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This week’s listening: The Music of COSMOS. Carl Sagan’s amazing PBS series Cosmos is a landmark in science television (and probably television in general). The show’s production values were remarkable, and the series holds up fairly well today, even though more than twenty years have passed since its making and the shifts in scientific knowledge that are inevitable. One of the show’s most successful facets was its use of music. The show drew from a very wide array of musical sources, from the classical repertoire to New Age electronica to ethnic folk music and so on. A soundtrack album was produced when the show originally aired in 1980, but as with so many soundtrack albums of that era it was incomplete. A 2-CD set of the soundtrack has now been released, and it is a wonderful listen. One would not necessarily expect something like this — basically a compilation recording — to work so well as a whole, but the musical selections are so well chosen that they seem to blend together organically into a compelling work of its own. The selections are occasionally bracketed by sounds of Planet Earth — thunderstorms, oceans, a rocket launch countdown, et cetera — which adds to the overall effect. What has been produced is a sort-of amalgam to the famous Voyager Record, whose creation was spurred by Carl Sagan in the first place.

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