The Golden Record 2.0


How do you teach students about music history and world music without using the traditional lecture/listen format? Head to outer space, of course! 

The Golden Record, image from

 This week, students in Music+STEM attempted to represent Earth’s musical history and cultures on a new Golden Record.  The Golden Record was created by Carl Sagan and NASA for its 1977 Voyager Interstellar Mission.  The mission was originally to explore the giant planets of our solar system but now continues to study the outer reaches of our Sun’s energy.  The record includes sounds, scenes, greetings, and music from Earth.  Scientists know the chances of it ever being found and played is slim, but it was included as a hopeful message of life on Earth.


The Golden Record took a turn and landed in our classroom

 Our students were tasked with creating a new collection of music for a future Golden Record.  In order to represent as much of Earth’s music history as possible, their selections had to represent 6 continents and at least 4 centuries.  Initially, this seems like a simple enough task.  In reality, this involved a great deal of teaching and learning.  Here are just a few of the questions and challenges students faced as they worked to complete this project:

  • What continents do I need to represent? 

    Students at work on their research

  • What centuries can I find music from?
  • What is an authentic example of music?
  • What is a high quality example of music?
  • How do I search for music from a specific place and/or time?
  • How do I narrow down my search to the most useful information?
  • How do I follow a “trail” to the goal of my search?

As you can see, students not only met musical goals of discovering music from multiple times and cultures, they learned valuable internet seach tools and discrimination.  

Here are a few of the musical examples students included on their Golden Record 2.o …
As a teacher, my favorite part of this project was the sounds I heard in the classroom as students worked – excerpts of The Nutcracker in one corner mixed with sounds of a didgeridoo, while Spring from The Four Seasons played alongside a fife and drum tune from colonial America.  

And the best moment was when a 6th grade boy sat listening to a piece of music he disovered and then told me, “This music is so relaxing it makes me cry.”  Equipping students with the ability to find music that they can emotionally connect with – that’s a life lesson that won’t be measured on a standardized test – but one that will be life changing.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

8 responses »

  1. I love this, but I have a classroom management question – how did you handle the noise of students doing research in class? I’m thinking that a class filled with students listening to many different musical selections at the same time could be difficult on multiple levels. (I’m assuming students didn’t wear headphones, since you mention hearing strains of music coming from different corners.)

    • A lot of kids brought in headphones to use and those who didn’t turned the volume down to “personal” levels on their chromebook. There were a few times I had to remind kids to turn them down but for the most part the noise level wasn’t bad at all.

  2. Did students work with a partner, on their own or both? This has given me an idea for my General Music vocal classes. thanks!

    • That’s a great question. At first I let them go but it quickly became clear they needed guidance. I still wanted them to use their own judgement as to what music they would want to represent earth , but I told them it had to be an actual piece of music with a composer and title. The only exception was native people musical examples. This requirement at least helped them stay away from random compilations on YouTube. Again, I wanted to leave it somewhat open so they would have to exercise their own judgement.

    • I originally planned for students to create google slides with a link to the music, country of origin, time period, and the reason for their choice. We had some tech issues, however, so some kids did a written version that provided the title and other info.

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