Virtual Event: Alexander Rehding and Daniel K.L. Chua
Voyager's Golden Record and Music from Earth
moderated by MELISSA FRANKLIN
November 16, 2021
8:00 PM ET
Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.
Free - $5 contribution suggested at registration
Harvard Book Store, the Harvard University Division of Science, and the Harvard Library welcome renowned musicologists ALEXANDER REHDING and DANIEL K.L. CHUA for a discussion of their co-authored book, Alien Listening: Voyager's Golden Record and Music from Earth. Their conversation will be moderated by MELISSA FRANKLIN, the Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics at Harvard University.
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While payment is not required, we are suggesting a $5 contribution to support this author series, our staff, and the future of Harvard Book Store—a locally owned, independently run Cambridge institution. In addition, by purchasing a copy of Alien Listening on harvard.com, you support indie bookselling and the writing community during this difficult time.
About Alien Listening
In 1977, NASA shot a mixtape into outer space. The Golden Record aboard the Voyager spacecrafts contained world music and sounds of Earth to represent humanity to any extraterrestrial civilizations. To date, the Golden Record is the only human-made object to have left the solar system. Alien Listening asks the big questions that the Golden Record raises: 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?
The stakes could hardly be greater. Around the extreme scenario of the Golden Record, Chua and Rehding develop a thought-provoking, philosophically heterodox, and often humorous Intergalactic Music Theory of Everything, a string theory of communication, an object-oriented ontology of sound, and a Penelopean model woven together from strands of music and media theory. The significance of this exomusicology, like that of the Golden Record, ultimately takes us back to Earth and its denizens. By confronting the vast temporal and spatial distances the Golden Record traverses, the authors take listeners out of their comfort zone and offer new perspectives in which music can be analyzed, listened to, and thought about—by aliens and humans alike.
Praise for Alien Listening
“As much intellectual fun as Gödel, Escher, Bach, this book is a unique hybrid of music theory and bioastronomy, an engaging how-to manual especially for composers fluent in both Kierkegaard and Klingon. For the rest of us, an amusingly illustrated and mind-stretching discussion of our first interstellar playlist. ET music scholars are as likely to say ‘Send more Chua and Rehding’ as ‘Send more Chuck Berry.’ ” —Jon Lomberg, Design Director, Voyager Golden Record
“This book made me laugh out loud, and then reflect on my own place in the galaxy. While inhaling the authors' clear and elegant prose, I also showed anyone in my vicinity their genre-bending illustrations. Thinking about and listening to music will never be the same after reading this book! It would fit equally well in music theory, musicology, philosophy, and aesthetics curricula, and is a must-read for friends, neighbors, and aliens alike.” —Nina Eidsheim, University of California at Los Angeles, author of Sensing Sound: Singing and Listening as Vibrational Practice
“To boldly go where no one has gone and ask what might music be! This book undertakes this mission with glee, wit, and imaginative flair. In outer space, we recognize something we should have known: that music is always mediated, both archived in time and stretched in space, both cosmic and mundane, both uncanny and familiar. The aliens we meet might just be ourselves.” —John Peters, Yale University, author of The Marvelous Clouds: Toward a Philosophy of Elemental Media
The Harvard Science Book Talks series is a collaboration between the Harvard University Division of Science, the Harvard Library, and Harvard Book Store. The series features talks by the authors of recently published books on a variety of science-related topics and is open to both the Harvard community and to the general public. Typically, lectures are followed by a book signing with the author and refreshments. Learn more and watch recordings of past talks here.
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