I’m a Matthew Good fan. Not a super fan, mind you; I don’t know what he ate for breakfast last Tuesday or anything like that, but I enjoy his work. I find both his music and lyrics thoughtful and provoking. Although he’s had a lot of commercial success, I find myself drawn more to his songs that don’t necessarily get airplay. I was listening to some Matt Good the other day when I came across one such song that, for reasons I’m not quite sure, hit me emotionally in a way I hadn’t noticed before. The song is Flight Recorder from Viking 7 and it begins with a repeating pulse and the sound of Matt breathing erratically as if he’s running out of oxygen. The melody is haunting and the instrumentation is sparse and gives a sense of isolation and decay, both mechanical and biological.
From what I can find, there has never been a Viking 7 spacecraft. Vikings 1 and 2 were Mars orbiters that were launched in the 1970s, so I’m assuming that Viking 7 is a fictional craft, possibly a deep space probe or ship; perhaps a ship that was launched and subsequently forgotten after such a long time out. The interesting thing is this craft wouldn’t necessarily need to be manned. When I listen to this song I can hear the voice of an astronaut that’s recording his personal, and quite probably final thoughts; but I can just as easily imagine an unmanned probe, albeit a sentient probe, that’s reflecting on its own “thoughts” as it sails through cold space. The one obvious clue, of course, is the sound of laboured breathing which adds another dimension for me. The sound of breathing reminds me of an episode of Skeptoid that investigated recordings that purport to be the sounds of lost Soviet cosmonauts. Regardless if the recordings are what they report to be, they are eerie and bring to mind feelings of confinement, isolation and decay. I also think back to a scene in the movie, The Abyss, where Michael Biehn’s character is trapped in a damaged submersible and is falling into a deep trench. There’s one point when the window of the submersible starts to crack and Biehn’s eyes widen as he reaches out in an act of pure instinct and desperation. What seals it for me is that Biehn doesn’t make a sound; no screaming, no shouting, just silence.
These feelings: confinement, isolation and decay have created a narrative in my mind about a spaceship that has passed out of collective memory. This imagined vessel had been designed, built, and launched with the efforts of a dedicated team. There was much fanfare on the day of the launch as onlookers sat with their picnic lunches waiting outside the launch site, waiting for the countdown. There was a frenzy of posts on social media as Tweets, Posts, Likes, and Instagrams were traded back and forth. This was to be a long mission, testing the boundaries of what we had reached with space travel. It seemed as though much of the planet was supporting this endeavor, even if it was token support, as we are used to these days. That was a long time ago. I’m not sure how long; but how long does it really take for anything to pass from our radar these days? The ship continued to broadcast across the vast ocean of space, but only a select few were now paying attention as they logged their reports, some of them wondering why they were still bothering as no one seemed to care anymore. There was at least one who remembered. She was a young girl at the time and she remembered the day of the launch and the promise it held. She was one of the few who continued to wonder through the passing of years what became of Viking 7:
And I wonder, where have you gone. And I wonder, what have you done.
Then one day, the transmissions stopped. At first, no one noticed. In fact, they had to sift through lines and lines of data to discover when exactly Viking 7 had sent its last transmission. No one had even bothered to create an alarm to notify those on Earth when their jewel of deep space discovery had finally ceased to shine. When they did recover the data, they discovered a final log entry, which became the lyrics to the song, Flight Recorder from Viking 7.
Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.