voyager golden record

In class on May 13, we will have a seminar-style discussion about launching music into space. In a seminar discussion, you (the class) are the generators of the discussion.  A loosely-structured seminar discussion is the typical format of upper-level undergraduate courses as well as all graduate work (masters and doctoral level). The point of a seminar discussion is precisely that: to discuss. In the process of discussing, you are forced to clarify what you think by articulating your ideas in a clear and persuasive manner, and at the same time you learn from the wide array of perspectives and experiences that your peers bring into the conversation. The discussion may organically move to unexpected topics, but the main takeaway from a learning experience like this one is that all of your knowledge and resources are related; there is no such thing as a separation of academic subjects when you really approach a topic critically. Your familiarity with the assigned material, your own initiative in doing additional research, and your engagement with each other is what will make for an effective and enjoyable class.

Your task:

  1. Read the post below, listen to as much of the music as possible (listen multiple times, take notes, reflect on it — in other words, do what we do in class on your own).
  2. Refer to notes you’ve taken in class over the course of the semester and past PowerPoint slides to make sure you’re correctly understanding as many concepts as possible. Read additional sources as necessary to ensure that you know what you’re talking about with this topic.
  3. Prepare thoughts, questions, and ideas that you have about the notion of launching music into space. These can approach the topic from any and all angles — make use of the various brainstorming methods we’ve undertaken in class.
  4. Be ready to have a rich, engaging, and involved discussion with each other as an entire class about the Voyager spacecraft. Ask each other questions. Offer comments. Respond to each other. I will not participate in this discussion.


This extra credit assignment is worth up to 7 points on your final average. The better your contributions to the class discussion, the more points you will earn. If you are late, the maximum number of points you can earn will be proportional to the amount of the discussion you miss; if you miss half of the discussion, you can only earn up to 3.5 points; if you miss a third of the discussion, you can only earn up to 4.9 points; etc. If you do not participate, do not contribute to the assigned topic, or are absent, you will earn 0 points; this extra credit assignment will not negatively affect your grade.

You will be graded on the amount and quality of your contributions to the class discussion; ideally the answers to all of the following questions will be “Yes”:

  • Are you prepared for the discussion? Have you listened to the assigned music? Have you done additional reading (as necessary) that allows you to have a reasonable baseline of knowledge about the topic?
  • Are you contributing to the class discussion in a meaningful way? Are you offering new insight that no one else has adding? Are your contributions compelling and interesting rather than vague, superficial, or cliche? Are you building upon what other people have said rather than ignoring them?
  • Are you demonstrating knowledge of the course material, technical vocabulary, and drawing from past discussions we’ve held in class?

I look forward to being a fly on the wall for your discussion!

-Dr. J.


The Voyager spacecrafts were launched in 1977 and have traveled beyond the edges of our solar system, carrying information about life on Earth. Both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 contained a phonograph record of sounds and music selected by a committee chaired by Carl Sagan. The phonograph is nicknamed “The Golden Record.”

The recordings include the greetings in 55 languages; sounds of ocean surf, wind, thunder, footsteps, laughter, trains, and animal noises; and 90 minutes of music.

The plaque which is attached to the spacecraft includes a message from President Jimmy Carter:

This is a present from a small, distant world, a token of our sounds, our science, our images, our music, our thoughts and our feelings. We are attempting to survive our time so we may live into yours.


Sample of recordings included in the Golden Record (in the order they appear)

The entire list of music (27 recordings) included on the spacecraft is available here: 

Johann Sebastian Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, in F Major, BWV 1047, I. Allegro (1718)


Mangkunegara IV, Puspawarna (Kinds of Flowers) [Indonesia; gamelan ensemble]


Lorenzo Barcelata, “El Cascabel” (1941) [Mexico]


Chuck Berry, “Johnny B. Goode” (1958)


Tsuru no Sugomori (Nesting Cranes), performed by Yamaguchi Goro [Japan; shakuhachi]


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, “Die Holle Rache” from Die Zauberflote, K. 620 (1791)


Igor Stravinsky, “Sacrificial Dance” from The Rite of Spring (1913)


Johann Sebastian Bach, The Well-Tempered Clavier, book 1, Prelude and Fugue No. 1 in C Major (1722)


Ludwig van Beethoven, Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67, I. Allegro (1807-08)


Izlel ye Delyo Hajdutin [Bulgaria]


Blind Willie Johnson, “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground” (1927)


Ludwig van Beethoven, String Quartet No. 13 in B-flat Major, Op. 130, V. Cavatina: Adagio molto espressivo (1826)


Sample of images included on the spacecrafts





3 thoughts on “Extra Credit: Voyager (May 13)

  1. The images while vague would provide information about the character that we as humans are supposed to posses as a species and a culture. I believe that with both music and pictures we will be nothing more than introducing ourselves in the best light possible. They can find out the rest along the way.


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