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New Record: 40 Years of Changing Contents on the Voyager Golden Record

Today, August 20, marks 40 years since the first of the Voyager spacecrafts, Voyager 2, was launched into space along with a copy of the Golden Record. In a much lesser achievement, it's been almost a year since The Establishment published my piece that called out the 40th Anniversary vinyl release of the record by Ozma Records. My problem with that project was that it appeared that the errors attributing the indigenous and folk artist performances on the Golden Record were not going to be fixed. Now that the record is about to be shipped out to the backers, Ozma Records has released the full track-listing, and it looks like my vigilance paid off. These are the musical contents as they will be represented on the sleeve:

• "Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F Major, BWV 1047: I. Allegro (Johann Sebastian Bach)" (by Munich Bach Orchestra/Karl Richter)

• "Ketawang: Puspåwårnå (Kinds of Flowers)" (by Pura Paku Alaman Palace Orchestra/K.R.T. Wasitodipuro)

• "Cengunmé" (by Mahi musicians of Benin)

• "Alima Song" (by Mbuti of the Ituri Rainforest)

• "Barnumbirr (Morning Star) and Moikoi Song" (by Tom Djawa, Mudpo, and Waliparu)

• "El Cascabel (Lorenzo Barcelata)" (by Antonio Maciel and Los Aguilillas with Mariachi México de Pepe Villa/Rafael Carrión)

• "Johnny B. Goode" (by Chuck Berry)

• "Mariuamangɨ" (by Pranis Pandang and Kumbui of the Nyaura Clan)

• "Sokaku-Reibo (Depicting the Cranes in Their Nest)" (by Goro Yamaguchi)

• "Partita for Violin Solo No. 3 in E Major, BWV 1006: III. Gavotte en Rondeau (Johann Sebastian Bach)" (by Arthur Grumiaux)

• "The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte), K. 620, Act II: Hell’s Vengeance Boils in My Heart (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)" (by Bavarian State Opera Orchestra and Chorus/Wolfgang Sawallisch)

• "Chakrulo" (by Georgian State Merited Ensemble of Folk Song and Dance/Anzor Kavsadze)

• "Roncadoras and Drums" (by Musicians from Ancash)

• "Melancholy Blues (Marty Bloom/Walter Melrose)" (by Louis Armstrong and His Hot Seven)

• "Muğam" (by Kamil Jalilov)

• "The Rite of Spring (Le Sacre du Printemps), Part II—The Sacrifice: VI. Sacrificial Dance (The Chosen One) (Igor Stravinsky)" (by Columbia Symphony Orchestra/Igor Stravinsky)

• "The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II: Prelude & Fugue No. 1 in C Major, BWV 870 (Johann Sebastian Bach)" (by Glenn Gould)

• "Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Opus 67: I. Allegro Con Brio (Ludwig Van Beethoven)" (by Philharmonia Orchestra/Otto Klemperer)

• "Izlel e Delyu Haydutin" (by Valya Balkanska)

• "Navajo Night Chant, Yeibichai Dance" (Ambrose Roan Horse, Chester Roan, and Tom Roan)

• "The Fairie Round (Anthony Holborne)" (by Early Music Consort of London/David Munrow)

• "Naranaratana Kookokoo (The Cry of the Megapode Bird)" (by Maniasinimae and Taumaetarau Chieftain Tribe of Oloha and Palasu’u Village Community)

• "Wedding Song" (by Young girl of Huancavelica)

• "Liu Shui (Flowing Streams)" (by Guan Pinghu)

• "Bhairavi: Jaat Kahan Ho" (by Kesarbai Kerkar)

• "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground" (by Blind Willie Johnson)

• "String Quartet No. 13 in B-flat Major, Opus 130: V. Cavatina (Ludwig Van Beethoven)" (by Budapest String Quartet)

Compare that to the music tracks as they have been listed for the last 40 years* as listed at Discogs:

• Karl Richter Conducting The Munich Bach Orchestra*Brandenburg Concerto № 2 In F, First Movement, Conductor – Karl Richter, Written-By – J.S. Bach*

• Unknown Artist, Kinds Of Flowers (Java) Recorded By – Robert Brown

• Unknown Artist, Tchenhoukoumen (Senegal, Percussion) Recorded By – Charles Duvelle

• Unknown Artist, Pygmy Girls' Initiation Song (Zaire) Recorded By – Colin Turnbull*

• Unknown Artist, Morning Star And Devil Bird (Australian Aborigine Songs) Recorded By – Sandra LeBrun Holmes

• Lorenzo Barcelata And The Mariachi Mexico* El Cascabel (Mexico)

• Chuck Berry Johnny B. Goode Written-By – Chuck Berry

• Unknown Artist, Men's House Song (Papau New Guinea) Recorded By – Robert MacLennan

• Coro Yamaguchi* Cranes In Their Nest (Japan, Shakuhachi)

• Arthur Grumiaux Gavotte En Rondeaux From The Partita № 3 In E-Major For Violin

Composed By – J.S. Bach* Violin, Arthur Grumiaux

• Wolfgang Saivalish* Conducts The Bavarian State Opera, Munich* / Edda Moser, The Magic Flute, Queen Of The Night Aria, № 14, Composed By Mozart* Conductor – Wolfgang Saivalish *Soprano Vocals – Edda Moser

• Unknown Artist, Tchakrulo (Georgia, Chorus), Recorded By [Collected By] – Radio Moscow

• Unknown Artist, Panpipes And Drum Song (Peru) Recorded By – Jose Maria Arquedas*

• Louis Armstrong & His Hot Seven, Melancholy Blues

• Unknown Artist, Ugam (Azerbaijan Bagpipes) Recorded By [Collected By] – Radio Moscow

• Stravinsky* Conducts The Columbia Symphony Orchestra*, Rite Of Spring, Sacrificial Dance, Composed By – Stravinsky* Conductor – Stravinsky*

• Glenn Gould, The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2, Prelude And Fugue In C, № 1, Composed By – J.S. Bach* Piano – Glenn Gould

• Otto Klemperer Conducts The Philharmonia Orchestra*, Symphony № 5 In C-Minor, First Movement, Composed By – Beethoven* Conductor – Otto Klemperer

• Valya Balkanska, Izlel Je Delyo Hagdutin, Vocals [Sung By] – Valya Balkanska

• Navajo, Navajo Night Chant (United States) Recorded By – Willard Rhodes

• David Munrow And The Early Music Consort Of London, Fairie Round, From Paueans, Galliards, Almains And Other Short Aeirs, Composed By – Holborne*

• Unknown Artist, Melanesian Panpipes (Solomon Islands), Compiled By – The Solomon Islands Broadcasting Service*

• Unknown Artist, Wedding Song (Peru), Recorded By – John Cohen

• Kuan P'ing-Hu, Flowing Streams (China, Ch'in)

• Surshri Kesar Bai, KerkarJaat Kahan Ho (India, Raga), Vocals [Sung By] – Surshri Kesar Bai Kerkar

• Blind Willie Johnson, Dark Was The Night, Written-By – Blind Willie Johnson

• The Budapest String Quartet*, String Quartet № 13 In B-Flat, Opus 130, Cavatina, Composed By – Beethoven*

When I started to bring attention to this problem and do some of the research into identifying the musicians and song titles, I never imagined that the contents of the record would look as radically altered as they do now. Ozma Records has made a huge improvement on accurately portraying the musicians on the record. These songs are clearly creations by real people with faces and names and not just spontaneously generated culture objects, and they are going to survive longer than the Earth. Hopefully more of these musicians can be identified.

I don't expect to get any recognition from Ozma Records for prodding them on this, since I was so annoying about it. But with the set now also available for sale, I still can't bring myself to support it financially. Despite the work that was done to identify and correctly represent the contents of the record, that was the bare minimum Ozma Records could have done. It doesn't sit well with me to know that profits from the ongoing sale will not reach the performers who actually made those songs. I also have to question the commercialization of the 55 Greetings and the UN ambassador greetings—do any of those people get a share for their contributions? Do any of the future profits get donated to charity? (Last time 20% of the Kickstarter went to the Carl Sagan Institute at Cornell University, an institution that doesn't exactly strike me as hard up, but that's just me.)

I have the same feeling now that I had a year ago: that in pursuing this I somehow crossed the fourth wall—in the wrong direction—and entered into my own book. On another level, my relationship to the work feels entirely shifted now. So much of what I wrote in The Voyager Record was based on the incorrect information, it hardly feels like the same record at all. What was I even writing about?

I'm not the only person who must be feeling this right now. People have been finding things wrong with the Golden Record for years, and more continue to surface. There are folks out there who have tattoos of the pulsar map, and it turns out that thing is all wrong. And we can all feel ashamed about the worst revelation about the Voyager contents: the secret Nazi past of Kurt Waldheim, the first voice to be heard on the Golden Record. The people who worked on the record, and no one more so than Ann Druyan, have died the death of a thousand cuts over this project. But so what? Most of what I wanted for The Voyager Record was to convey an emotional experience: the experience of listening to the record, the experience of feeling all alone, the experience of loving something that is damaged and broken as humanity, as yourself. And feelings can be more complex than adoration. Who cares if the record is broken, the whole damn world is broken. Some where out there is a record created by real people with music and pictures and words on it that it is going to last longer than the Earth itself. Sometimes, if you get the right type of audio equipment, you can even get to listen to it.

*There were some minor changes made in the tracklisting when the songs were made commercially available with the Murmurs of Earth CD-Rom in 1994. That is the version showed here.

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