The Backbone of Night

(Brooklyn, Greece, Philosophy of Science)
Cosmos
by Carl Sagan
A Personal Journey
13 episodes
See below for
DVD purchasing options
(Carl Sagan's Cosmos episode no. 7)
  • written by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan & Steven Soter
  • series director & executive producer Adrian Malone
  • New York sequences directed by David Kennard

  • Main Title Theme by Vangelis
  • Music by Vangelis, Claude Debussy & Isao Tomita, Louis Armstrong,
    Andrzej Panufnik, Erik Satie, Brian Eno, and others...
  • 1 documentary @ 59 minutes

Data Capsule Review

by Martin Izsak


Episode Seven of "Cosmos" can be considered the sleeping gem of the series. The bulk of it will be spent digging through the ancient history of Greece to find the origins of scientific thought and what might be considered to be its opposition.

The reason I say that this gem is sleeping is because of the "wet" and possibly uninspiring way that the episode meanders through its opening sections. For quite some time, it appears that Carl Sagan is merely being self-indulgent, revisiting his old haunts in Brooklyn, sharing his awesome Voyager photos of the moons of Jupiter with the new kids in his old Grade 6 classroom. One gets the feeling that he isn't quite sure where to take this series after the great excitement of episode six, and we are instead trying to re-live past glories.

Participants include:

Dr. Carl Sagan

Astronomer, host, narrator
Voyager imaging team

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

We also get quite a cheesy impersonation of a "primitive tribesman" from the first age of fire, trying to figure out what the stars are - who suspiciously thinks quite like Sagan in ways that I'm not quite willing to buy.


Hopefully, these sections won't whittle the audience down too much, because the episode actually gets to be quite fascinating after that. Sagan goes to many historically important places in Greece, recounting what he knows of many of the figures who were important in shaping science and, more importantly, the philosophy of what constitutes good science and an effective means of learning how the universe ticks.

Perhaps this episode could have additionally "woken up" with some actual re-enactments by actors in costume, as has happened often in other episodes, because Sagan tells the stories of about 5 or 6 different figures as he goes along, most with difficult-to-pronounce names that sound a bit too similar to each other. At the end of the day, it's easy to get one or two of them confused, or to not be able to really remember who did what. However, the odd mentions of Kepler and Huygens are accompanied by reused footage from the episodes where their stories were re-enacted, and they pop out so much easier and remain so much more memorable.


But it seems to me that the philosophies recounted here are the true heart of what "Cosmos" is really all about - the heart of what Sagan and his colleagues hold so dear. It would be a shame if this episode were upstaged by other more flashy episodes of the series. Let's hold this gem up to the light.

Some of the Greek figures talked about here like Pythagoras or Plato are quite famous in our culture, most noticeably for their most enduring achievements. But Sagan digs deeper to uncover more than we usually hear about, and we see some of the darker, less enlightened, more oppressive sides of their characters. Whether or not the research of Sagan and his colleagues is pinpoint accurate or not may be beside the point. The story that emerges is one where great discovery and advancement exists side-by-side with the desire to see only what one wants to see, and we contrast scientific methods emphasizing observations and experiments with pure theory, pure thought, and revelation in a kind of sensory-isolation. I think that's a great story to tell, and Sagan does it here with a lot of fascinating depth, although sadly, it's mostly just in dialogue, with the support of some of the actual locations (very beautifully photographed I must add) and a number of quite intriguing props.


For me, one of the great mysteries of "Cosmos" is how this episode can be reconciled with the next. Here, Sagan and friends obviously favour observation and highly doubt the accuracy of pure thought and revelation. However, it is curious that their presentation of Einstein's theories in the next episode makes it seem as if Einstein derived his most famous material almost entirely from the revelation of experiments of pure thought alone. Quite the apparent contradiction. On closer inspection, I'm not sure Sagan or his colleagues realized that they were giving off that impression.


The final portions of the episode, where we return to the classroom, continue to be excellent and inspiring. Cosmos truly is rich in prophecy here, as many of the predictions Sagan makes about the discoveries of planets of other star systems have now come true, using the methods he describes to the sixth grade classroom in Brooklyn. Very nice sequence.


Episode Seven bows out on a high, and remains one of my most favourite episodes of the series.




The Music - Episode 7

(Anything written in green text represents a name I made up to help keep some music better identified in my own head.)
(Golden yellow backgrounds indicate selections that also appear on Voyager's Golden Record.)
Composer/PerformerTitleNotes
VangelisSymphony to the Powers B, Movement Three
also known as "Theme from Cosmos"
Title Music
VangelisCreation Du Monde
Louis ArmstrongMelancholy Bluesfour excerpts
Dmitri ShostakovichSymph. 11 Mvmt. 1 - "The Palace Square", part A
VangelisCreation Du Monde
Alan Hovhaness?Floating World?(just a few seconds of tinkling)
Melanesian Panpipes - Solomon
VangelisCreation Du Monde
Alan Hovhaness?Floating World?(just a few seconds of tinkling)
Claude Debussy / Isao TomitaThe Engulfed Cathedral(very spacey electronic sound)
Andrzej PanufnikSinfonia Sacra (several excerpts)(classical moods, percussion, fanfares)
Claude Debussy / Isao TomitaThe Engulfed Cathedral
Dick WalterIn The Taverna(Greek plucking music)
Vangelis
Entends Chiens #3 - Eye of Refuge What's this?
@ 18:55

(Christodoulos Halaris)

("Orchestrikon" which means orchestral)
2 cues. From the album:
Andrzej PanufnikSinfonia Sacra(several excerpts merged)
J.S. BachAir on G(played on strings @ 25:20)
Claude Debussy / Isao TomitaFootprints in the Snow
Claude Debussy / Isao TomitaThe Engulfed Cathedral(played on top of previous cue)
??? unknown(Greek Café music - 29:35 - 33:50)
??? unknown drum rolls
Erik SatieGymnopedie No. 335:00 - 36:10 (on flute & guitar)
Brian EnoEvents in Dense Fog36:20 - 37:37 for Dodecahedron
38:10... again
VangelisEntends Chiens #2 - Ancient Anglestiny snippet from end
Vangelis
Entends Chiens #10 - Libra Lullaby What's this?
Brian EnoEvents in Dense Fog
??? unknown(Greek Café music)
George CrumbBlack Angels, Movement 3 - Return(done at 40:50)
Erik SatieGymnopedie No. 3 (2nd half)41:47 (on flute & guitar)
Andrzej PanufnikSinfonia Sacra42:15 (drumming bits)
Johann David HeinichenConcerto S233 for 2 Horns and 2 Flutes in F Major
Movement 2 - Andante poco Allegro
42:49
Erik SatieGymnopedie No. 3 (reaches end)(on flute & guitar)
Wolfgang MozartClarinet Concerto K622 in A Major
Movement 1
(famous string opening,
ends at 47:00)
Dmitri ShostakovichSymph. 11 Mvmt. 1 - "The Palace Square", part Cback to Brooklyn classroom
VangelisTheme from Cosmos55:00 Kids inspired -> into credits
VangelisComet 1658:01 Collector's Edition 2000 Credits



Isao Tomita
Snowflakes are Dancing

Original music
composed by
Claude Debussy
and realized electronically
by Isao Tomita

Audio CD

Physical Audio CD:

U.S.

Canada

U.K.

Tomita - Snowflakes Are Dancing

All Tracks by Claude Debussy
and re-imagined by Isao Tomita
This album available on CD or MP3 download.

Track Listing:

1. Snowflakes Are Dancing (2:14)
2. Reverie (4:49)
3. Gardens in the Rain (3:46)
4. Clair de Lune (5:53)
5. Arabesque No. 1 (4:03)
6. The Engulfed Cathedral (6:23)
7. Suite bergamasque No. 4 - Passepied (3:23)
8. The Girl with the Flaxen Hair (3:31)
9. Golliwogg's Cakewalk (2:55)
10. Footprints in the Snow (4:36)
11. Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun (10:18)

Mp3 Album:

U.K.

Tomita - Snowflakes Are Dancing

All Tracks by Claude Debussy
and re-imagined by Isao Tomita
This album available on CD or MP3 download.

Track Listing:

1. Snowflakes Are Dancing (2:14)
2. Reverie (4:49)
3. Gardens in the Rain (3:46)
4. Clair de Lune (5:53)
5. Arabesque No. 1 (4:03)
6. The Engulfed Cathedral (6:23)
7. Suite bergamasque No. 4 - Passepied (3:23)
8. The Girl with the Flaxen Hair (3:31)
9. Golliwogg's Cakewalk (2:55)
10. Footprints in the Snow (4:36)
11. Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun (10:18)



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


13 hour-long episodes, 1980
U.S.

Canada

U.K.


Comments on this article are welcome. You may contact the author from this page:

Contact page


LYRATEK.COM


Read the data capsule review for another episode: "The Lives of the Stars"



Home Page Site Map Sci-Fi Astronomy "The Universe" "Cosmos" Episode Guide Catalogue