Space Music: We Are Star Dust, We Are Golden
Reach for it. (Sérgio Bernardino/Creative Commons)
In his mere 62 years on the planet, Carl Sagan proved himself an irreplaceable advocate of science and space exploration. His legacy lives on today in his beloved series “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage,” as well as in everything from obnoxious t-shirts to action comics and Auto-Tune tracks. He remains something of a scientific saint.
One of more famous nuggets of wisdom is probably this one, related to star stuff:
Matter is much older than life. Billions of years before the sun and earth even formed, atoms were being synthesized in the insides of hot stars and then returned to space when the stars blew themselves up. Newly formed planets were made of this stellar debris, the earth and every living thing are made of star stuff.
As far as I can tell, it’s uncertain* whether Sagan coined the phrase before or after Joni Mitchell wrote the 1969 song “Woodstock,” which features the lyrics, “We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon,” but the two easily become linked in the mind.
Of course Mitchell’s song is about the Woodstock Music and Art Festival, but I like to think we’ve continued to hold onto the tune due to it’s Sagan-channeling vibe of cosmic potential. To quote the man himself, “We are a way for the Cosmos to know itself.”
The track has recently enjoyed a bit of resurgence. For starters, the last 4:25 seconds this RA Podcast Mix from London DJ sensation Maya Jane Coles updates Mitchell’s vocals with some soothing electronic sounds. It’s Coles’ own remix of the track, titled “Stardust” which isn’t yet commercially available.
Here’s the mix. Skip to 1:04:00 to hear it:
Here’s another take: The amazing Toronto-based synthpop trio Austra released a cover of “Woodstock” as the b-side for the single “Lose It.” Katie Stelmanis’s hauntingly powerful voice and some dreamy synth action makes for a pleasingly cosmic take on the track. Trust me, you’ll be thinking space ships instead of hippies. Here’s some video of a live performance. You can buy the studio version on iTunes.