AHCS Speaker Series | Alex Rehding "Earth Music: A Media Archaeology of the Golden Record"


Strathcona Music Building C-201, 555 rue Sherbrooke Ouest, Montreal, QC, H3A 1E3, CA

Abstract: The Golden Record on board of the Voyager spacecraft (1977) is on a journey through outer space, carrying a sampling of world music into the unknown. Conceived as a visiting card to other life in the universe, the Golden Record has been called a “message in a bottle” and an “interstellar mixtape.”—The question I want to ask is simple: What would actually happen if extraterrestrials picked it up at the other end? Can we expect that extraterrestrials have ears? What does listening even mean in an interstellar context? In what could be termed a media archaeology of the future, we will examine the record as an interface in the communication of various expressive forms—words, music, images—with the aim of getting a better sense of how exactly the Golden Record might function in this unpredictable context. 
Bio: Alexander Rehding is Fanny Peabody Professor of Music at Harvard University. His work is located at the intersection between music theory and cultural history. His publications include Hugo Riemann and the Birth of Modern Musical Thought (2003), Music and Monumentality (2009) and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (2017). Rehding has also co-edited Music Theory and Natural Order (2001), The Oxford Handbook of Neo-Riemannian Studies (2011), and Music in Time (2016). Recent work has also taken Rehding toward media studies and transcultural work, in such articles as “Instruments of Music Theory” and the online exhibition Sounding China. A former editor of Acta musicologica, Rehding is editor-in-chief of the Oxford Music Handbook series. Rehding’s awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Dent Medal (2014). Current projects include the Oxford Handbook of Timbre, the Oxford Handbook of Critical Concepts in Music Theory, a volume on transcultural music theory, and a book on the Golden Record.