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Matt's Island Discs

Some of you may be aware of the BBC Radio 4 series titled Desert Island Discs. Some of you may not (this included me, until last year when Ashley began listening to the show in earnest). The episodes are available for download on iTunes -- for free -- and often times make for great listening. The program began in 1942, and following is a description of its initial premise:
It was introduced to the listening public as "a programme in which a well-known person is asked the question, if you were to be cast away alone on a desert island, which eight gramophone records would you choose to have with you, assuming of course, that you had a gramophone and an inexhaustible supply of needles".
While the "discs" referred to in the title are now more about compact discs rather those of the gramophone variety, the concept is still the same. It's actually quite fascinating to listen to the featured guest of each episode describe what pieces of music they enjoy, and why. It opens up facets of their lives that we can often relate to our own.

Thus, I am inspired to make my own list of desert island discs. Imagine me on a boat in the ocean. Something dramatic occurs, and we must abandon ship. I end up in a lifeboat (or a dingy, as I like writing and pronouncing that word) and, after a few days adrift, land is spotted. My own private island. Curiously, I've managed to escape with a CD player and eight CDs. Oh, and a boatload (no pun intended) of batteries. Don't ask how, just roll with it.

Now, it's time to listen to some music:

1. Un bel di / Giacomo Puccini

Roughly translated to "one beautiful day," Un bel di is a sorrowful-sounding aria from Madama Butterfly. Confession: I've never seen the opera, nor do I understand Italian, so I've no clue what the song is actually about. It simply moves me, deeply. The music and the voice melds seemlessly. It manages to sound both hopeful and hopeless at the same time. Exquisitely crafted.

2. Symphony No. 7, 2nd Movement / Ludwig Van Beethoven

The King's Speech really utilized the 2nd movement of Beethoven's 2nd Symphony to its full meaning: strength in the face of fear. Being resolute while dealing with sorrow. I'm not sure what the composer intended with this piece (I always find it better simply to appreciate it on my own terms), but it comes across as a sublime bit of music that is about the will to overcome. Very moving.

3. New Sight / Jerry Goldsmith

I've long been a fan of film scores. There are so many great composers out there, doing the equivalent of modern day classical music: Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, John Williams, Philip Glass, etc. Among those now departed that I've appreciated over the years are John Barry and, without compare, Mr. Jerry Goldsmith. Truthfully, I could choose any one of Goldsmith's scores to take to a desert island, but there's something sweet and special about his piece New Sight, for the film Star Trek: Insurrection. It's...  transporting.

4. Requiem Mass - Lacrimosa / Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Romanticizing the desert island experience for a bit, if it became clear after several years that there was no hope of rescue, and I grew tired of such an existence, I would want the last music I heard to be the Lacrimosa section of Mozart's Requiem Mass. I would lie back against a palm tree as the sun fell below the water's horizon, press 'play' on the CD player and, by the time the Lacrimosa was finished, I would finally be at rest.

5. Parsifal, Act I - Prelude / Wilhelm Richard Wagner

Since childhood, I've loved both classical music and mysteries. The Inspector Morse series, which blended both, was a favorite of mine, and my late maternal grandmother, "Gummy." Alas, in 2000, we said goodbye to the flawed chief inspector. As we watched his lifeless body on the mortuary slab, which then dissolved into a view of the skyline of Oxford, England, we heard the Act I Prelude to Wagner's Parsifal.  Since Gummy had died just a couple years earlier, it was almost like saying goodbye to her again. Tearful, mournful bliss.

6. La Baie / Etienne Daho

When one is alone on a desert island, there isn't much hope of a relationship developing. Yet, ever the romantic, I'd prefer to take along at least one song that would remind me of falling in love. That would have to be Daho's La Baie. It's chosen partly because it sounds romantic, but also because there is a touch of longing within the voice and music, as though it is of a romance unfulfilled.

7. What Have I Done To Deserve This? / Pet Shop Boys

I could really choose almost any Pet Shop Boys song to take to the island. I love (almost) all of them. Aside from being one of their more musically & lyrically-rich offerings, What Have I Done To Deserve This? is also appropriately titled for asking oneself how they ended up alone on a desert island, wouldn't you agree?

8. Somewhere Over the Rainbow / Judy Garland

Because it's beautiful, and because it would be my anthem for wanting to get off the damn island.

The Desert Island Discs program further requires the guest to whittle their choices down to just one. Oddly enough, this is easier for me than choosing eight songs. I'd have to go with New Sight by Jerry Goldsmith. It encompasses most everything the other pieces of music do, and I'd likely never tire of listening to it.

So, there you go.


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