Navigating the sounds of the cosmos

It’s been with no little excitement that i’ve watched the Curiosity Rover landing on Mars this week. Astronomy has been a back-burner interest of mine since i was a boy and, not surprisingly, i’ve been especially fond of the sound recordings produced by NASA from the data received by Voyagers I and II as they’ve travelled through and beyond the solar system. So i was intrigued last year to see an independent release of something called Voyager: Sounds of the Cosmos, a large-scale compilation of these NASA recordings, made available in three versions of increasing length, titled ‘Grand Tour Edition’, ‘Standard Edition’ and ‘Legacy Edition’ respectively. However, as i’ve spent more time with it, i couldn’t shake the feeling i’d heard these before, so i did some elementary investigating. It turns out—and the compiler, one Philip Graham (aka RazorEye), admits this on the Wikipedia page—that the compilation is a bootleg of earlier NASA releases, some of which are still readily available. However, new track titles have been invented and there’s also a bit of duplicity and misguidedness going on, so for the benefit of others who love these sounds as much as i do, i thought i’d just flag up the facts regarding this material, in order to make an informed choice possible.

The compilation draws on just two primary sources for all of its audio. The first is the 5-hour album Nasa Voyager Space Sounds, originally released in 1992 on a series of CDs in collaboration with Dr Jeffrey D. Thompson. These CDs are long out of print, but NASA has reissued the complete album as a digital download, currently available very cheaply from both iTunes and Amazon. The second source is the 2½-hour 5-CD set Symphonies of the Planets, originally released back in 1990 and also out of print (and not, to date, reissued). Therefore, anyone who has these albums can ignore the Voyager: Sounds of the Cosmos compilation, as it contains exactly the same material. i mentioned duplicity; in addition, some of the audio contained in the compilation pointlessly duplicates material heard elsewhere, presumably in the hope that, due to the nebulous nature of these sounds, no-one would notice. If that wasn’t ridiculous enough, the Wikipedia page (clearly written by the compiler himself), states “Most of the files were reduced of quality [sic] from multiple usage, and was restored to full recording quality using Audacity” – demonstrating lamentable ignorance about the nature of audio.

The compiler is, it seems, currently engaged in unleashing a third re-hash of this material, and the bungling way he’s been going about it can be witnessed in the recently released ‘Grand Tour’ edition, some tracks of which were obviously purchased recently on iTunes, clearly showing the purchaser’s name and email address. (There are ways and ways of putting out a bootleg, but this isn’t one of them.) Anyway, below is a table showing the complete list of tracks from the second issue of the Legacy Edition, showing the origin of each track (for visual proof, go here – which also proves not one iota of remastering has been done); and below that, links to copies of all five original, out-of-print Symphonies of the Planets albums, all in far higher resolution than the execrable Voyager: Sounds of the Cosmos compilation. As for the remaining tracks, go to iTunes or Amazon; for sounds as wonderfully rich and detailed as these, you’ll be much better off.

Track #
Track Title
Origin
1 Earth (Launch) ‘Nasa – Song of Earth’, track 7 from Nasa Voyager Space Sounds
2 Earth (Echoes) ‘Nasa – Voice of Earth’, track 10 from Nasa Voyager Space Sounds
3 Jupiter (Bow Shock) Symphonies of the Planets 4
4 Jupiter (Closest Approach) ‘Nasa – Jupiter’, track 1 from Nasa Voyager Space Sounds
5 Jupiter (Io Flyby) ‘Nasa – Sphere of Io’, track 8 from Nasa Voyager Space Sounds
6 Saturn (Closest Approach) ‘Nasa – Saturn’, track 6 from Nasa Voyager Space Sounds
7 Saturn (Rings) Symphonies of the Planets 2
8 Saturn (Voyager 1 Ring Crossing) An exact duplicate of Track 7, faded out after 21’56”
9 Saturn (Voyager 2 Full Flyby) ‘Nasa – Saturn’s Rings’, track 5 from Nasa Voyager Space Sounds
10 Uranus (Bow Shock) ‘Nasa – Uranus’, track 9 from Nasa Voyager Space Sounds
11 Uranus (Approach) Tracks 11-14 are exact duplicates of Track 15, which has simply been cut into four pieces with fades in & out
12 Uranus (Crossing The Rings Pt.1)
13 Uranus (Crossing The Rings Pt.2)
14 Uranus (Crossing The Rings Pt.3)
15 Uranus (Echoes Of The Rings) Symphonies of the Planets 1
16 Uranus (Miranda) ‘Nasa – Miranda’, track 2 from Nasa Voyager Space Sounds
17 Uranus (Echoes Of Uranus) ‘Nasa – Rings of Uranus’, track 4 from Nasa Voyager Space Sounds
18 Neptune (Closest Approach) ‘Nasa – Neptune’, track 3 from Nasa Voyager Space Sounds
19 Neptune (Out of the Ecliptic) Symphonies of the Planets 3
20 Unspecified 1 An exact duplicate of Track 9, faded out after 9’59”
21 Unspecified 2 Symphonies of the Planets 5
FLAC [97Mb]
FLAC [97Mb]
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FLAC [91Mb]
Posted on by 5:4 in Comment
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18 Responses to Navigating the sounds of the cosmos

  1. Terry Matthew

    Has the compiler responded to this in any form? The Google Sites page is a collection of broken images and it appears the Wiki page was subject to some kind of low intensity edit war.

    • 5:4

      No – but i didn’t expect or want a response from them.

      • Terry Matthew

        Understood. It appears that after your post, RazorEdits or whatever it is tried to get the Wiki page removed when all of these facts started being inserted into it. Or at least that’s my reading of the history.

  2. Mick

    Would any of you know where to find the original data used for this material?

    Being collected by NASA I suppose it would be freely available for research? I looked a bit around, as I thought someone surely would have documented this and discussed it seen in relation to history and media. The thing is, transposing or time stretching a set of frequencies in one way or another – be it from one frequency domain to another within the audible region or not, almost always yields “science fiction like” out of space sounds, and this in quite unpredictable ways – even if the source material is as benign as the exhaustion pipe of your car.

    But I couldn’t find any articles on this anywhere.

    • 5:4

      Thanks for your comment Mick. i’ve never been able to locate the original data either, so i can only assume that NASA has withdrawn the primary source, which is a shame. i’m going to make contact with them to see if i can find out anything – if i do, i’ll let you know.

      • Rebecca

        Did you make any contact..? Sorry for gravedigging

        Also, I’m curious to know if you could .rar these files up, for convinience

  3. k

    I’m curious, I’ve been looking into these trying to find more info… Did you make contact? THanks!

  4. Joseph Duffey

    are these FLAC files still available? the mediafire links are dead

    Thanks for the great info and links!

    unimaginably enough, every FLAC copy on the web of these now out of print cd’s has a 5 to 4 ratio break on disk 5… the files should be 31 min and are instead 25, apparently due to a corrupted wav. header.. disk 5 in the corrupted shows ~72MB..

    • 5:4

      Hi Joseph,

      i’ve uploaded the FLACs again. Rest assured disc 5 isn’t corrupted – it’s 91Mb & lasts the full 31 minutes & 8 seconds :)

  5. TPT

    Thanks for this post with this incredibly hard to find info – this answered so many questions about these recordings for me. It’s been a nice introduction to your site, which is wonderful. I’ll also keep looking for that original data, and report back here if I ever find anything. Cheers.

    • 5:4

      Many thanks for the very kind words, TPT!

  6. Muff Diver

    Thanks so much for these uploads and scans. As a previous poster mentioned, it’s so difficult to find these recordings anywhere, let alone finding them complete and uncorrupted.
    You’ve made my entire month!

  7. GeeSpace

    Hi,

    thanks for providing this incredible stuff!
    I tried to get the tracklists of the other compilations 1,3,4,5..but it seems hard to get.
    Is it possible to provide it also here? Maybe as image..?
    Thanks!

  8. GeeSpace

    ..or maybe providing the “*.cue”-Files to split the *.flac in several tracks would be very helpful..

    • 5:4

      Each disc contains just a single track.

  9. SpaceDude

    Hey man, I’ve been searching all over the web for more info on this and there’s not much out there. Do you know anything about these recordings being in Public Domain? Also, have you seen “Symphonies of the Planets” as a download on iTunes, or streaming on Spotify under the name “Timothy Drake” I can’t find any info on that guy either… Trying to figure out the authenticity… Thanks for the .flac’s by the way! I’m a musician/audio engineer, and discovering this project has been awesome!

  10. Daisy

    Hi,
    I‘m from China,and I‘m just so happy to find these,but the thing is I can’t download them,they seems dead already. it would be sooooooo great if you can upgrade them!

    • 5:4

      Hi Daisy, the links are alive and well, so the problem must be at your end.

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