The Song – A 12th Century Tune that’s Literally ‘Out of this World’
Almost 40 years ago, back in the year 1977, NASA launched the Voyager 1 & 2 probes into space. These have since become the first human crafts to leave our solar system, they are now travelling through the inky black void of interstellar space.
Though I am too young to remember the actual launches, which happened when I was just eight months old, my later childhood memories concerning the two voyager craft centre around two infamous gold disks that were stored on-board (one on each craft).
These disks, made of copper coated with gold and engraved with images and grooves, can function rather like old 12″ vinyl records. Though the surface displays images of the human form, a representation of our solar system and details on how to access the disc’s additional data, if it is played on a turn-table with a stylus (which is provided) a wide range of greetings in Earth languages will play, followed by 90 minutes of music from various cultures. The disks are thus both time capsules from 1977 humanity to the future, and messages of friendship intended for any alien civilization that might one day intercept either craft.
I must admit that I never knew anything about the actual audio content of the disks. In fact, it turns out there was a wide selection of natural sounds including thunder, ocean waves, whale songs and bird calls preceding the actual musical recordings, these tunes being selected from a number of diverse cultures and various points in our history. The selection process involved a panel of great minds headed by the legendary astronomer, Carl Sagan, of Cornell University.
Among the selected songs is one called ‘Chakrulo’, a 12th century folk song from the Georgian Republic. Though there was of course an enormous range of possible choices from every nation on Earth across many centuries, this song, sung by Rostom Saginashvili and Ilia Zaqaidze, was eventually selected to represent the sounds of humanity. Though Ilia has sadly passed away, Rostrom is 76 years old, he has lost his ability to speak following a stroke, yet he can still sing.
Fascinated by the twisting tale hidden behind this song’s selection by the NASA committee, the respected Georgian documentary film maker, Ramaz Bluashvili, set about creating a visual exploration of the story. Ramaz’s captivating production takes the viewer from the intrigue of KGB agents following Georgian musicians around Tbilisi to the high-tech NASA environment.
The project requires only one last crucial scene, an interview of Ms. Ann Druyan (the late great Carl Sagan’s widow) at the JPL site in Los Angeles. To complete this production requires the film crew to raise the $5000 cost of the trip. This is where we turn to you and ask if you can help complete this interesting educational documentary, whether through a direct donation of any amount, or through sharing this appeal as widely as possible.
I would like to add that Ramaz has also been working tirelessly to bring about a full collaborative international investigation of a lost civilization hidden in the Caucasus mountains of Georgia, an area I hiked into whilst on an archaeological expedition with the Science Channel in 2014. We are both hopeful that an incredible discovery in that area may well be the feature of his next project!
I am calling on all those of you that love space history or are fans of archaeological mysteries (I love both) to please support Ramaz in this project and in his future media endeavours. I am quite sure you will be proud to have played a part in this fascinating project.