Bon Voyage Voyager 1

Voyager 1

Voyager 1

In honor of NASA’s Voyager I leaving our local little region of the Milky Way, you may know it as our solar system, I thought it would be apropos to lend our Earthbound ears to the Earthly sounds chosen to be placed on the real, and actual gold record(s) (designed by astrophysicist Carl Sagan) which Voyager(s) carries with it, now into interstellar space. I vaguely remember when the Voyager crafts (there are two) were launched in 1977 – an interesting little tid bit, Voyager I was launched after Voyager II – and their primary mission was to conduct close flybys of the gas giants that lay at the outer bounds of our solar system, and both of these spacecraft provided a veritable, and venerable, wealth of information on these ginormous planets that are still full of mystery to scientists. Following the completion of the primary mission(s), it was then off to the even greater unknown – interstellar space – and then each of these spacecraft will continue to broadcast their findings back to Earth, until their plutonium fuel is finally diminished (in about 10-15 years) at which point they will simply become drifting pieces of Earthly information; thus the gold records and the recordings on them. Without further ado, here are the recordings that are on board the Voyager spacecraft, may whoever finds either, or both, come in peace.

Voyager Golden Record

Voyager Golden Record

Scenes From Earth

Greetings From Earth

Sounds of Earth

»  Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F. First Movement, Munich Bach Orchestra, Karl Richter, conductor. 4:40
»  Java, court gamelan, “Kinds of Flowers,” recorded by Robert Brown. 4:43
»  Senegal, percussion, recorded by Charles Duvelle. 2:08
»  Zaire, Pygmy girls’ initiation song, recorded by Colin Turnbull. 0:56
»  Australia, Aborigine songs, “Morning Star” and “Devil Bird,” recorded by Sandra LeBrun Holmes. 1:26
»  Mexico, “El Cascabel,” performed by Lorenzo Barcelata and the Mariachi México. 3:14
»  “Johnny B. Goode,” written and performed by Chuck Berry. 2:38
»  New Guinea, men’s house song, recorded by Robert MacLennan. 1:20
»  Japan, shakuhachi, “Tsuru No Sugomori” (“Crane’s Nest,”) performed by Goro Yamaguchi. 4:51
»  Bach, “Gavotte en rondeaux” from the Partita No. 3 in E major for Violin, performed by Arthur Grumiaux. 2:55
»  Mozart, The Magic Flute, Queen of the Night aria, no. 14. Edda Moser, soprano. Bavarian State Opera, Munich, Wolfgang Sawallisch, conductor. 2:55
»  Georgian S.S.R., chorus, “Tchakrulo,” collected by Radio Moscow. 2:18
»  Peru, panpipes and drum, collected by Casa de la Cultura, Lima. 0:52
»  “Melancholy Blues,” performed by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Seven. 3:05
»  Azerbaijan S.S.R., bagpipes, recorded by Radio Moscow. 2:30
»  Stravinsky, Rite of Spring, Sacrificial Dance, Columbia Symphony Orchestra, Igor Stravinsky, conductor. 4:35
»  Bach, The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2, Prelude and Fugue in C, No.1. Glenn Gould, piano. 4:48
»  Beethoven, Fifth Symphony, First Movement, the Philharmonia Orchestra, Otto Klemperer, conductor. 7:20
»  Bulgaria, “Izlel je Delyo Hagdutin,” sung by Valya Balkanska. 4:59
»  Navajo Indians, Night Chant, recorded by Willard Rhodes. 0:57
»  Holborne, Paueans, Galliards, Almains and Other Short Aeirs, “The Fairie Round,” performed by David Munrow and the Early        Music Consort of London. 1:17
»  Solomon Islands, panpipes, collected by the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Service. 1:12
»  Peru, wedding song, recorded by John Cohen. 0:38
»  China, ch’in, “Flowing Streams,” performed by Kuan P’ing-hu. 7:37
»  India, raga, “Jaat Kahan Ho,” sung by Surshri Kesar Bai Kerkar. 3:30
»  “Dark Was the Night,” written and performed by Blind Willie Johnson. 3:15
»  Beethoven, String Quartet No. 13 in B flat, Opus 130, Cavatina, performed by Budapest String Quartet. 6:37

Okay, just as I was getting ready to click the publish button I find out that NASA’s Voyager Science Team has declared that Voyager I has not yet left the solar system, but it is still the farthest man made object from Earth, and is hurdling farther away at an approximate speed of over 38,000 MPH, so it is just a matter of time and distance before it crosses wherever that arbitrary and ambiguous demarcation line between interstellar space, and our solar system.  Bon Voyage Voyager I…

Don’t Tell Mom, but You Can Play With Your Food

We’ve all heard it from our Mom’s, when we were kids, “Don’t play with your food!”  Okay, maybe it was just me, but when I was a kid I, like many kids, didn’t like, nor did I eat my vegetables.  Instead I just pushed them around my plate (I tried giving them to my dog, but she didn’t want them either) until Mom finally got so exasperated and told me to leave the dinner table.  Now I am an adult and to be perfectly honest, I not only eat my vegetables, but I find a meal incomplete without a veggie being on the plate.

Well, apparently these adults never listened to their Moms’ on the not playing with their food front.  They instead decided to continue playing with their food, which, some how, that continued playing with their vegetables led them towards making music with them . . . Um, wait, what?!

Yes, apparently they recorded an album.  I don’t know if it is available on iTunes™ though...

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the World…

Okay, yeah, I am an American; and, like many Americans I, at times, suffer from an Amerocentric view of – well, just about everything.  This isn’t to say that I am completely oblivious to the rest of the world; nor is it to say that I feel that the entire world should be “Americanized.”  No, it is instead, a recognition that I am a product of my environment, which can, at times, lead to a bubble like view of things.  In all actuality I am cursed with both an acute case of wanderlust, and a dearth of dinero.  I would absolutely love visiting other countries, and experiencing their own particular je ne sais quoi.  Perhaps one day I will make that happen.  Anyway, as a resident, in a predominantly English speaking country, I am basically exposed to predominantly English speaking music – along with some Latin American music too.  So, today I decided to explore some of what the predominantly non-English speaking world is listening too.  Now, I will apologize that what follows are mostly European, and I know that they may be dated too, but what follows are songs that I thought sounded good, even though I might have only the smallest inkling of an idea what they may be about – in most cases I don’t even have that; and yes, I know that these are not exactly what one can, or would call “traditional” music from the countries from where they hail, but that isn’t really my point here.  My point is/was simply to hear what may, or may not be popular music from outside Los Estados Unidos:

From Sweden:  MOVITS!

This band kind of reminds me of a much more tame, Quarashi, who are from Iceland, but I also feel a bit of a Black Keys vibe too…  maybe it’s just the hipster look though.

From Germany:  Peter Fox

I also like his Haus am See too.

Italy:  Adriano Celentano

C’mon, I dare you not to move to that song!

France:  Yelle

Um, my understanding is that the lyrics are a tad risque…but it is catchy.

India: Dalar Mehndi

The next Gangnam Style…maybe????

Korea:  Witches

Is that really Korean?  Well, according to the ol’ interweb that is where they are from…

I’ll end with some 1970’s French Pop-Punk:  Plastic Bertrand

Not filled with as much angst as British punk, but there is a bit of a Ramones feel to it – no?

There are oh so many more though, like Portuguese singer Ana Moura, who does a Portuguese flavored cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” (in English), and is currently on tour in America; and the artists not only span the globe, but their music spans multiple genres too.  It’s nice to go exploring new things from time to time, even if it is just from sitting on your sofa, using your laptop, and wondering, “what else is out there?”


Dolphins Give Each Other Names?


I think it is a pretty safe assumption that the vast majority of us humans recognize that dolphins are extremely intelligent animals.  Some believe dolphins are the second most intelligent creatures on Earth, behind us humans (The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy ranks humans as the third most intelligent, with the dolphin still being second); so yeah, the dolphin gets some pretty mad props for their brain power.

Okay, so we can train a dolphin to jump through hoops, and all sort of other tricks, but you know what?  You can, by and large, train a tiger to do similar things; does that mean a tiger is as smart as a dolphin?  Well, since I am no intelligence measuring scientist I don’t really have an answer to that question, but my intuition tells me no, tigers are not as smart as dolphins.  So, what makes many people believe that dolphins are the 2nd most intelligent animal on Earth?  To put it in the most elementary of terms it is language.

Scientists have been studying all of those squeaks, clicks, and whistles that dolphins make for sometime now, and they believe that all of those sounds equate to words used for one dolphin to communicate to another.  The studies have even led scientists to discover that dolphins in different locales even have different dialects, just as people do.  Well, scientists continue to study and analyze all of those clicks, whistles and squeaks, and they have come to an interesting new discovery.  That discovery is that it appears that dolphins have “dolphin language” given names.

According to a recent study published in the Royal Society of Biological Sciences, researchers found that dolphins have the ability to call out for lost loved ones, when separated, using a specific whistle.  This whistle seems to be the dolphin equivalent of a name, as it only ever refers to that one individual.  Let’s see (or rather hear) a tiger do that.

Okay, so most researchers and scientists agree that all of those sounds made by dolphins equate to some sort of language, and now they believe that dolphins have their own dolphin given names, but sadly they don’t know what those names are, nor do we know the “words” that they are saying.  Hopefully, before all of them leave as in Hitchhiker’s Guide, we will one day find out what all of the dolphins are saying, and of course we will then know their given names:

I think this one said there are some who call him…Flipper?

Sound Tourism

Bell Caves In Israel

Bell Caves In Israel

I know what many of you might be thinking right now, “What in the heck is sound tourism?”  If not, I can tell you that is exactly what I was thinking when I first heard (no pun intended) about such a thing, but I can assure you that it is an actual tourism niche.

Most of us like to go on vacations where we get to see things, whether those things be places that we have never seen with our own eyes before, or whether it be because of a brochure, or some other advertisement that we saw tells us of how beautiful the views, and sights are at a particular destination.  I’m guilty of being more partial to what my eyes want, than my ears when it comes to selecting a vacation destination, and I think the vast majority of people are the same.  Nonetheless, and I guess it really shouldn’t come as any surprise, but there are actual tourist destinations that are meant to appeal more to our sense of hearing, than our sense of sight.

Again, when I first heard (still no pun intended) of sound tourism, I had to believe that there must only be a handful of places to which one can go for the sound.  In short, my belief was wrong.  As it turns out there are sound tourist destinations in several countries, all over the world.  To find out more about many of these sound destinations you can visit a website that is devoted to sound tourism, called Sonic Wonders.  What kind of destinations are there you might ask?  Well, Sonic Wonders does a good job of ranking the sites on a scale of, Worth a Journey, Worth a Detour, Interesting, and Unrated, so you can plan you next trip accordingly.  The ratings aside though, when I did a cursory browse through some of the countries listed in Sonic Wonders database, many of those destinations are in some definitely travel worthy countries and locales, so I can assure you that your eyes won’t be feeling neglected on you vacation.  Take for example that you could visit the Singing Dunes in Chile’, or how about one of the most acoustically precise music halls in the world for classical music, The Vienna Musikverein in Austria?  Not exotic enough for you?  Then take a trip to India, and visit the ancient city of Golkonda, where you can see/hear the “clapping telephone” which was used to make an auditory signal over long distances – long, long before anyone even knew what a telephone was.  How about traveling to Croatia and listen to the Sea Organ, which is an actual organ that is powered by the waves of the sea?

Regardless of what sonic destination you may choose, I am pretty confident that once there, and after you have pleased your ears, that there will be plenty of other things there to both see, and hear.



Jim Nix / Nomadic Pursuits / Travel Photos / CC BY-NC-SA

During the interminable lead-in to this past Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans, I heard Scott Van Pelt, and Ryen Rusillo on their ESPN radio show make several glowing references and mentions to a local funk brass band called Bonerama.  I think most people wouldn’t think too much about a couple of sports talk radio guys giving their musical recommendations, and I admit I am one of those people.  However, I have been to New Orleans many, many times, it is one of my favorite cities in America, and through those many, many visits I have come to truly appreciate the actual culture that thrives in New Orleans that is so much more than the revelry of Bourbon Street.  One of the biggest pieces of New Orleans culture is music, so when Van Pelt and Russillo continued to speak of how awesome Bonerama is, going so far as to want to make this band the house band for their show, while in New Orleans (due to their proximity to other media sets though their want was not able to happen) I began to think that maybe I should check this band out, and see what the fuss is all about.  So, four days after the Super Bowl, I finally did just that, checked out the band Bonerama, and let me tell you, they are well worth the fuss.

As they describe themselves, they are a brass funk band, the brass in question though is the trombone – thus the bone in Bonerama – and are accompanied by drums, electric guitar, bass guitar, and synthesizers.  They play/produce both original and cover material, and let me tell you, this band brings the funk AND the noise.

Since I am a big Led Zeppelin fan I have to share Bonerama’s covers of two of Zep’s songs, first is The Ocean:

Then there is one of my favorite Zeppelin tunes, When the Levee Breaks:

And finally let’s close this out with one of Bonerama’s originals called Big Fine Woman, in which you can definitely hear much of that New Orleans sound:

The Misunderstood Aural Art of . . . Poetry

As I mentioned in my post about “The Wheel of Time” fantasy/sci-fi book series, I have a degree in English Literature.  As is also mentioned in that post, I tend to take a bit of an interest whenever anyone starts talking about books, and literature.  Finally, as is further mentioned in that post, that degree, and my interest in pursuing such a degree, has made me a bit of a book snob.  However, as I was revisiting that post, and looking at the authors I mentioned in it, I began thinking about poetry.

Okay, relax, I know what everyone is thinking right now, which is some variation of how poetry is boring, dusty, sullen, sappy, (insert more adjectives here); and, despite my educational background, I can understand why most everyone feels that way.  I mean it is really  hard (not in the absolute difficult sense) to read poetry, and I say that as someone who enjoys dabbling in writing poetry (stay relaxed, I won’t torment you with any of my poems).  However, what if I were to tell you that poetry is not meant to be read.  Wait . . . what?

Poetry IS hard to read – quietly.  That is because it is meant to be heard.  It is, in short, an aural, as well as an oral art, like music; and for all of those out there that dismiss poetry as (insert adjectives here): think of the lyrics to songs, which, for better, or for worse, are essentially poems set to music.  Nonetheless, a poem, though typically not having musical accompaniment, is not meant to just be read, quietly, alone; but spoken aloud, and shared.  I found that I began to understand, and appreciate poetry more once I accepted this, and actually started reading the assigned poets, and their poetry out loud.  I also found that reciting whatever I have written aloud helped me in writing my own poetry (keep cool, I still won’t torment you).  So, I thought what I would do is share some poems being recited aloud (not by me) with everyone.

I’ll start with one of my favorite poems from the English Romantic Era, that being Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan – Or a Vision in a Dream:”

For many though, that is still just old and stodgy, I mean it was written in 1797 afterall, so let’s jump into the 20th century, 1951 to be exact, and listen to Dylan Thomas recite one of his mater works, “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night:”

Still too old and stodgy?  How about Charles Bukoski, and his 1992 published poem, “Bluebird:”

Still not new enough?  Well, how about this 12 year old poet prodigy, Kioni “Popcorn” Marshall, and her 21st century poem “Forgotten:”

Of course those are just the tiniest tip of the iceberg in the world of poetry, and damn if Kioni doesn’t make me feel decidedly useless in my poetic attempts (at ease, I’m still not going to torment you), I could have/should have included Pablo Neruda, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Sylvia Plath, Edgar Allen Poe,  the bard himself, Shakespeare, Matsou Basho, Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, and the list goes on and on and on. Poetry is not dead, nor is it dying.  It is definitely under appreciated, and even utterly dismissed more times than not, but I contend that is because the art of poetry is misunderstood (by many) as small bits of silent literature, read alone in darkened English manors; or tucked deep in the darkest bowels of libraries, and relegated to the tiniest of shelf space of bookstores everywhere.  Too many think that poems are bleeding heart bits of romantic drivel, but there are happy poems, and angry poems; abstract poems, and rhythmic poems, regardless of the style though, a poem is better to be heard and seldom understood if simply read.  The words on the page can only, at times, convey the poets meaning, force, and intonation, but those words, like all words, mean more when they are spoken.  So, next time you see a poem, try reading it aloud, even if it is just in a whisper, you might be surprised at how those words might make more sense and, you should pick up on the tempo of the poem too, and maybe, just maybe, you might like what you just said (not read).

Patchwerk: control a real massive modular synth from your browser

In 1973, Media Lab associate professor Joe Paradiso was an undergraduate at Tufts University. It was a time, he says, when information and parts for DIY projects were scarce, and digital synthesizer production was on the rise. But, he decided to tackle creating a modular synth. Paradiso gathered information from manufacturers’ data sheets and hobbyist magazines he found in public libraries. He taught himself basic electronics, scrounged for parts from surplus stores and spent a decade and a half building modules and hacking consumer keyboards to create the synth, which he completed in the 1980s.

That synthesizer, probably the world’s largest with more than 125 modules, is now on display in the MIT Museum.  Through the magic of the interwebs, Joe has created a system that lets you control the synth through your browser!

Patchwerk lets you control a massive analog synthesizer from your browser, and streams the results back to you and everyone connected. The interface on this site is linked to a physical synth cabinet connected to the world’s largest homemade modular synth, currently housed at the MIT Museum. Turn a knob here, and Patchwerk will turn a motorized knob on the cabinet. If someone at the Museum grabs a knob, you’ll see it turn too.

Watch Joe describe the synth:

You can try out the synth right here (just enter your name, and switch to “control”), and you can find out more about it here.

If you don’t feel like playing with it, you can hear a live 24h stream of the synth right here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

(3/11/2012 Update:  Unfortunately though this link no longer works)

The Greatest Musician Ever?

Okay, I admit the title is subjective, and even a little hyperbolic, but when you watch the video below, you might be grudge a little of my hyperbole.  I was doing the ol’ cruise around the interweb, and, as many a web cruiser eventually does, I ended up visiting YouTube.  So, looking for something different, I typed in “strange instruments,” and hit enter and the below video entitled “Unusual World Instruments,” was the first non-advertisement video there.  Of course I clicked and watched it, and after seeing Randy Raine-Reusch play the following instruments:

Thai khaen,  Appalachian dulcimer, Chinese hulusi, Chinese bawu, Chinese dizi, Chinese xun, Thai (Lisu) naw (hulusheng in China), Malaysian (Kayan) selingut, Hawaiian one hano ihu, Indian pungi, Egyptian midjweh, Vanuatu shark mouth flute, Indonesian (Sunda) suling, Slovakian Koncovka, Chinese (Uighur, Xinjiang Province) satar, Chinese (Uighur, Xinjiang Province) dutar, Czech platerspiel, Vietnamese dan nguyen, Thai (Lanna) seung, Ugandan ekidongo, ennenga or adunga, Thai (Lanna) pin pia, Kenyan nyatiti, Vietnamese koni, Vietnamese bro, South African chipendani, Bengali ektara, Persian ney, Philippine kubing, Lao (Hmung) gaeng, Chinese (Miao) kouqin, Australian didjeridu, Nigerian (Birom) yomkwo, Malaysian (Bidayuh) kiromboi (snail shells), Canadian North West cedar whistle, American (Plains people) courting flute, USA triple ocarina, Malaysian (Iban) engkulurai, Jewish shofar, Indian conch, Bengali khomok, Mexican ocarina, Vietnamese (Ede) ding tac ta, Ghana aslatua, Ivory Coast ahoco, and finally the Ghanian alghaita.

All of which he seems to demonstrate that he actually knows how to play well, and with what appears to be the music of where the instruments originate, then I thought, “Is this guy the greatest musician ever?”  I’ll leave that up to others to argue, but it is impressive none-the-less.  Oh, and by the way, those are just a portion of the 700 world instruments that Mr. Raine-Reusch owns, and I am guessing he can play all of them.  Without further ado, here is the video, enjoy:

For more information about Randy Raine-Reusch you can visit his website at 


Science Confirms – Pop Music all Sounds the Same


I have never really been a fan of Pop music.  That isn’t to say that there has never been Pop songs that I  liked. Quite the contrary, there have been several Pop songs that I have found catchy, and enjoyable; but not nearly enough for me to go running out and buy the single, or album.  Why?  Well, at the risk of sounding completely snobish here, I find a lot to be desired in the artistic merits of most, if not all, Pop music.  Again, this isn’t to say that if one were to browse through my music library that every little piece of music there are bastions of high-brow musical masters.  Trust me there are plenty of low-brow clunkers in there.  I guess the simplest way to put my views on Pop music is that I don’t really find any real or great difference between one Pop song or another.  In short, Pop songs all, basically, sound the same to me.

Is it because I am just too old now, and thus a “square,” who just doesn’t get it?  Well, while I am old enough to be the father to many a Bieber “belieber,” and the Bieb’s himself; the fact that I have never, ever, bought, or asked my parents to buy, any Pop album, cassette, CD, MP3, or any other musical format, at any stage of my life, should debunk that belief.

Am I alone in my thinking?  Probably not; and as it turns out science has now confirmed my suspicion/belief that all Pop songs not only sound the same, but they are getting louder too.

According to an article from Reuters; researchers in Spain used what is known as the Million Song Dataset, which breaks down the audio and lyrical content of songs into data that can be put through analysis, to study Pop songs from 1955 through 2010.  The results?  Well, it does appear, after countless algorithmic analysis, that Pop songs have become louder and more musically bland “… in terms of chords, melodies, and types of sounds used.”

So, there you have it.  It is now a scientific fact that Pop music does, in fact, all sound the same . . .

Click here to read more about this.

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