Desert Island Stuff

It’s one of those questions that interviewers toss in every so often, usually when interviewing a cultural figure. “If you were trapped on a desert island, what music/book/painting would you want to have?” I was thinking about that, because I loaded a new-to-me recording onto this computer, and found myself listening over and over to a few songs. It is an album by the a capella group Voces8. Mostly a capella – no piano or organ or orchestra, just an occasional cello and saxophone. I put Morten Lauridsen’s “Magnum Mysterium” and Bruckner’s “Os Justi” on loop as I wrote a scene.

If I were stuck with a limited amount of music and books, also known as “being in the real world for most of human existence,” I’d want the Mozart Requiem, Gjiello’s “Luminous Night of the Soul” and Lauridsen’s “O Nata Lux,” along with Lauridsen’s “Sure on this Shining Night” and Bach’s B-minor mass. In other words, things that lift the soul, or at least lift my soul, and speak of eternity. And that I can’t sing that well on my own. Maybe Avantasia’s “Raven Child,” just because it so shaped how Arthur’s character ended up developing. Maybe.

Purely instrumental? Ralph Vaughn-Williams “Variations on a Theme by Thomas Tallis,” and some medieval and Renaissance compositions. I’m not sure about which classical compositions make my “desert island list,” because there are a lot to choose from, and I’ve not had (or not taken) the time in years just to sit and listen to instrumental classical music. My selection for that used to be the Brahms German Requiem. Which is vocal as well as instrumental, so it doesn’t count.

Books? King James translation of the Bible. The Blue Sword. Wilson’s The Thirty Years War. One or two other great histories, perhaps. Rudyard Kipling’s Complete Poetry. Novels? I’m not sure. I’d have to go digging in my list. An art book of great works of Western art would also be good.


16 thoughts on “Desert Island Stuff

    • I don’t know, because I don’t watch TV or movies. I got out of the habit. I think the last things I watched in the theater were the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Black Panther (and laughed in the wrong places), and Serenity. If my folks are watching TV, I’ll glance up from my book from time to time, or vacate the room and work on something in my office. Classic movies . . . I just don’t know, other than perhaps Kenneth Branaugh’s Henry V.

  1. For books — well, how many slots do I have? I’d certainly want The Lord of the Rings and a one-volume copy of the Mardrus & Mathers translation of The Thousand Nights and a Night. Oh, and The Dinosauria. Also, does one physical book = one slot, or could I count an entire series as one slot?

    Same question with “movies and TV”: would an entire set of movies (like the 6 Jurassic Park films) or an entire TV-series run (like Babylon 5 or Highlander) count as one slot?

  2. My favorite answer to this question is Chesterton’s: “Dobson’s Guide to Shipbuilding.”

    • These days, a good transmitter might be a lot more easily applied than a boat.

      But, I would not know how to tell you what books to use, and both options are island dependent.

    • Actually, first and foremost, I’d want stuff that would help me survive on that deserted island.

      Sure, it’d be nice to have something that help me escape that island but I’d have to survive until rescued or until the “ship was built”. 😉

  3. sleeping beauty, rhapsody in blue, Polovtsian Dances, grand canyon suite, Paul Horn’s Inside, almost any of Nakai’s stuff. gregorian chants, barbership quartets, PP&M, kingston trio, paul robeson. Boykins books, curtis’s rimworld, uphoff’s WoG, leslie charteris, john ringo, eric flint, lanny budd,

  4. One answer might be certain really long and as yet incomplete fanfics, because then I would get some complete stuff.

  5. I assume that the question ultimately comes from the weekly BBC radio program, which has been running since 1942, where you get to choose eight gramaphone records, one book (which cannot be the Bible or Shakespeare) plus one luxury item. So your choice of the King James version wouldn’t count (but I think that all castaways are notionaly granted both Shakespeare’s complete works and the religous text of their choice, just to ensure some unpredictability in their book selection).

    It seems likely that back 1942 – in the middle of the war – too many of the early castaways were picking the same books, hence the restriction on their choice.

  6. I’d want Handel’s Messiah. There’s an Atlanta Symphony Orchestra recording with Robert Shaw conducting where the Choruses are magnificent. Soloists are good (Alto, Bass/Baritone) to fair (soprano), to tolerable/workmanlike (tenor, WAY too much vibrato and ornamentation). To be fair some of the Tenor Airs/Recitatives are HARD but so are some of the other soloists pieces, Handel did NOT go easy on his soloists.

    • No, he did not. I’ve done “I Know that My Redeemer Liveth,” and you fight the accompaniment in several places, plus keeping proper tone across the required range is a challenge.

      • As a high tenor I have also sung that particular air. For a soprano the range is LONG (not so bad for a tenor, historically Handel used whoever he had that could sing it in performances). Have heard elder daughter and grandmother perform it (at 60+ she must have been an impressive singer in her youth). One of my favorites and so contemplative and sweet right after Hallelujah. I’ve also sung “For thou didst not Leave” and “Ev’ry Valley shall be Exalted”. Neither is easy and breathe in the wrong place in Ev’ry Valley and you run out in the ridiculously long runs. But the Choruses are my joy and I’ve had the pleasure of singing most of them over 45 years with a mature voice. And Robert Shaw has the choruses in rhythm and on pitch to a fare thee well.

        • When I did the Beethoven Missa Solemnis, it was with one of Shaw’s former assistants, using Shaw’s technique and markings. It was quite an education in technique.

  7. No music since I couldn’t enjoy it… Books- King James Bible. Rudyard Kipling’s works, RAH, and a ship building manual for when I get ‘bored’… LOL

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