The Voyager Golden Record (remastered)

The Voyager Golden RecordThis isn’t a typical music review, because it can’t be. There’s no single artist whose style can be latched onto and studied; it’s a various artists greatest hits from the breadth and depth of humanity. Perhaps it’s best treated as a historical document than a collection of music.

In 1977, with mere weeks to go before the launch of Voyager 2 (the first Voyager spacecraft to leave Earth), Carl Sagan, Jon Lomberg, Ann Druyan, Frank Drake, Linda Salzman, and Timothy Ferris won last-minute approval to assemble a kind of “time capsule” to attach to each Voyager. Copyright clearances had to be obtained, greetings had to be recorded, the whole thing had to be edited, mastered and pressed onto gold-plated copper records, to be encased in aluminum covers attached to the spacecraft…all in a matter of weeks. Photographs are also encoded onto the records, and those too had to be selected, annotated, and cleared for copyright. It was really something of a shotgun wedding as far as putting a record together goes – and at numerous stages of its development, there were high-ranking NASA officials who made it clear that, as far as they were concerned, Sagan’s greatest hits record could stay on Earth with him. The Golden Record was a bear to put together, and it was a constant struggle to keep it on the flight manifest.

The rapid ramp-up from idea to execution, as well as the state of the art in 1977, means that there’s some unavoidable tape hiss from the original recording media. Ozma Records has done a marvelous job of cleaning everything up as far as sound quality, but sometimes you can’t overcome the limitations of the original medium. The track list is exactly as it was on the LP attached to the Voyager spacecraft (which, as a result of being mastered at a lower speed than 33 1/3, could hold more information).

If you spring for the physical package of either vinyl records or CDs, a book is included with the complete selection of photos included on the original records, as well as essays and memoirs from those involved with the Golden Record who are still with us. I backed the initial Kickstarter for the project, but only up to the digital download level due to budgetary concerns on my end; I’m seriously considering circling back around and buying the Golden Record compilation a second time just for the book.

If there’s a feeling one gets from listening to this message-in-a-bottle thrown through the outer solar system and right through the heliosphere, it’s one of feeling humbled. The wide variety of life and experiences on Earth is mind boggling, and some of the sequencing is canny – the launch of a Saturn V rocket followed by the cries of a human baby. We’re still in our infancy, pushing our way into the universe by brute force, and still trying to figure out how we can survive a journey to another planet within our solar system. The Voyagers are going further – one of the Golden Records has already left the solar system, never to return – bearing a snapshot of our hopes and dreams circa the summer of 1977.

And in the troubled summer of 2017, maybe we need to revisit those hopes and dreams too.

This title is not being given a rating due to its unique nature.

Order this CD

  1. Greetings from the Secretary General of the United Nations – Kurt Waldheim (0:43)
  2. Greetings in 55 languages (3:46)
  3. United Nations greetings / Whalesong (4:04)
  4. The Sounds of Earth (12:18)
    • Music of the Spheres by Laurie Spiegel
    • Volcanoes
    • Earthquake
    • Thunder
    • Mud Pots
    • Wind
    • Rain
    • Surf
    • Crickets
    • Frogs
    • Birds
    • Hyena
    • Elephant
    • Chimpanzee
    • Wild Dog
    • Footsteps
    • Heartbeat
    • Laughter
    • Fire
    • Speech
    • The First Tools
    • Tame Dog
    • Herding Sheep
    • Blacksmith
    • Sawing
    • Tractor
    • Riveter
    • Morse Code
    • Ships
    • Horse and Cart
    • Train
    • Tractor
    • Bus
    • Auto
    • F-111 Flyby
    • Saturn 5 Lift-off
    • Kiss
    • Mother and Child
    • Life Signs
    • Pulsar

  5. Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F Major, BWV 1047: I. Allegro – Munich Bach Orchestra/Karl Richter (4:44)
  6. Ketawang: Puspåwårnå (Kinds of Flowers) – Pura Paku Alaman Palace Orchestra/K.R.T. Wasitodipuro (4:47)
  7. Cengunmé – Mahi musicians of Benin (2:11)
  8. Alima Song – Mbuti of the Ituri Rainforest (1:01)
  9. Barnumbirr (Morning Star) and Moikoi Song – Tom Djawa, Mudpo, and Waliparu (1:29)
  10. El Cascabel (Lorenzo Barcelata) – Antonio Maciel and Los Aguilillas with Mariachi México de Pepe Villa/Rafael Carrión (3:20)
  11. Johnny B. Goode – Chuck Berry (2:41)
  12. Mariuamang? – Pranis Pandang and Kumbui of the Nyaura Clan (1:25)
  13. Sokaku-Reibo (Depicting the Cranes in Their Nest) – Goro Yamaguchi (5:04)
  14. Bach: Partita for Violin Solo No. 3 in E Major, BWV 1006: III. Gavotte en Rondeau – Arthur Grumiaux (2:58)
  15. Mozart: The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte), K. 620, Act II: Hell’s Vengeance Boils in My Heart – Bavarian State Opera Orchestra and Chorus/Wolfgang Sawallisch (3:00)
  16. Chakrulo – Georgian State Merited Ensemble of Folk Song and Dance/Anzor Kavsadze (2:21)
  17. Roncadoras and Drums – Musicians from Ancash (0:55)
  18. Melancholy Blues – Louis Armstrong and His Hot Seven (3:06)
  19. Mu?am – Kamil Jalilov (2:35)
  20. Igor Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring (Le Sacre du Printemps), Part II—The Sacrifice: VI. Sacrificial Dance (The Chosen One) – Columbia Symphony Orchestra/Igor Stravinsky (4:38)
  21. Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II: Prelude & Fugue No. 1 in C Major, BWV 870 – Glenn Gould (4:51)
  22. Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Opus 67: I. Allegro Con Brio – Philharmonia Orchestra/Otto Klemperer (4:38)
  23. Izlel e Delyu Haydutin – Valya Balkanska (5:04)
  24. Navajo Night Chant, Yeibichai Dance (Ambrose Roan Horse, Chester Roan, and Tom Roan (1:01)
  25. Anthony Holborne: The Fairie Round – Early Music Consort of London/David Munrow (1:19)
  26. Naranaratana Kookokoo (The Cry of the Megapode Bird) – Maniasinimae and Taumaetarau Chieftain Tribe of Oloha and Palasu’u Village Community (1:15)
  27. Wedding Song – Young girl of Huancavelica (0:42)
  28. Liu Shui (Flowing Streams) – Guan Pinghu (7:36)
  29. Bhairavi: Jaat Kahan Ho – Kesarbai Kerkar (3:34)
  30. Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground – Blind Willie Johnson (3:32)
  31. Beethoven:String Quartet No. 13 in B-flat Major, Opus 130: V. Cavatina – Budapest String Quartet (6:41)

Released by: Ozma Records
Release date: 2017
Total running time: 1:51:04

The Woman Astronaut – music by Penka Kouvena

The Woman AstronautFrom the mind of big-league orchestrator/arranger Penka Kouvena, whose work can be heard in the Gears Of War game series and the soundtracks of such movies as Ender’s Game, Angels And Demons, and Elysium, The Woman Astronaut is a very modern soundtrack without a movie. With no visuals to adhere to and no game whose moods must be matched, it’s pure musical expression, and rather autobiographical at that (her liner notes state that this is really her story: there are fewer female composers actively working in Hollywood than there have been female astronauts in orbit).

By weaving her music around the framework of the ambitions, struggles and triumphs of a fictional female astronaut, there’s a “space” sound that makes this fitting accompaniment to that journey. And it’s awesome, widescreen stuff – there are some big-name soloists and a full orchestra, thanks to a Kickstarter campaign backed by fans, Twitter followers, and even fellow composers, among them Lolita Ritmanis (Batman: The 4 out of 4Animated Series). Any movie would do well to have such a soundtrack, and something tells me we’ll be seeing Kounevic credited as a composer, not just an orchestrator, in the future. So here’s an idea: let’s find a project worthy of Penka Kouvena’s talents and her message. Is that Honor Harrington movie adaptation still a go? Because here’s a completed soundtrack practically waiting for the movie to happen.

Order this CD

  1. Earth (4:51)
  2. Starry Way (3:$8)
  3. The Forest (2:45)
  4. Land Of Burning Fields (2:10)
  5. Looking Up (2:36)
  6. Training (3:53)
  7. Broken (1:57)
  8. Taking Flight (5:12)
  9. Alarm And Rescue (2:18)
  10. In Space (4:06)
  11. Insomnia (3:43)
  12. Siren (3:20)
  13. Goodbyes In Zero Gravity (3:12)
  14. Solar Flare (4:17)

Released by: Varese Sarabande
Release date: July 10, 2015
Total running time: 48:08

Doctor Who: The Rapture – music by Jim Mortimore

Doctor Who: The RaptureIn 2002, Big Finish Productions released The Rapture, a Doctor Who audio play which had the distinction of being the first professionally-published work by one Joe Lidster (who went on to do more for Big Finish before being snatched up by the BBC itself), and of being one of the most controversial things the company had produced up to that point. Plucking the seventh Doctor and Ace out of tea time TV and dropping them into a storyline at an all-week rave complete with sex and drugs was too much for some fans’ tender sensibilities. And The Rapture had some awesome music – real club music, not some soundtrack-composer-for-hire’s second-hand impression of real EDM. Composer Jim Mortimore, in addition to having written Doctor Who novels and audio stories in the past, had also enjoyed a second career, playing live music at raves through much of the 1990s. To say that The Rapture‘s music is merely authentic is probably underselling it. It’s the real deal.

In 2012, via Bandcamp, Mortimore released three CDs’ worth of music from an audio story (whose narrative running time was only enough to take up two CDs). Drawing from his ’90s recordings as well as concocting an entire CD worth of new music, and bringing collaborators Jane Elphinstone and Simon Robinson on board, Mortimore presented Big Finish with a series of pieces that would be excerpted as needed for The Rapture, with some music heard only briefly in the background mix at the story’s titular nightclub and with other pieces – the specially composed ones – more prominently placed in the foreground. A few Rapture tracks had previously been presented on a Big Finish soundtrack CD in the past, but were savagely edited down to two and three minute running lengths: most of the tracks in their original form run close to eight minutes long, and are better for it, with the melodies developing a bit more naturally. Tracks such as “Over Me” show much deeper layers and arrangements than the edited-down versions hinted at.

The “A Side” covers all of the music composed expressly for The Rapture, while the “B Side” tracks are the full-length tracks Mortimore presented from his ’90s work for inclusion in the background of several scenes. (Again, the average length is about eight minutes; most of the excerpts of these pieces in the finished audio play could be measured in seconds or maybe as many as a couple of minutes.) The “E Side” consists of downtempo tracks, one of them quite lengthy; whether the “E” is for “epic”, “ecstasy”, or “etheral” is up for you to decide.

4 out of 4Many times over the years I’ve dragged out that Big Finish soundtrack and its woefully truncated soundtrack for The Rapture because it’s ridiculously good music by which to write. Color me “E” for “elated” that the full tracks – and more of them – are now available. And gloriously, “Doctored Who” gives us the full-length rave remix of Delia Derbyshire’s Doctor Who theme. Whether or not the story of The Rapture is worth the listening time is something that’s still hotly debated in Doctor Who fan circles, but its soundtrack is undoubtedly worth the listening time for audiences far beyond Doctor Who fandom.

Order

    “Side A”

  1. Over Me (7:02)
  2. On The Beach (6:01)
  3. Rebirth (7:46)
  4. Brook Of Eden (8:07)
  5. Freestyle (6:34)
  6. Sorted (6:31)
  7. Jude’s Law (9:09)
  8. Pink Pulloff (4:52)
  9. Music Of The Spheres (6:10)
  10. Gloves Off (3:40)
  11. Doctored Who (2:10)
  12. “Side B”

  13. Kanhra (8:18)
  14. Udu (8:08)
  15. Uracas (8:16)
  16. Xanthulu (7:17)
  17. Mahser Dagi (8:07)
  18. “Side E”

  19. Sven’s Wrath (3:39)
  20. Radio Beach (5:32)
  21. Ice Floes At Twilight (35:20)
  22. Phases Of The Moon (3:58)

Released by: Jim Mortimore via BandCamp
Release date: October 28, 2012
Total running time: 2:36:37