Travellers' Tales

Cosmos
by Carl Sagan
A Personal Journey
13 episodes
See below for
DVD purchasing options
(Carl Sagan's Cosmos episode no. 6)
  • written by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan & Steven Soter
  • series director & executive producer Adrian Malone
  • Spaceship directed by Rob McCain
  • other sequences directed by Richard J. Wells, David Kennard, and
    Geoffrey Haines-Stiles and David F. Oyster
  • edited by James Latham (film) and Roy Stewart (videotape)

  • Music by Vangelis, Wm. Jeffery Boydstun, and others...
  • 1 documentary @ 61 minutes, after 1990's update

Data Capsule Review

by Martin Izsak


Okay, this episode is just simply THE BEST. Hands down, by far, my absolute favourite of the entire Cosmos series. The great big glorious plus that it holds over all other episodes of the series is the boldness of marching straight into NASA's JPL headquarters and filming then-live coverage of brand new discoveries made by Voyager 2's flyby of Jupiter and its moon Europa, in addition to much brand new scientific speculation on the various phenomena that might be behind all the fantastic new detailed pictures acquired. Even though that's only half of the episode, the primary metaphor that Voyager's travels mirror those of exploring sea vessels from times before is apt and powerfully portrayed, and does a good job of integrating the historical recreations of 1600's Holland into a fully cohesive episode.


The episode begins with a tantalizing teaser showing Carl Sagan passing through security at JPL, quickly glimpsing the faces of many NASA personnel hard at work guiding and monitoring Voyager 2's tricky maneuvers. We get a few details of Voyager's launch and an introduction to its Golden Record and all the music and other data it contains.

In fact, let's talk music for a minute. Not only does "Cosmos" indulge deeply in the early electronic / new age genre for its soundtrack, in addition to its indulgence in traditional orchestral classical music, but Sagan, Ann Druyan (creative director of Voyager's Interstellar Message Project), and their collaborators pretty much invented the genre of "World Music" when they put together Voyager's Golden Record. What many may not realize is just how many of those pieces of music additionally ended up on the soundtrack for Cosmos throughout its 13-episode run. Indulging and celebrating two genres while inventing a third is a really rich musical palette for any series, and it gets even better yet....


It isn't long before the episode likens Voyager's explorations to those of sailing ships from centuries ago, detailing some of the discoveries of those past journeys, and making mention of many historical figures and the various countries that they represented and made contact with. Most of the first half of the episode then settles into historical mode.

The recreations of Holland in the 1600's remain quite extensive and fleshed out long before we focus on any central players. Highlighted instead is the refreshingly open society and its political climate. Holland at that time was apparently keen to use its new independence from Spain to build ships to trade goods and knowledge with the rest of the world, and just as travel broadens the open inquiring mind, Holland's elite were soon defined by intellectual pursuit and an age of enlightenment.

Participants include:

Dr. Carl Sagan

Astronomer, host, narrator
Voyager imaging team

Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences,
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

Larry Soderblom

Voyager imaging team
NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratories

Lonnie Lane

Voyager deputy project scientist
NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratories

Linda Morabito

Voyager navigation team
NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratories

discovered the first active volcano beyond the Earth on Io by computer enhancing navigational images from Voyager 1.

Dr. Torrance V. Johnson

Voyager imaging science team
NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratories

Dr. Edward C. Stone

Voyager project Chief Scientist
NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratories
California Institute of Technology (CALTECH)

And thanks to this section of the show, I've decided I really love a good Bassoon Concerto. Apparently, the very first editions of Cosmos featured Carl Maria von Weber's "Hungarian Rondo" at about this point, which is a great and fun piece. However, it was obviously replaced, and I couldn't rest until I figured out what the awesome new piece was. Lots of listening, and trial and error, eventually revealed the answer: Antonio Vivaldi's "La Notte: Sorge L'Aurora". Awesome! This is possibly even better than the piece it replaced, and a seriously under-appreciated work in the annals of the great Bassoon Concerti, what with everyone turning to Weber and Mozart's famous few Bassoon pieces, while missing out on this glorious needle in Vivaldi's great haystack of 39 Bassoon works.

If that's not enough, possibly the most awesome of all is that we get a beautiful gentle Contrapunto for 2 lutes composed by Galileo's father Vincenzo Galilei, which is playing on the soundtrack as Sagan mentions the great and infamous astronomer. That is a really classy touch, as well as a wonderful piece of music.

Though it does seem that Galileo should have accepted invitations to come to Holland to escape his persecutors, Sagan's story really centers most on Christiaan Huygens - an astronomer, inventor, and benefactor of similar enquiring minds.

Here we get mention of the invention of the microscope and, subsequently, the telescope, while we learn of the scientific use to which these devices were put by Huygens and his closest colleagues. Also, since I'm always far more interested in top-down views of the orbits of the planets around the sun (rather than astrological-sounding notions of them being "in" various constellations of the zodiac), I am quite impressed that Christiaan Huygens managed to build a mechanical astrocomputer in 1682 that displays such a top-down view of our solar system. I'm not sure though why he converted his name into the Latin "Hugenius" when engraving it onto the machine. My instinct is always to keep any individual's name spelt and pronounced as it was in its original language.

Though I really have no idea how much spin may have been put on the differences in political and philosophical climate between Holland at this time and the rest of Europe, I think it's a really positive thing for us viewers to believe it was exactly the way Sagan, Druyan, and Soter say it was, an oasis for free thought, trade of goods and knowledge, and indulgence in scientific curiosity. In particular, the nurturing environment seen here created by Constantijn Huygens in which his son Christiaan and their collaborators flourished, and advanced the cause of Human endeavours, gives us a good benchmark to strive towards today. I do like to hold up pristine example of the best of Human behaviour for the rest of us to aim for, and this is a really nice one here.


The second half is GOLD for astronomical science. Voyager 1 had already taken revealing photos of Jupiter and 3 of its 4 big moons: Io, Ganymede, and Callisto. Sagan then takes his camera and audience inside NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratories in July 1979, on the very day that our first close-up pictures of Jupiter's second moon Europa beam into the room from Voyager 2, and we see some of the initial analysis by Sagan and the NASA team to figure out what the icy crust is, and what may lie beneath. Could it be an ocean? How could there be enough heat to keep it liquid? Could it create geological activity on the crust? Could that explain the disappearance of impact craters on the surface? Weeks later, the cameras return, and they're still theorizing and conjecturing. Great history in the making. Awesome!

And unlike many of today's documentaries, we're not looking at CGI recreations. We get actual photos and film of the real places, as seen by NASA for the first time. Amazing.

Interesting also is the section describing how the pictures were obtained - and it's not so much because digital picture transmission is in any way still unique. We do this all the time now, taking pictures with our phones and sending them instantly all around the world. What is unique, and you see it in detail in this film, is the great quantity of specialized electronic equipment, large banks of relays, and HUGE storage drums and machines which were necessary to pull this off for the first time back in 1979. Compare all that with your phone, and think about how far we've advanced in such a short time. Whoa.


Another high-point is the discovery of the first active volcanoes beyond the Earth on the moon Io, with image processor Linda Morabito interviewed, and taking us through the images and enhancements she performed to lead us to this particular momentous occasion.

All this was still early days for Voyagers 1 and 2, as they made flybys of their first planet, Jupiter. This Cosmos episode is excellent for generating interest in the Voyager mission, by showing us some of its earliest discoveries as they happened, but I don't think anyone involved here realized how much longer Voyager's mission would last. Carl Sagan himself seems to take it as a given that all four giant planets of our solar system would be visited. If you look closely and don't blink, you might also glimpse this mission's Lead Scientist Dr. Ed Stone having a conversation with Sagan and Larry Soderblom in a hallway at one point - although we don't quite learn here exactly how much of a key figure Stone is in the continuing story of Voyager.

Some of the things that this episode doesn't quite get around to covering include the fact that Stone has always maintained that Voyager's primary mission was only to go as far as Jupiter and Saturn, in part because the spacecrafts' manufacturers never guaranteed that the equipment would still function beyond that.

Well, what "Cosmos" couldn't really predict was that the Voyagers proved to be hugely exceptional workhorses in NASA's arsenal. As recently as 2010-2011, they were still returning fascinating new data, and Ed Stone was still an active member of its scientific operational team. Voyager 1 made a unique move at Saturn, so that the spacecraft's view of the sun would be eclipsed by Saturn's rings and its moon Titan, giving us readings of sunlight that might indicate the composition of Titan's atmosphere and the rings. However, the Voyager crafts aren't really jetting around the solar system under their own power, they are merely "coasting" along, using tiny thrusts to make minor adjustments in their steering, and relying on the intense gravity of each passing planet for each major adjustment in their course and each increase in their speed. To do the Titan maneuver at Saturn, Voyager 1 had to sacrifice its chance to aim itself towards Uranus. Instead it ended up on a trajectory that took it up far north of the plane of the planets. Only Voyager 2 was allowed to make the correct move at Saturn to go on to Uranus and Neptune, but one of the reasons why Voyager 2 is one of my favourite space probes of all time is that to this day it is still the only spacecraft we have sent to either Uranus or Neptune, and most of the details of what we know about those two planets and their rings and moons comes from the brief Voyager 2 flybys. In fact, when the series "The Universe" made an episode about "The Outer Planets", sure enough they went right back to Ed Stone to pick his brain on the subject.

The Voyagers' tiny computer memories have since been reprogrammed by remote such that they "don't remember how" to operate their optical cameras anymore. As they are now too far from the sun to get enough light to take decent photos of anything anyway, they have been reprogrammed for a new mission instead. The Voyagers are now focused on taking readings of solar wind charged particles, which is Ed Stone's area of speciality, to try to define for the first time the properties of the outer boundaries of the sun's influence, and what kind of environment exists outside that bubble in the neighbouring interstellar area of our galaxy. We've never been there before. Our scientists have theories, but don't actually know yet what's out there. Voyagers 1 and 2 are still out there, taking readings, finding out, keenly radioing back to us messages like "I'm not dead yet..." and "I feel the charged particle wind at this speed and this direction", and allowing us to sketch our first crude map of the galaxy's solar trade winds. Cool.

I could lap this stuff up all day. "Cosmos" episode 6 whets the appetite most excellently, and was certainly most instrumental in getting me to dig deeper into a topic that was well worth exploring.

What the episode can portray itself is Carl Sagan in his dandelion-seed-shaped ship of the imagination, cruising the route past the planets that he still hoped both Voyagers might take - still one of the special effects highlights of the series. He also comes back circa 1990 for an update segment, sadly too short to encompass all that Voyager had learned up to its passage by Neptune the previous year, but Sagan still manages to show off the final farewell solar system image he had the Voyagers take without really having the time to explain its confusing layout, and he also hints at his new "Pale Blue Dot" metaphor.

Contagious is Sagan's enthusiasm for the discoveries that would be made at Saturn by the follow-up Cassini probe - another of my favourites in the space program because it's been the best so far at showing how to do one of these big planets right. Cassini has now gone to Saturn and has STAYED IN ORBIT for YEARS so far, continuously maneuvered by remote to take closer looks at the rings, or various areas of the planet surface be it the poles or the equator, or to take closer looks at one of its moons or another, all as the ideas come to the scientists on the ground, as one thing peaks their curiosity and leads them to want to look closer at something else. And the detachable probe from Cassini that went down to the surface of Titan, which Sagan is so excited about... well, episode six of Cosmos certainly leaves us in no doubt as to why that probe was named Huygens, as it has primed us by noting that this moon was in fact discovered via telescope by Christiaan Huygens all those centuries ago, and all of the speculations that Huygens noted in his book "The Celestial Worlds Discovered" alongside his preliminary studies of Saturn and the other planets might now have some chance at being tested by these initial robotic explorations.


At any rate, this is one episode of Cosmos where I have to give it a score of 100% for excellent, relevant, superbly inspiring content - delivered with the undeniably satisfying, relaxed, poetic style of Sagan's original series. The only possible improvement that could be made is simply to GIVE US MORE, and I think we'll be needing more episodes for that. "Travellers' Tales" is simply the best.





The Music - Episode 6

(Anything written in green text represents a name I made up to help keep some music better identified in my own head.
Also, golden yellow backgrounds indicate selections that also appear on Voyager's Golden Record,
launched into interstellar space as a time capsule of Human culture.)
Composer/PerformerTitleNotes
VangelisSymphony to the Powers B, Movement Three
also known as "Theme from Cosmos"
Title Music
Wm. Jeffery BoydstunMetamorphosis
VangelisSymphony to the Powers B, Movement Two
J.S. BachPartita No. 3 (included on Voyager's golden record)

continuing with tiny snippets from Voyager's golden record "Sounds of Earth",
also released publicly as "Murmurs of Earth":
Peruvian Wedding Songfemale vocal, recorded by John Cohen
Ludwig van BeethovenSymphony 5infamous phrase
Peruvian Panpipes and Drums
Chuck BerryJohnny B Goode
Traditional ChineseFlowing Streams
Georgia ChoirTchakrulo(male choir)


Nikolai Rimsky-KorsakovThe Tale of Tsar Saltan - Movement 2
"The Tsarina in a Barrel at Sea"
Alan HovhanessSymphony No. 19 - "Trekking Theme" excerpt
Antonio VivaldiBassoon Concerto RV501 "La Notte"
Movement 4: "Sorge L'Aurora"
back to 1600's Holland
?? unknown?? unknownTrumpet, Strings, Flute Baroque Herald
?? unknown?? unknowncalming Oboe, Cello, continuo baroque
Alan HovhanessSymphony No. 19 - "Sea Slog" excerpt
Vincenzo Galilei
father of Galileo!
Contrapunto II warm serene piece for 2 lutes
...played as Galileo is mentioned, no less
Nikolai Rimsky-KorsakovRussian Easter Festival Overture
?? unknown?? unknownOboe, continuo, strings piece
Charles CouperinSuite in A minor, Movement 5: La Piémontoiseshorter version (61 seconds),
played on harpsichord by Glen Wilson
Charles CouperinChaconne in D Minor - Gustafson #57 "La Complaignante"played on harpsichord by Glen Wilson
Wm. Jeffery BoydstunMetamorphosis
Wm. Jeffery BoydstunIn Motion Delta 02 What's this? Let's listen...
Wm. Jeffery BoydstunIn Motion Delta 03
Charles CouperinChaconne in D Minor - Gustafson #57 "La Complaignante"played on harpsichord by Glen Wilson
Wm. Jeffery BoydstunMetamorphosis
Nikolai Rimsky-KorsakovThe Tale of Tsar Saltan - Movement 2
"The Tsarina in a Barrel at Sea"
Dmitri ShostakovichSymph. 11 Mvmt. 1 - "The Palace Square",
part B - Kepler's Theme What's this?
?? unknownCheshire Gravity, Flatland, and Foot People humorous waltz for strings
VangelisTheme from Cosmos
Antonio VivaldiBassoon Concerto RV501 "La Notte"
Movement 2: "Fantasmi" (Presto)
(middle section looped twice)
(plays over digital picture
transmission & storage segment)
Gottfried Finger"King of Pies"
Sonata for Trumpet, Oboe, Basso Continuo [and Violin]
sometimes (mis)labeled? "in D Major / D Dur"
though it plays in C Major on Cosmos soundtrack
Traditional ChineseFlowing Streams Volcanoes over Io
2 substantial cues
Alan HovhanessSymphony No. 19 - "Sea Slog" excerpt
Wm. Jeffery BoydstunMetamorphosis
VangelisTheme from Cosmos
Alan HovhanessSymphony No. 19 - "Trekking Theme" excerpt
Dmitri ShostakovichSymph. 11 Mvmt. 1 - "The Palace Square",
part A transitioning into part B
(a good 6 minute excerpt)
VangelisTheme from Cosmos
VangelisEntends-Tu Les Chiens Aboyer? #1Cosmos Update
Wm. Jeffery BoydstunMetamorphosiscredits
VangelisComet 16Collector's Edition 2000 Credits

(Note: Glen Wilson writes that the harpsichord pieces composed by Charles Couperin are often misattributed to his brother Louis Couperin.)



Antonio Vivaldi
Bassoon Concertos

includes RV 501 "La Notte"

performed by Gábor Janota
and the Liszt Ferenc Chamber Orchestra

mp3 Album

Click on the Amazon symbol for your region to be taken to Amazon's page, where you may listen to 30 second samples....

U.S.

U.K.

There are quite a number of recordings of Vivaldi's La Notte Bassoon Concerto floating around, but this is one of the few that truly satisfies. Janota nails every note just the way we'd want, delivering an excellent performance on the bassoon. It's a good match to the performance on Cosmos in style and timing, and it's my preference for general listening at home. However, in comparison with other recordings, the showcased bassoon sounds a bit distant and buried in the mix of other instruments... it would have been nice to bring it to the fore a little more strongly.
Track Listing:

Bassoon Concerto in B-Flat Major, RV 501, "La Notte":
1. Movement 1: Largo - Andante molto (2:32)
2. Movement 2: Fantasmi: Presto (2:11)
3. Movement 3: Il Sonno: Andante molto (1:36)
4. Movement 4: Sorge L'Aurora: Allegro (3:09)

Bassoon Concerto in G Minor, RV 496:
5. Movement 1: Allegro (3:31)
6. Movement 2: Largo (1:56)
7. Movement 3: Allegro (3:01)

Bassoon Concerto in G Major, RV 493:
8. Movement 1: Allegro ma poco (3:14)
9. Movement 2: Largo (3:03)
10. Movement 3: Allegro (2:13)

Bassoon Concerto in A Minor, RV 497:
11. Movement 1: Allegro molto (4:00)
12. Movement 2: Andante molto (3:50)
13. Movement 3: Allegro (3:08)

Bassoon Concerto in C Major, RV 473:
14. Movement 1: Allegro (3:32)
15. Movement 2: Largo (3:45)
16. Movement 3: Minuetto (4:59)

Bassoon Concerto in F Major, RV 490:
17. Movement 1: Allegro (4:22)
18. Movement 2: Larghetto (2:57)
19. Movement 3: Allegro (3:21)


Antonio Vivaldi
Complete Bassoon Concertos - Volume 2

includes RV 501 "La Notte"

performed by Tamás Benkócs
and the Nicolaus Esterházy Sinfonia

Audio CD and mp3 Album

U.S.

Canada

U.K.

This is another good recording of Vivaldi's La Notte Bassoon Concerto. Though the performance on the Bassoon is a bit different to what my ear considers the ideal style, the recording actually has a better mix than the other version above, bringing the bassoon properly to the fore and balancing it nicely amongst the rest of the orchestra. For the fourth movement, "Sorge L'Aurora", this is the better version to have with you if you want to listen while driving in the car.
Track Listing:

Bassoon Concerto in F Major, RV 486:
1. Movement 1: Allegro (3:17)
2. Movement 2: Largo (2:06)
3. Movement 3: Allegro (2:38)

Bassoon Concerto in C Major, RV 475:
4. Movement 1: Allegro non molto (3:46)
5. Movement 2: Adagio (2:48)
6. Movement 3: Allegro non molto (2:59)

Bassoon Concerto in B-Flat Major, RV 501, "La Notte":
7. Movement 1: Largo - Andante molto (1:47)
8. Movement 2: I Fantasmi (2:05)
9. Movement 3: Il Sonno (1:45)
10. Movement 4: Sorge L'Aurora (2:53)

Bassoon Concerto in F Major, RV 488:
11. Movement 1: Allegro non molto (2:55)
12. Movement 2: Largo (2:35)
13. Movement 3: Allegro (2:25)

Bassoon Concerto in B-Flat Major, RV 504:
14. Movement 1: Allegro ma poco (4:52)
15. Movement 2: Largetto (2:36)
16. Movement 3: Allegro (3:28)

Bassoon Concerto in C Major, RV 467:
17. Movement 1: Allegro (3:56)
18. Movement 2: Andante (2:43)
19. Movement 3: Allegro (3:21)


Vincenzo Galilei
Contrapunto II

mp3 track of original music
composed by Galileo's father

U.S.



U.K.







mp3 track
performed by Anthony Rooley and James Tyler
from the album "Renaissance Duets"











another performance included on
the mp3 album
"Alessandro Striggio - Mass in 40 Parts"
as "Galilei: Contrapunto Secundo di B.M."

Gottfried Finger
King of Pies

Sonate in C-Dur für Trompete, Oboe und Basso continuo

mp3 track

U.S.

U.K.

Gottfried Finger
King of Pies

"better" known as
Sonata in C-Major for Trumpet, Oboe and Basso continuo

composed by Gottfried Finger
performed by Leipziger Barocksolisten
mp3 track

Though the oboe performance here tries to get a bit too fancy for my tastes in one or two moments, this remains the best of the many available recordings of this piece that I've been able to find so far. It's a pretty good match for the recording heard in "Cosmos" episodes 6 and 9, with good balance between all three instruments in the mix.


Murmurs of Earth
Voyager Golden Record

2-disc CD album

This album contains music, sounds, picture data, and greetings in multiple languages that were on the Voyager Interstellar Record launched with the two Voyager spacecraft now traveling beyond the edge of our solar system.

U.S.

When looking for the music collected on Voyager's Golden Record, BE WARNED - There are several different albums out there that all look very similar, but may be quite disappointing. There's one widely available version with a NEARLY identical cover that has just the sounds and greetings on it - no music whatsoever! This version with the music now seems to be a very rare out-of-print version.

Quite a few of these same recordings were used on the soundtrack of Carl Sagan's original Cosmos series.

Track Listing:

Disc 1:
1. Computer Data (photos, etc.)
2-4. Greetings from the peoples of Earth
5. The Sounds of Earth
6-16. Music

Disc 2:
1-16. Music

(In no particular order,) Voyager's Record includes:

J.S. Bach - Brandenburg Concerto #2, Mv. 1
J.S. Bach - Partita #3 "Gavotte en Rondeau" (Arthur Grumiaux)
J.S. Bach - Well-Tempered Clavier Book 2 Prelude and Fugue #1
Beethoven - String Quartet #13 Cavatina
Beethoven - Symphony No. 5
"Flowing Streams" (Bo Ya / Kuan P'ing-hu)
"Kinds of Flowers" (Mangkunegara IV) (Indonesian Gamelan)
Senegal percussion
Solomon Island Panpipes
Zaire Pygmy girls' initiation song
Australian Aboriginal songs: "Morning Star" and "Devil Bird"
"El Cascabel" (Lorenzo Barcelata)
Johnny B. Goode" (Chuck Berry)
New Guinea Men's House Song
Crane's Nest performed by Goro Yamaguchi
Mozart - Die Zauberflöte: Aria No. 14
Tchakrulo - Georgia Men's Choir
Peruvian Panpipes and Drums
Peruvian Wedding Song
Louis Armstrong - "Melancholy Blues"
"Mugam" (Kamil Jalilov) - Azerbaijan
Igor Stravinsky - The Rite of Spring, Sacrificial Dance (4:35)
Bulgarian (Shepherdess) folk song (Valya Balkanska)
Navajo Night Chant
"The Fairie Round" (Anthony Holborne)
"Jaat Kahan Ho" (Kesarbai Kerkar) (India)
Blind Willie Johnson - "Dark Was the Night"



This documentary has become available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Cosmos - by Carl Sagan: A Personal Journey


13 hour-long episodes, 1980
U.S.

Canada

U.K.


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Read the data capsule review for the next episode: "The Backbone of Night"



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