Daniel K. L. Chua and Alexander Rehding, "Alien Listening: Voyager's Golden Record and Music from Earth" (Zone Book, 2021)


In 1977 NASA shot a mixtape into outer space, and it remains the only human-made object to have left the solar system. The Golden Record aboard the Voyager spacecrafts contained world music and sounds of Earth to represent humanity to any extraterrestrial civilizations. Alien Listening: Voyager's Golden Record and Music from Earth (Zone Books, 2021) ask big questions: Can music live up to its reputation as the universal language in communications with the unknown? How do we fit all of human culture into a time capsule that will barrel through space for tens of thousands of years? And last but not least: Do aliens have ears?

In this conversation, we chat with the authors Daniel Chua, the Chair Professor of Music at the University of Hong Kong, and Alex Rehding, a Professor of Music at Harvard University, and focus on the primacy of repetition and difference in music. Additionally, we discuss the underlying assumptions and exceptions humans have about music and the unknown alien listeners to the Golden Record. We also highlight the goal to establish and make accessible an Intergalactic Music Theory of Everything to turn everyone, no matter what their planet of origin is, into a music theorist. 

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Sarah Kearns

Sarah Gulliford (Kearns) (@annotated_sci) reads scholarship, science, and philosophy for NBN. she's currently composting ideas to write her own book one day.

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