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Fall 2021

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New in the Harvard Gazette
NASA’s Mixtape for Extraterrestrial Civilizations

In this recent Q&A the Harvard Gazette interviews Alexander Rehding about Alien Listening: Voyager’s Golden Record and Music from Earth, which he co-authored with Daniel K.L. Chua. Click here to learn more about the book. Click here to read the full interview. An excerpt appears below:

“We talk about representation and music, identity and national identity, because there are historical, geographic, and stylistic differences that are observed on the record. But of course, as soon as you leave Earth’s orbit, all these differences fall away, because there’s no guidance given on where the different kinds of music come from, what function they fulfill, or what historical period they come from. It just becomes blended into music from Earth — Earth music — as opposed to any other music that might exist out there. It’s the fact that we, as a planet, make music that makes the Golden Record special.

The important message is that the people who created the Golden Record really believed in the power of music to communicate, and I love that ambition, the loftiness, and a little bit of craziness that goes into it. I think it’s a question that we should also ask ourselves: How can we use music for communication, especially for communication with someone we don’t know at all? Music has a lot to offer. We have long known that, but we’re still grappling with what exactly that means. I think the Golden Record has a lot to show us in that respect.”