based on Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot
Composer: Carey Campbell
PBD19 uses the audiobook version of Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, read by Sagan himself. What the astronomer has to say about the photograph is deeply moving, but so is the way he says it. PBD19 decouples the words from their delivery and then recombines them, creating an accompaniment for Sagan’s reading built from the pitch contour, cadence, and tone of his actual voice. Every note, rhythm, and most of the sounds of PBD19 are sourced directly from the audiobook sample. Some are manipulated beyond recognition, and others are easily distinguishable; what emerges is a sometimes cacophonous mix of Sagan the author and Sagan the orator. The whale-like sounds at the beginning and end of the piece are taken from NASA’s sonification of our atmosphere’s electrical waveforms.
Whenever a composer sets a text, he or she lays bare their own view of that text. In Sagan’s description of our tiny place in the universe I find hope and wonderment, to be sure, but also a sense of bleakness and humility, which I do not shy away from in my setting. Sagan’s excerpt ends with a call to action that I hope we will all heed, not only for the sake of the future, but also for those of us living right here, right now.