The Vinyl Frontier – The Story of the Voyager Golden Record by Jonathan Scott; Bloomsbury Publishing, Inc., New York, May 2019; hardcover: 288 pages, $28.00

As I write this, those long-gone NASA spacecraft, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 are respectively 13,475,095,569 miles and 11,175,244,034 miles from Earth.

Voyager 2 launched in August 1977, and Voyager 1 soon followed, launching in September 1977. Each spacecraft carries a copy of a “Golden Record” with a protective cover adorned with instructions for playing its contents. For all their supposed intellect, one gathers that aliens recovering the records need a helping hand.

The final playlist contains music written and performed by Bach, Beethoven, Glenn Gould, as well as Chuck Berry and Blind Willie Johnson. There’s music from China, India and more remote cultures. It also contained a message of peace from U.S. President Jimmy Carter. Each song, sound and picture that made the final cut onto the record has a story to tell.

And that story has been captured in a distinctive and fascinating book, written by Jonathan Scott, a music writer and self-confessed astronomy geek. Furthermore, if he’d been in charge of the Voyager Golden Record, he suggests that aliens would deduce that Earthkind was limited to three music chords.

This book tells the story of a team led by astronomers Carl Sagan to put together a record that would travel to the stars on the back of NASA’s Voyager probe. The Vinyl Frontier tells the whole story of how the record was created, nicely presented in a dozen chapters.

Team members for the effort included astronomer Frank Drake, father of the scientific Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), serving as technical director, writer and novelist Ann Druyan was the creative director, science journalist and author Timothy Ferris produced the record, and space artist Jon Lomberg was the designer, with artist Linda Salzman Sagan organizing the greetings.

“This is a story of the summer of 1977 – when science rubbed up against art to create a monument that will, in all probability, outlive us all,” the author explains in the book’s prologue.

The research done in writing this book is exceptional. For instance, how and why the Beatles missed the boat being on the record. “No Dylan. Elvis was discussed but discounted…even Jefferson Starship, who had offered their music for free, weren’t in the running,” Scott writes.

Thanks to the author, scads of little known nearly forgotten, behind-the-record stories are told in a splendid writing style. So many nuggets of information!

BTW: The book points to a YouTube video you’ll find worth a view at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibByF9XPAPg as well as an associated video at: https://boingboing.net/2017/09/05/how-to-decode-the-images-on-th.html

Also, in celebration of Voyager’s 40th anniversary, The Voyager Interstellar Record was made available on vinyl and can be purchased here:

https://ozmarecords.com/pages/voyager

For more information about The Vinyl Frontier: The Story of the Voyager Golden Record, go to:

https://www.bloomsbury.com/us/the-vinyl-frontier-9781472956132/

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