Brain Pickings

Carl Sagan + Sigur Rós


What Icelandic post-rock has to do with astroscience and the gaping sores of law.

We’re big fans of “remix culture” — the mashing up of existing pieces of content (music, film, text, image) into an entirely original creative product. A couple of months ago, A Glorious Dawn — the Carl Sagan / Stephen Hawking remix — made major viral waves, and on Monday it was even released as a single on White Stripes frontman Jack White’s label.

But this actually isn’t the first remix tribute to the great scientist. This week, we saw the resurfacing of another fantastic mash-up, made in 2008 — a remix of Carl Sagan reading from his iconic book Pale Blue Dot to music by Icelandic post-rock outfit Sigur Rós, easily one of the most innovative bands of the past decade.

And while this is clearly a lovely tribute to two great innovators in science and art, the irony is that it’s illegal under current intellectual property legislature — yet another illustration of how dated and ill-equipped copyright law is to support, rather than hinder, modern creative culture.

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