Music For Aliens

Nathan Goldman at Bookforum:

For many people, the Golden Record was less a testament to belief in alien life than a gesture: humanity’s bold shout into the abyss. Indeed, facing criticism about the project, those behind it sometimes insisted it should be taken symbolically. Yet the care that went into the design of the records belies this dismissal. In a 2017 essay for the New Yorker, Timothy Ferris, one of the architects of the Golden Record, explained that the overrepresentation of Bach and Beethoven was meant to aid aliens in understanding the music, even if their hearing doesn’t resemble ours. “They’d look for symmetries—repetitions, inversions, mirror images, and other self-similarities—within or between compositions,” he hypothesized. “We sought to facilitate the process by proffering Bach, whose works are full of symmetry, and Beethoven, who championed Bach’s music and borrowed from it.” The careful curation—not to mention the bare bones of a turntable included with the records, along with a detailed diagram for its assembly—suggests that the Golden Record was not a lark, but a serious attempt to reach someone.

more here.