Hatch at NEAT14: The Golden Record by DJ Entropy

Text: Wayne Burrows
Photography: Julian Hughes

If Chris. Dugrenier has her work cut out encapsulating her own life experience in the short space of a stapled last will and testament, imagine the exponentially greater task of compression that faced the committee chaired by Carl Sagan, tasked to choose images and sounds that would represent the sum total of global humanity for some unimaginably distant potential alien civilization of the far future, their scope constrained by the analogue storage capacity of an encoded photo-viewer and a golden 16rpm LP record entitled The Sounds of Earth.

DJ Entropy: The Golden Record [image credit Julian Hughes]

DJ Entropy: The Golden Record [image credit Julian Hughes]

The contents of this record – which was actually compiled by Sagan’s committee to be dispatched into space aboard the two Voyager probes launched by NASA in 1977 – provided the raw material for Nottingham-based, Portland-born DJ Entropy’s performance at Screen 22 on Bank Holiday Monday, in which he live-mixed, layered and recombined the many tracks making up this portrait of humanity’s self-knowledge, representing our own sense of our kind’s place on Earth, and Earth’s in the Universe, with a few of our species’ musical ‘greatest hits’ thrown in.

DJ Entropy: The Golden Record [image credit Julian Hughes]

DJ Entropy: The Golden Record [image credit Julian Hughes]

The record embraces everything seen to be important – or essential – about humanity in the year it was made, and DJ Entropy treats the contents like sonic equivalents of the bits of glass inside a kaleidoscope. Birdsong and insect noises float through greetings in male and female voices, in dozens of different languages. Snippets from Mozart and Bach cross paths with Chinese flutes, a Pygmy initiation song, didgeridoos and Azerbaijani bagpipes, while the lovelorn strains of a Hindi song, a few bars of Louis Armstrong’s jazz trumpet or the opening chords of Chuck Berry’s Johnny B Goode slice through the sonic canopy like comets.

DJ Entropy: The Golden Record [image credit Julian Hughes]

DJ Entropy: The Golden Record [image credit Julian Hughes]

Essentially a sound-piece, illustrated only with a slideshow of the diagrams, equations and photographs sent into space alongside the record, the mix varies, once ending dramatically, with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, another time dispersing into birdsong, rain and insect noise. The visuals show reproductive cycles, mathematical formulae, humans at birth, in old age, of all races and types, at work and leisure. There are landscapes and sunsets, images of animals, microscopic views of sperm homing in on an ovum, like spacecraft approaching a planet: all human life, barring the worst of us – the wars, exploitation and sufferings we inflict on one another – is here, one way or another.

DJ Entropy: The Golden Record [image credit Julian Hughes]

DJ Entropy: The Golden Record [image credit Julian Hughes]

Perhaps the curious thing, watching and hearing all this material unfold in the bridge of a starship-like interior of Screen 22, is how this global portrait already seems to have reached a future civilization very different from the one that selected its images and sounds. The 1977 launch of the Voyager probes, after all, pre-dates the entrenchment of economic Neoliberalism and it seems unlikely that any similarly capricious project would be viable today without corporate or media sponsorship. The NASA record, then, is itself an artifact from our own past, a mirror to humanity’s best qualities and endeavours, heading into the unknown, and already beyond the boundaries of our own solar system.

DJ Entropy: The Golden Record [image credit Julian Hughes]

DJ Entropy: The Golden Record [image credit Julian Hughes]

 

 

 

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