Calling for Your Desert Island Disc

The rules are strictly applied. A guest on the BBC’s Desert Island Discs is invited to choose eight discs, a book and a luxury to take with them as they are cast away on a mythical desert island. They are then asked which book they would take with them, after being generously  given the complete works of Shakespeare and the Bible (or an alternative religious book). At the end of the programme they choose the one piece of music they regard most highly.

I am asking those of you who read this post to give me your choices, not all eight discs but the one piece of music that would sustain you on the island, and your choice of book. Optionally you may also nominate a luxury (optional because I have never found the luxury part of DID very interesting, particularly since the relaxation of Roy Plomley’s original ruleset).

Without hesitation my choices are the first movement of Sibelius’s Violin Concerto in D Minor and my 1963 edition of T. S. Eliot’s Collected Poems 1909-1962. With Prufrock, Portrait of a Lady and Preludes close to hand I should be almost content on my desert island.

28 thoughts on “Calling for Your Desert Island Disc

  1. that’s easy. proust and the late schubert sonatas.
    i listen to this programme sometimes, i wish they would play the songs in full length…

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    • That’s way too broad for the music selection. You are at least required to narrow to a particular sonata. I love Schubert’s late sonatas. Have you read Alfred Brendel’s essay on them? Do you have a favourite performer of the sonatas?

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  2. ok i take the last one. i haven’t read brendel’s essay, but will look out for it. there are too many excellent performers i guess my criteria would be that they don’t muck up the breaks, doing the bass trill ok and are not too fast… do you have a favourite performer?
    if i have to limit myself with proust too i choose the last volume of the recherche.

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    • Brendel’s essay on Schubert’s late sonatas is brilliant, also Adorno’s essay about their ‘landscape-like quality”, so very perceptive. Of the last sonata my favourite performer is possibly Stephen Kovacevich, who nails the pauses perfectly. Of course, mostly I listen to Kempff, but have been developing a soft spot for Uchida. Brendel himself can be good, if in the right mood.

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  3. Just happened across your blog. Schumann’s piano concerto, or – no, I’ve changed my mind – Bach’s 2nd cello suite played by Casals (and noone else). One of Chopin’s Ballades would have been an alternative option, but I’ll stick with the Casals.
    As for the book. Tricky. Poetry seems more timeless than most novels. Eliot is a good choice – Portrait of a Lady never fails to stop me in my tracks, and I’m tempted by the same tome. But I could also be swayed by the collected Robert Frost. I imagine I might appreciate the focus on nature and its ways after a wee while on an island. I would also be seriously tempted to grab the collected poems and prose of Harold Pinter. How wonderful his way with words, and with so few thereof. In the end, today at least, I think I’d end up choosing a selection of WB Yeats poetry, the Seamus Heaney collection is a good one. Too many favourites to name. Dialogue of Self and Soul, The Choice, The Fisherman, After Long Silence…one of the wartime poems…rich in imagery and truth. I’ll take them all, please.
    Excellent question. I enjoyed the Sibelius – hadn’t heard that before!

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    • Thanks, Jane, for visiting my blog and commenting on this post. The Casals second cello suite is a fantastic choice; I’ve just put it on to remind me of its steely beauty. My daughter plays the cello, Grade-3 at the moment so a way off this tricky piece. I don’t know Yeats sufficiently well. Though I have the Everyman collection on my shelves, I only know a handful of his poems well. I’ve been reading about Ezra Pound’s influence on Yeats today.

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  4. Tough.

    The book should be one that I don’t know too well yet, but well enough to know that I want to get to know it better. On that premise I’d pick Perec, ‘Life: A User’s Manual’, which also has the benefit of being long and discursive enough to sustain me through my various moods.

    As for the music, it’s gotta be Dirty Three and probably ‘Whatever You Love, You Are’.

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    • It’s been years since I gave up reading Life, which I was enjoying but subject to other distractions. I must get back to it one day.

      Thanks for visiting my blog and your comments to this post.

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  5. I would take Miles Davis, Seneca’s Letters… and a large quantity of Mariage Frères tea – maybe the Thé des Impressionistes or the Rouge Bourbon. (not that it’s prohibitively expensive but any store on the Place de la Madeleine counts as a luxury provider, no?)

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    • I like the look of those Seneca letters; is it the Penguin Classics you would recommend? What about Miles Davis: which album? Kind of Blue? Tea is a good call, Sencha Fukujyu green for me from Greys Teas.

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      • I need to pick an album? I meant I’d take the man himself – plus trumpet. Oh well, a kind of blue will do. Penguin features only a selection of letters, I think. I read and read and read the Epistulae Morales published by Loeb and never get tired of them. I had thought about it before: one volume of fiction or poetry wouldn’t keep me occupied until the rescue ship comes for me but philosophical musings would (will) last me a lifetime.

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  6. I like the look of those Seneca letters; is it the Penguin Classics you would recommend? What about Miles Davis: which album? Kind of Blue? Tea is a good call, Sencha Fukujyu green for me from Greys Teas.

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  7. Excellent choices. Hmm…I think I will take Glenn Gould playing Bach’s toccatas (or maybe the full Well-Tempered Clavier, but I love the Toccata in C) and Mardi. And I too would go for some tea, I think.

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  8. This is very hard. For the book I am tempted to pick non-fiction, but I know myself far too well – I would need a story. Perhaps something exotic, like The Tale of Genji, something to read again and again that would never remind me of the island. Something silly and wholly serious at the same time, with enough melodrama to annoy me, and enough real story to keep me going. For the music, I would need the piano. And I think I will go low-brow and pick “Dr. John plays Mac Rebennack” for the joy of it, for the swamp blues.

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  9. I’m sorry to have missed this conversation! I’ll cheat on the book by distinguishing prose from verse and recommending Quixote and Leaves of Grass, respectively. As for music, I’m with Jane, Bach’s 2nd cello suite played by Casals, which is so much better than Rostropovich because Casals prefers depth and passion over flawless technique. Of course I know nothing about music but that won’t prevent me from blabbing away…. K

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  10. For your island journey, you only get to pick one book (in addition to the complete Shakespeare and the Bible), so you’ll have to narrow it to a single choice. Thee music choice is, of course, unimpeachable.

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  11. Aha, am quite late.

    My choice of the book has to be between the complete unabridged translation of the Mahabharata. (The complete ‘Arabian nights’ comes close too).

    As far as music is concerned, am completely out of the loop with respect to classical music. Will have to take the best of Illayaraja/A.R.Rahman, two of the foremost film composers of Tamil Nadu, but with a pan-indian appeal. (Rahman is going global slowly these days)

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    • Thanks for the contribution. I’ll look your music choice up on Spotify.

      I love your book choices, and can see how tempting Arabian Nights would be, though be wary of the superstition about finishing the tales.

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  12. Ha, what Borges said about the Arabian Nights comes to mind, ‘what if at the 501st story scheherazade starts telling the stories from the beginning resulting in recursive stories ad infinitum’ (words to this effect).

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