Bach wrote music for all time,
And now, all of space.
Bach traveled on foot
Over two hundred miles to
Hear great music, learn.
Now his music flies
Beyond the sun’s reach, into
This week NASA is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the launch of the Voyager 1 spacecraft. When Voyager 1 and 2 were launched, each carried a golden record containing images and the sounds of Earth. Along with greetings in over 50 human languages, whale song, and sounds of nature, there was a selection of the world’s music, including classical music.
One of the spacecraft has now left our solar system and is in interstellar space; the other will be there soon. And as they travel through the dark and empty space between the stars, our “silent ambassadors”1 carry the story of who we are. Here are the classical selections chosen for the record:
Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F. First Movement, performed by the Munich Bach Orchestra, Karl Richter, conductor.
Bach, “Gavotte en rondeaux” from Partita No. 3 in E major for violin, performed by Arthur Grumiaux
Bach, The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2, Prelude and Fugue in C, No. 1, performed by Glenn Gould, piano.
Beethoven, Fifth Symphony, First Movement, performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra, Otto Klemperer, conductor.
Beethoven, String Quartet No. 13 in B flat, Opus 130, Cavatina, performed by the Budapest String Quartet (read more about the Cavatina here).
Holborne, “The Fairie Round”, performed by David Munrow and the Early Music Consort of London.
Mozart, The Magic Flute, Queen of the Night aria, No. 14, performed by Edda Moser, soprano and the Bavarian State Opera, Munich, Wolfgang Sawallisch, conductor.
Stravinsky, Rite of Spring, Sacrificial Dance, performed by the Columbia Symphony Orchestra, Igor Stravinsky, conductor.
Bach walked 250 miles to hear the music of Dieterich Buxtehude and learn from him. The Voyager spacecraft are now 10-12 billion miles from Earth and are outward bound at around 40,000 miles per hour. They’re still sending back fascinating and valuable data. Like Bach, they have traveled a long way in the pursuit of knowledge. And the results have been glorious.
What music would you select to represent all of us?
Image attribution: Like the image? Download it (and more) for free at https://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/downloads/
Image of Saturn courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech. https://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/galleries/images-voyager-took/saturn/.