The Eagle Is Landing

Apollo 11 Houston you are breaking up badly over.

As I write this, the Apollo 11 mission is on time and target to land men on the moon. I’ve been listening to the open channel transmission broadcast for much of today, catching conversation and comments as they interrupt a surprisingly engrossing stream of background static and space noise. This is courtesy of the superb We Choose The Moon site, which is streaming, in real time, the entire digitized archive of the transmission of the Apollo 11 communications and maintaining a moon landing countdown clock. They are replaying the past,

Houston Apollo. How do you read on the high gain over?

I was five years old when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon and at the time I loved everything about space and wanted to be an astronaut. My parents indulged my taste for Tang, and we all sat in front of the TV – I was on the floor – as Walter Cronkite narrated the broadcast on CBS. I think I remember correctly that he was excited and thrilled and tried not to let it show. What I couldn’t consider at the time is how profound an accomplishment it was, in the span of a single lifetime, man went from the first artificial flight to travelling a quarter million miles across space, landing on another planetary object, and returning safely.

Hearing this way is incredibly vivid, I imagine so for those who are too young to have seen or remembered it. Hearing history makes it immediate and alive, that’s the great power of radio – the voice reaching out to you from the aether. And on the audio side, the web is like radio, transmitting signal and noise from all parts of the world and now from the past. The web is a gateway to accumulated human knowledge, which is an accumulation of history. While the written history is static, and with less density of information and resolution than the printed page, the video and audio history are gripping. Sample anything out of this archive, especially old sound recordings, and you are listening to a physical artifact of the past made, literally, active. Sound is vibration, a physical quality, and the development of ways to capture sound meant a way to capture the physical motion of the past. When the sound is replayed, its physical motion makes its way to our ears and the past literally touches us. This is profoundly exciting, moving and humane, that the past can touch us. And while this entire Apollo archive will be made available for user time listening one the mission anniversary has passed, I recommend tuning into the audio stream if you’re going to be at a computer for a period of time, it’s one of the most extraordinary things I’ve ever heard.

Roger Eagle you are five five this S-10 voice is really beautiful, over.


I'm a composer and musician, and I write about music—I do that here, for the New York Classical Review, at the Brooklyn Rail (I edit the music section there) and any place else that will have me, like New Music Box and Music & Literature. I also wrote the Miles Davis' Bitches Brew book in the 33 1/3 series.