A music journalist offers his take on the making of an unusual record: the one recorded in 1977 by Carl Sagan and his team to launch into space with NASA's Voyager probe, which included a hotly contested selection of music, sounds, and pictures that would paint a picture of Earth for any future alien races that may come into contact with the probe.
The most intriguing stories are often found in the details, and this is the case for music writer Scott's engaging and conversational look at the creation of the gold-plated records that are still traveling throughout the universe on the two Voyager probes launched in 1977 ... Descriptions of the time and intellect devoted to the process of content selection, as well as the ingenious methods of data transfer used for the nonaudio components, are fascinating, but the personal tales behind this 'message to the stars' are just as enthralling. Sagan, the leading scientist behind the Voyager recordings, published his own account, Murmurs of the Earth, just after Voyager launched, but Scott has the benefit of a wider range of information and sources and an objective view of the process. This is also a very relatable and human way to approach deep space exploration.
Music writer and self-described astronomy geek Jonathan Scott is our cheerful tour guide on this mission, and The Vinyl Frontier is our comprehensive and comprehensible itinerary ... [a] brisk, estimable account ... Throughout this volume, Scott examines the debates and the choices and tells us how the members of this committee went out into the field (and actually once to a supermarket) to create the images they wanted [for the Golden Record].
... if you want the dirt, go with Mr. Scott. Admittedly, reading him feels a bit like getting caught in a meteor shower of anecdotes and gags, with cosmic debris rattling off your helmet like rimshots. At times the plot wobbles and characters fail to coalesce. Matters of classical music are sometimes mangled; as Mr. Scott proudly confesses, had he chosen the music for the golden record, aliens would think humankind had only three chords ... Mostly, though, he has done his homework. He has the nerd’s determination to track down details, to badger surviving protagonists with questions no one else has asked. Above all, he has a golden ear for irony. Far from second-guessing or lamenting the record’s imperfections, he revels in its pops, clicks, glitches and quirks.