What Music Would You Take to a Desert Island?

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b4/BinaryRhyme_The_Five_Browns_Rachmaninoff_for_Sisters_at_CBC_Radio_Studio_Sparks.jpg

Toward the end of Woody Allen’s wonderful movie Manhattan, the character he plays asks himself “Why is life worth living?”

His answer?

Well, there are certain things, I guess, that make it worthwhile.

Like what?

For me, I would say, Groucho Marx, to name one thing… Willie Mays and the second movement of the Jupiter Symphony (by Mozart) and Louis Armstrong’s recording of Potato Head Blues… Swedish movies, naturally… Sentimental Education by Flaubert… Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, incredible apples and pears by Cezanne, the crabs at Sam Wo’s… Tracy’s face…

Humor then, followed by the art of a gifted baseball player, music, movies, a work of fiction, visual art, food, and the young woman he realizes he loves, almost too late.

Your list would be different, mine would too. But isn’t it interesting how prominent music is on lists such as this, how often people find that an interest in music binds them to lovers, friends, and the joy of living?

A popular radio program on the BBC since 1942 has been asking what music you’d take with you if you were a castaway. It is called Desert Island Discs and it has hosted interviews of nearly 3000 prominent people in that time, trying to find out what tunes would be essential if they were marooned on the proverbial desert island.

On their website Desert Island Discs you can hear a number of these programs and discover the musical choices of folks like Martin Sheen, Alice Cooper, Tom Jones, Tim Robbins, Emma Thompson, Jerry Springer, Barry Manilow, Whoopi Goldberg, J K Rowling, Stephen King, Simon Cowell, Colin Firth, Patrick Stewart, Kim Cattrall, Kiri Te Kanawa, Luciano Pavarotti, and many others from the world of science, philosophy, literature, and government.

Back to Woody Allen’s question, what makes life worthwhile for me?

My wife and children, my friends and my brothers… Brahms’s Symphony #4, Beethoven’s Symphony #3, Mahler’s Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen, and I’ll Be Seeing You… Judy Collins… Alfred Stieglitz’s photo The Steerage and Van Gogh… The Lives of Others, The Best Years of Our Lives, Lost Horizon, and The Prizoner of Zenda (the last two movies with Ronald Coleman)… getting to know (really know) people…

Anna Karenina, A Tale of Two Cities, and A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving… baseball and the Zeolite Scholarship Fund… Shakespeare… Chocolate… Dim Sum, Superdawg (a Chicago area hot dog drive-in), and almost anything cooked by my wife Aleta… Precious and Peanut (family dogs)… listening to and telling stories… the satisfaction of doing something difficult and well… a good cup of coffee and the singing of the birds on a spring morning.

File:The Steerage 1907 Stieglitz.jpg

And if you asked me what would I want in any heaven worth the name?

All that plus my father in middle-age and my mother before life defeated her.

Put another way, I guess I am living in something pretty close to heaven on earth.

Not bad at all.

Since, for most of us, food is one of the joys of living, you might want to take a look at an interesting and recently initiated blog on that subject: Adventures in Food.

The top photo is Brown sisters Melody, Deondra, and Desirae performing on a Steinway grand piano at CBC Radio Studios in Ottawa, Canada as part of the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival on September 12, 2006. Photo by Mike (Binary Rhyme) Heffernan. The bottom photo is The Steerage taken by Alfred Stieglitz in 1907. Both are sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

4 thoughts on “What Music Would You Take to a Desert Island?

  1. But isn’t it interesting how prominent music is on lists such as this, how often people find that an interest in music binds them to lovers, friends, and the joy of living?– very interesting point you made. I find that even when I hear old songs, it takes me right back to certain times of my life and I can remember the person I was with when I heard the song… Music is really wonderful. Thanks for sharing the article.

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    • A very good point. Perhaps that is why couples who have been together for a while sometimes refer to “our song.” Thanks for your comment.

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  2. Elizabeth V. Edwards

    I love Desert Island discs and I hear it on my computer in Melbourne Florida. I moved here at Christmas from the UK so if anyone is interested these are the discs or songs i would like on my desert Island.
    Non Rien de Rien sung by Edith Piaf
    les blouses blanches by the same
    Mack the Knife Louis Armstrong
    Mother in law blues Champion jack Dupree
    23 rd psalm
    Greensleeves
    I will survive Gloria Gaynor
    Ness und Dorman Pavarotti
    Hotel California
    Bambalaya Gypsy kings
    Bangladesh
    Juliette
    I think I have exceeded my eight!!
    Music has sustained me throughout my life starting at age 5 when I used to listen to Tales of Hoffman over and over again

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    • Thank you for your lovely comment, Elizabeth. The BBC sustains many of us, even natives of the USA! All the best.

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