In a recent article for Library Journal, Genevieve Williams reviews Alien Listening: Voyager’s Golden Record and Music from Earth by Daniel K.L. Chua and Alexander Rehding. Click here to learn more about the book. Click here to access Library Journal. The full review appears below:
“This ambitious work opens its inquiry into the nature and meaningof music from an unusual perspective: outer space. The Golden Record (a pair of phonographic records launched with the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes in 1977) becomes the launch pad for a study of music theory and music media that attempts to be truly universal. Chua (music, Univ. of Hong Kong) and Rehding (music,Harvard Univ.) are less interested in speculating about the natureof alien listeners than in examining how positing the very existencean alien listener calls into question assumptions about musictheory and music media. After all, what might a music theory looklike that owes nothing to Earth-bound cultural assumptions andexperiences? How might a being who might not even have earsreceive the medium of the Golden Record, to say nothing of theinstructions for getting it to produce sound? This intersection of music and science fiction results in soaring explorations into what a universal music theory might look like, deep dives into the experience of music as object through media, and musings on what music is.
VERDICT: Heady stuff, but engaging all the same. For scholars of music and science fiction, and perhaps for some general readers too.”