A Nightingale's Song Is Headed For the Moon

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Later this year, Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotic Institute is sending a rover to the moon in competition for the Google Lunar XPRIZE, which promises $30 million to the team that successfully lands a robot on the satellite and sends back high-definition images. Their effort is called the MoonArk, and among its many earthly artifacts will be a recording of a nightingale’s song.

As The New Yorker reports, the nearly three-and-a-half-minute song was collected by Karl Reich in Bremen, Germany in 1913. Reich bred canaries and is credited with making the first ever bird recordings. The avian enthusiast trained birds to actually sit inside the horn of a phonograph to collect their songs. Eventually those recordings were sold commercially all over the world.

The MoonArk team tapped producer and music researcher Ian Nagoski—who runs a record label called Canary Records in Baltimore, Maryland—to choose a birdsong for the cosmic journey. He told The New Yorker that he chose “Song of a Nightingale” because the birds are the best of all feathered vocalists: “They seem to embody a combination of beauty and desperation. And so, for thousands of years, they became the greatest symbols of the impassioned lover, the romantic, the great poet, the one who simply cannot help but sing, from whom melodies of devotion to its mate seem to flow endlessly in a constant masterpiece of melodic invention,” he wrote.

Seems like a perfect earthly ambassador to send to our closest extraterrestrial neighbor. To read more on the “Song of the Nightingale” and fowl recordings, head on over to The New Yorker.

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