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. One is the 5-hour, 11-CD series Nasa Voyager Space Sounds, originally released in 1990, and the other is the 2½-hour, 5-CD set Symphonies of the Planets, released in 1992. All of these albums were issued by new age practitioner Dr Jeffrey D. Thompson on his Brain/Mind Research label. The CDs have long been out of print, but in 2009 NASA reissued 10 of the 11 Nasa Voyager Space Sounds tracks as a digital download (confusingly with the words ‘Symphonies of the Planets’ on the cover!); the Symphonies of the Planets set has to date never been reissued. Anyone who has these albums can therefore 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 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 together with visual proof (click on the images to enlarge) – 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, get the digital download; for sounds as wonderfully rich and detailed as these, you’ll be much better off.