Additionally, according to Ferris in Murmurs of Earth, the two songs were recorded in 1958 by Sandra LeBrun Homes, an expert on aboriginal music and art. But Gorman says that LeBrun Holmes didn't visit Milingimbi Island where she made the recording until 1962. The liner notes of her record from which the Voyager recordings were copied, The Land of the Morning Star, also bear the 1962 date.
Gorman believes that by including "Moikoi" instead of "Devil Bird" we inadvertently sent a different message to the stars than the one we intended. According to Ferris in Murmurs of Earth, "Devil Bird" represented fate’s dangers. But that may not have gone to space. What did go, "Moikoi," is about "malicious spirits who try to entice newly deceased souls away from their clan country," according to Gorman. That idea, paired with "Morning Star," which is about the journey souls make after death, "could," Gorman writes, "perhaps be read as a message about the journey of the human spirit between Earth and space—and home at last."
It's possible, Gorman acknowledged to me, that there is some other mistake at work here. Perhaps the clips on YouTube that are supposedly of the Voyager track are wrong, and something else is on the spacecraft. She believes the YouTube clips come from the CDROM Warner New Media released in 1992 once Sagan had received all the necessary copyright releases. That the YouTube clips accurately reflect what's actually on the spaceship "is an assumption that we can't verify without listening to compare," Gorman wrote to me, "but I think it is a reasonable one." Moreover, the clips are the right length: The YouTube videos all (and there are many) contain a bit less than 1 minute, 30 seconds of music. NASA says the Aborigine track is 1 minute and 26 seconds long.
It is also possible that there is an error in the transcription of the liner notes from LeBrun Holmes' The Land of the Morning Star. For the moment at least, Gorman has been unable to track down an original version of the now out-of-print record, and her conclusion does rest on the assumption that the liner notes, and the way they describe the record's contents, are themselves accurate.
In an email, Ferris said that he could not at this time "render judgment" on whether the official description contained an error. He added:
I am, however, proud of the fact that the Voyager record contains a number of field recordings from distant times and places. That questions of their identification and attribution come up from time to time seems to me a small price to pay for our having been able to include peoples who would otherwise have not been represented, and to have dispatched their wonderful music to the stars.
And that music is just as wonderful as the day it launched. On its own, a song—notes played on a didgeridoo, tapped out on clapsticks, sung by a human—can't be wrong. All that might be mistaken are the descriptions, and those are here on Earth, easily updated with a few lines of code on a NASA webpage, a new edition of a book (and it's a lovely book), a couple of clicks in Wikipedia. No harm, no foul.