I’m sure we are all own at least a couple gold records. Generally awarded when a musician has sold half a million records, these are symbols of success for the record industry. Basically every commercially successful artist (even Tom Waits) seems to get one.
The real Gold Records, however, are on Voyager 1 and 2. A 12 inch, gold plated copper disc is carried on each of these unmanned space craft, hurtling out of our solar system. These records have a different purpose: to introduce Earth and Humanity to an unknown civilization. As NASA states:
Dr. Sagan and his associates assembled 115 images and a variety of natural sounds, such as those made by surf, wind and thunder, birds, whales, and other animals. To this they added musical selections from different cultures and eras, and spoken greetings from Earth-people in fifty-five languages, and printed messages from President Carter and U.N. Secretary General Waldheim. Each record is encased in a protective aluminum jacket, together with a cartridge and a needle. Instructions, in symbolic language, explain the origin of the spacecraft and indicate how the record is to be played. The 115 images are encoded in analog form. The remainder of the record is in audio, designed to be played at 16-2/3 revolutions per minute. It contains the spoken greetings, beginning with Akkadian, which was spoken in Sumer about six thousand years ago, and ending with Wu, a modern Chinese dialect. Following the section on the sounds of Earth, there is an eclectic 90-minute selection of music, including both Eastern and Western classics and a variety of ethnic music.
As I (and Sun Ra before me) like to say: Space is the Place.