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19 June 2012

eine kleine Krellmusik

Click image to enlarge.

The image on the Voyager robot space probes. (NASA after a design by Carl Sagan.)
The NASA robot probe Voyager 1 has recently flown beyond the Heliosphere -- the region of space affected by solar radiation and electromagnetic influence. Voyager 2 is not far behind.

In Small Words, a robot device designed on Earth has, for the first time, left our Solar System and is now sailing through interstellar space. Next stop (if we're lucky) will be another star.

(Our nearest non-Sol star is Barnard's Star, which Wikipedia describes as a "very low-mass red dwarf star about 6 light-years away from Earth in the constellation of Ophiuchus, the Snake-holder." i,e,, it takes light or radio or other emf signals 6 years to make the one-way trip from here to Barnard's Star.)

What surprises we have for the lucky extraterrestrial intelligence which pops the hood on our real old Voyager probes!

They're powered by lumps of plutonium, so 35 years after NASA launched thrm, they're still generating sufficient electrical power (directly from radioactive heat) to perceive their surroundings and send data back. We're still getting information from the Voyagers.

But even after the plutonium fizzles out, the Voyagers contain marvelous goodies for the first
"thinkies" to find them.

Using gold CDs, because gold never rusts or degrades, first there's a wonderful visual image that explains tons of important information about Planet Earth and Homo sapiens. A man and a woman, and their secondary sexual characteristics, and a measuring stick to show our height are shown -- crude mugshots of what our sentient neighbors could expect if they visited and asked to meet the species which runs things around here.

There's chemical information which isn't hard to comprehend. It shows Earth life is mostly composed of Oxygen, Nitrogen, Carbon and Hydrogen.

There's astrogational information to show which planet we're on, and where our Solar System is in the Milky Way Galaxy.

But the really cool stuff isn't in the image. It's in the CD's audio tracks: Earth sounds, Earth noises, and our Human Music.

Kurt Waldheim says Hi and Peace on behalf of the United Nations.

But then the music starts.

To my fellow Kult Members on the yahoogroup f_minor, the No. 1 with a Bullet tracks are the deceased Canadian pianist Glenn Gould playing a section of the Well-Tempered Klavier by Johann Sebastian Bach.

This is Earth's first entry in the Milky Way Music Competition.

Which brings up another amazing space news story. After 10 years of supercomputer analysis, NASA just announced it has finally translated the first Intelligent radio message we have ever received. It says

(I love that old joke, I'm sorry, I can't stop telling it.)

Yes indeed, if the Sentients play the gold CD (instructions for playing the CD are engraved on the disk), they also get Chuck Berry banging out "Maybelline."

Why can't you be true
Oh Maybelline
Why can't you be true
You been goin' around doing the things you used to do

We KNOW, with absolute certainty, that every sentient civilization in the universe will, eventually, stumble on the truths of mathematics, the same ones that caused all of us so much heartache and woe (because there's a suprise quiz Tuesday morning) from arithmetic to differential equations.

But only Earthies got Chuck Berry. Only Earthies got Johann Sebastian Bach. Only Earthies had Glenn Gould to play him sublimely, and to play Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart so wrong-headedly and at such a krazy-klown tempo. (I think GG plays Mozart ethereally, but I'm in the minority.)

They will crank up the Voyager CDs and hear music they'd never imagined existed before.

Hope they enjoy it. Hope we win the Milky Way Music Prize!

What are the other music entries in the Galactic Competition?

Well, okay, I don't have a lot of Non-Earth Music to play for you.

But I have a little.

Here's some music from the ancient long-vanished Krell civilization from Planet Altair 4.

We don't know what they looked like, they left no family photos on the walls, but because of the characteristic shape of their doorways, we deduce they were Large and Triangular.

We have lots of evidence that they were Real Smart -- a hell of a lot smarter than we human knuckledraggers. Most of their underground facilities are still there to explore, and they're still powered up, and they still work. (The Krell machines automatically diagnose and repair themselves.)

We don't know why they vanished. Whatever the cause, it was sudden, essentially overnight. And they were gone forever. But they left some of their recorded music behind.

Click HERE and HERE, and you can hear it. It was first heard on Earth in 1956. If you'd like to text a vote for The Krell Songs, or just write a thoughtful review of Krell Music, Leave A Comment.

1 comment:

Landscape Windscreen said...

What surprises me is that this stuff still sounds as avant-garde as it must have back then.
Y’ all see (smartass alarm !), back then synthesizers were almost not in existance, the first commercially available synths would come a decade later with the first Moog Modular Synths. They were bulky, heavy, massive and bloody expensive buggers that were difficult to tune and Glenn Gould actually declared one of the first LPs recorded on such a Moog Modular in the late 60s to be one of his favourites at the time (Switched-On Bach by Walter/Wendy Carlos). Then people like Tangerine Dream, Florian Fricke (Popol Vuh) or Kraftwerk bought these synths and the rest is history as they say. And I would not be listening to or making electronic music.

The people who dabbled in “electronic” music back in the 50s were far and few and they were all avant-garde artists such as Pierre Scheffer and his sonic experiments, the first recording of the theme song to Dr. Who or Karlheinz Stockhausen with Der Gesang Der J√ľnglinge. I have actually heard this piece. I have survived to live the tale......and if y’all ask Bob very nicely he will tell ye summet about John Cage. His estate still owes him 20 quid, hehe.

So it was quite risky for a big Hollywood studio to use this kind of music as the soundtrack to what they considered a potential blockbuster movie, let alone release the music on record. But it worked and it still works after 50 odd years.

While I am doing a smartall lecture on early electronic music, here is also one of the first recordings made with a “computer” back in the early 60s, an IBM 7090