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Spring 2024


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New at The Slowdown
Why Aliens Could Be Able to Listen to NASA’s Golden Record—Even If They Don’t Have Ears

In a recent interview with The Slowdown Daniel Chua and Alexander Rehding discuss their new book, Alien Listening: Voyager’s Golden Record and Music from Earth. Click here to learn more about the book. Click here to read the full interview. An excerpt appears below:

“THE SLOWDOWN: Sending a record into space for aliens to hear suggests that music can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of their place in time or space. What is the value of thinking about music in that way, as opposed to the convoluted ways that traditional musical theory approaches the subject?

CHUA: Every culture has music. So the fact that music theory is typically an incomprehensible and exclusive activity is not society’s problem, but the problem of music theorists. This book gets back to basics, jettisons jargon, thinks laterally, and makes the case that music is not difficult to understand.

REHDING: Music theory is interested in the question of how we listen to music. But often, it’s too wrapped up in the things that it’s been doing forever, and doesn’t seem to find a way out. We used the Golden Record as an extreme listening situation to take an outside perspective, quite literally, on what music theory does. The aliens are our avatars here: What would a music theory need to look like if it cannot count on any prior knowledge of anything—of music, of styles and genres, of cultural differences, of human ears? What remains is time, pure and simple. And that’s our starting point for a very different kind of music theory.”