?

      I’ve seen first hand exploitation of Aboriginal Artists, people taking photos in art galleries of sacred painting and knocking off screen prints to sell at tourist shops. How does this compare? I agree often these things are done with a lack of sensitivity. Likely the anthropologist made the recordings wrote some academic papers and had the recording stored in some archive. Sagan and his team would have scoured the world for suitable recordings they would have only been able to take the word of whom ever provided the recording who made it etc. It isn’t like Sagan made millions selling singles off it, it’s clear from his writing this exercise was one of supreme reverence to him and all involved. There is no conspiracy. Anyone reading his books would be unlikely to conclude that he had anything but respect for the Aboriginal people.

      Most of aboriginal culture has gone, ripped away from Aboriginal people through a series of catastrophes that still resound today in most aboriginals. This piece of culture (misnamed or not) will probably outlast the very last of the shitty exploitations of our entire species. I hope they are proud to be represented as one human voice among many. Lets not multiply their enemies for them.

  2. Aboriginal men…little dreamt that their music would head towards the stars…

    Did the original recordings inspire the music/campfire scene in ‘The Right Stuff’? It really struck a chord with me; after the movie’s release, certain novelty shops (u.s.) sold didgeridoos for a while. I perceive the inclusion of Aborigine music as a sincere homage, not exploitive.

    Wonder if the music selection would be the same if the Golden Record was cut today.

Leave a Reply