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Saturday, 04 July 2009


The way I usually describe my musical taste is to say that I prefer "late" music, whatever the style. For me, "classical" music doesn't start getting good until about Beethoven, and keeps getting better all the time. For me, Jazz really arrives when bop turns hard. For Rock? Easy, punk. And within punk? The riot grrrl scene after the death of Kurt Cobain.

Choosing between those three is the hard part, and I suppose the whole point of the exercise. The latter, then.

Would it be cheating to say "World Music"?

I used to listen to shortwave radio in the darkroom and find music from continents away.

That'd be perfect for a deserted island!

I liked Max's answer ... I would want my guitar. Now if I can only bring one, that then becomes an issue - electric, acoustic, 12 string, classical?

For music, folk/country rock would do me just fine. Fairport, Burrito Bros. Byrds, etc. would be the genre of choice.

Juze hits it on the head, though for me it would be the 'Grisman number'. That would let me pull in Grappelli (with and without Django), hence Oscar Peterson, Yehudi Menuhin and whole slew of classical, and in the other direction Tony Rice, Doc Watson, Ricky Skaggs, John Hartford - and of course, Jerry Garcia.

This in spite of the fact that I, like Paul McEvoy, am an Irish-style fiddler and spend much of every day listening to Irish music. If I had to choose only one album to listen to it would be Tony Rice's Manzanita (although Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill Live in Seattle would come close)

Interestingly, I opened this post while watching this very Nova episode (repeated here on Sunday mornings). Fascinating stuff!

As for the desert island question:
Like many posters, I find this a very difficult choice. I have given a lot of thought to what musical styles I like, and why (or what I don't like, and why not).

For me, it comes down to predictability. Music that is monotonous, predictable, or unimaginative just leaves me cold, or worse. Much of country and western, a lot of pop, and almost all hip-hop or rap (and every polka I've ever heard!) falls into this latter category.

Forced to choose only one genre, I'd have to go with post-bop jazz. I'd expand that definition to include west-coast jazz, modal jazz, and nearly every style since bebop except for free jazz.

All I'd need is Joseph Haydn really, the string quartets or the 104 symphonies or ...

I can listen to him all day long.

Jazz, of the Ctein school.

Odd this question came up. I hate questions like this, being forced to asses value in this way. Nonetheless, I've been thinking about this very thing lately--actually the more prosaic form: desert island, can only take {insert small number here} albums.... I knew I'd have to take Davis's "Sketches of Spain." And also Memelsdorff's and Staier's "Delight in Disorder" (recorder and harpsichord). Then would come Mozart's Clarinet Concertos (the Michael Collins/Mikhail Pletnev version) and Handel's "Water Music"--no, wait, maybe Konitz's "Another Shade of Blue" instead of the Handel. And since 5 is usually the smallest number I'll confine myself to, I'd finish up with either Elias's "The Prayer Cycle" or Wiese's "el-Hadra." If I'm feeling generous, I'd through in a few more up-tempo things (MMW?, Gutpuppet?, harmonica blues?, too many options here), something I could dance to. Hey, it's a deserted island, nobody's going to see me.

BTW, does this ever bother you? I mean, you throw out a perfectly good, well considered question for user response, and then we change it (well, some of us do) into something we find more comfortable, like better, or is a better fit with what we've been thinking about, and that is usually less interesting as a result. Clods. It isn't our blog, after all. Maybe the dark side of automatic blogging.

"BTW, does this ever bother you?"

No, not when the answers are so thoughtful.

Well, except sometimes when the topic is photo-tech / photo-related prejudices of the type I have limited patience for. And that's only because I've been reading peoples' comments about photography for so long that I've seen it all a hundred times, or in some cases a thousand times. That's on me, mainly.


I'm afraid my amygdala would light up similarly to Dr. Sacks' - one genre is still to generic, but bluegrass would have to be my soft spot.

Give me my choice, though, and I'd take a iPod (with solar recharger, of course) with Smashmouth's "Rock Star", all of Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue", everything ever recorded by Nine Inch Nails, REMs "Lifes Rich Pageant", one or two good polkas, the soundtrack to "Once", a recording of my daughter's voice when she was three on the beach screaming "Look at the crabs, Daddy!", and a last 2 or 3 minutes of Lynard Skynard's "Freebird".

The Feelies

To take. Opera Arias, not whole operas just the tasty bits.
To not take. Rap (if its even considered music) and Andre Rieu.

I just looked, and I have 1510 "songs" on my iTunes on my work computer, and each time I sit down to work, before I get started, I have to pick an album. I have everything from Bach to hip-hop, but very little jazz (I have baroque, romantic, late classical, rock, outlaw country, blues, hip-hop, movie and musical scores, and even some oompa music.) I don't see how you could choose among it, but if somebody put a gun to your head, I guess you'd have to come down with classical of some sort, simply because the complexity would make it more tolerable to listen to day-after-day. It's one thing to listen to Vivaldi 500 times (or, I suspect, post-50s jazz), but 500 days of Creedence could drive you around the bend.


Dizzy Gillespie with Oscar Peterson

Dizzy Gillespie with Charlie Parker.

Glenn Gould playing Bach's Goldberg Variations (1981) and humming along. His humming drives some folks berserk, but it's wired directly into my monkey bone.

NOT: the two-beat, leftover disco, brain-dead, gunk-tish-gunk-tish that makes up 99% of commercial radio. I.E., NOT Michael Jackson.

And thanks for asking.

The choice between Classical (which encompasses Bach's late works), and Romantic (ditto late Beethoven) would be a tough one.

But wikipedia comes to the rescue:
"...Classical music is a broad term that usually refers to mainstream music produced in, or rooted in the traditions of Western liturgical and secular music, encompassing a broad period from roughly the 9th century to present times..."

That would just about do for me.

My choice for a single type of music would be classic R&B/Soul of the 1950-1975 era. A close second would be what is typically called The Great American Songbook. This is a little odd, since I have little representative of this type except anthologies in my collection as compared to better represented artists, which typically are folk, pop, or country. But I'd find more to stimulate me in the R&B/Folk canon if that were all I'd have.


Wow, there sure are a lot of jazz and classical music lovers here. It's kinda surprising given how UNpopular they are with the general population at the moment.

This is easy for me Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler. Oh, and maybe the Rolling Stones!

The music I like best is not necessarily the music I would want to be fated to listen to for the rest of my life. I like several genres of music, but much of their appeal would be lost in endless repetitions.

So, I suspect I'd be happiest with music than contains many nooks and crannies permitting constant discovery and surprise. For me, that's jazz, particularly solo and small group piano sax.

Thanks Mr. more soma please and of course you can delete.

French Impressionists. (Ravel, et al)

70s-80s prog-rock.

I saw the Nova special and I wondered about its applicability to photography (Mike, I thought that's where you were going to go with this). I wonder if some people's brains light up when they see, say, Ansel Adams and go dark when they see, say, Bresson and vice versa. It may break down in an analogous way to the Nova show: some people may be turned on by texture, some by color, contrast, dissonant compositions, etc. while others are oblivious to the same. I also wondered if some people who are indifferent to photography overall have the analog of amusia. I wonder if anyone has ever studied that the way Oliver Sacks has done with music.

That would SO MUCH not be my first, or second, or fifth concern in this situation!

My generation, or maybe starting slightly earlier, seems to have invented the meme that music is the key to life, and all the important turning points in your life will have key "songs", and every day needs a sound track. Just doesn't make sense to me.

I like bunches of music. While it's not a top priority for the desert island, if I was offered music free I think I'd pick what's broadly called "classical" informally -- Bach and Beethoven and Handel and Mozart and so forth. Lots of so forth.

I'd take a guitar for me and one for my 8 year old daughter. That way we wouldn't be stuck with only one genre. LOL

She's a bit of a natural for someone so young and it won't be long before she's better than me. Have a listen to these posts for a sample.



"500 days of Creedence could drive you around the bend."

...or down on the corner, out in the street; or down to Memphis on a midnight ride, or get you stuck in Lodi again, or take you back down where cool water flows, yeah.


Actually it's not that off topic. Photography is most related with music, from all the arts in the world. Classic music, I mean. The way feelings are transmitted, not explicit information, nor stories, just feelings, is very similar to music. I could write an essay here on how photography and music but I don't have the necessary skills, maybe some of my friends who are both musicians and great photographers. Bottom line is: you want on your wall a great photo that will stand the test of time and that will make you discover new things every single time you pass by it, just like a piece of Bach which will not bore you even after listening it over and over again.

Why nobody factors in the "desert island" aspect of the question? I guess if I had to endure all the hardships of such an adventure, some cuban music (son, guaracha, rumba etc.)would help a lot in uplifting my spirit! Beny More, Ibrahimn Ferrer, Compay, Chapotin, Ruben Gonzales, etc.
Hardly a situation for listening to melancolic or depressing tunes!
BTW, Paul Bradford, choosing Ry Cooder should be considered cheating! He's played it all: hawaian, hindi, african blues, tex mex, etc.

Gosh as much as I love jazz from Mile Davis to Dave Holland, I would have to go with Baroque too.

Miles from "A kind of Blue" on, especially the fusion years.

British Invasion pop OR any small group jazz recorded between 1945 and 1965. I'd miss all the other kinds of music that I love but I could live with either of those two.

I don't think there's anything innate about music appreciation when it comes to a particular genre. Maybe about appreciation In General?

I remember the exact instances where i heard something new.... The first time i heard Led Zeppelin, i was in the family car, with my sister and mother, and being from a Motown/R&B family, we all looked at each other in amusement and shock - "THIS is supposed to be music?" A short time later, after i started playing guitar, it made a lot more sense to me and i loved Zep ever since.

Same thing with jazz. I used to say it all sounded like five musicians taking solos at the same time. But, a college roommate played it a lot. And even though i came to appreciate it after being worn down for three years, i didn't come to really like it until a year after school.

Opera. Hated it like every other kid. But, my two best friends in college were opera majors and i used to go to their performances out of 'friendship duty.' Now i love it....

The first time a friend played a Cure record for me, i just could not understand his exuberance. It took only a week for me to be a convert. OH - and Kate Bush! Those same two opera majors played her non-stop in their dorm room.... I wanted to understand what they adored, so i bought a record over the summer, and she became my 'all time favorite' female vocalist in short order....

I love too many different types of music, so the desert island scenario is particularly difficult. I might have to say "electronica," but only because it seems to describe a wide variety of music, and many different acts/performers make/have made music that fits that broad categorization....

If I could only take one genre of music, I might be tempted to take my own life, forget the island.

A maddening question as I have a broad taste in music and deep loves in many genres, but I do find that the music that connects with me most deeply was made mostly in the 50s and 60s, mostly by black men in suits, many of them identified by single names--Miles, Coltrane, Mingus, Monk.

You don't get Coltrane? And you call yourself a music lover? Hypocrisy! Deceit! And don't try to blame it on genetics. This is a matter of personal responsibility. I vow never to visit this site again, until tomorrow.

I notice you said we could bring any type of music we wanted, but nothing about some device to play it on. Now that is just plain diabolically evil

As I'm predisposed to liking classical music, I'd have to say the 3 B's -- Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. A friend who was training to be a conductor told me that it was a saying that his lecturer told him, and I like it a lot.

To go with that -- the scores of the music. I could spend a lifetime analysing scores and listening to the 3 B's. Understanding the scores is a bit like understanding what makes up a good photo -- all the thinking from the composer is what is on the page and that in fact is probably the most beautiful thing about these three composers. And if only Mozart's name was Bozart!


I have to admit I get sentimental over my college days and like hearing 80's - 90's 'alternative': R.E.M., New Order, Bush, Soundgarden and such when at my local watering hole where I used to hang out during that time.

I'll be the one to get skewered for listening to that synthesizer & drum machine garbage :)

I DJ'ed at a dance club in college when the rave scene broke out. So I became addicted to techno (and I don't mean that radio dance remix crap). In isolation, as I do in my car, I love a really good, performed for a live dancefloor trance/progressive DJ set from the likes of John Digweed, Sasha, Carl Cox, etc.. Each track can be nondescript, but the sum of the set with peaks and breaks, uptempo and chill is what does it. Even better if the crowd is recorded during the set.

I would bring only the CD that I play again and again and again the most while making prints in my darkroom: the two-CD package of Sergei Rachmaninoff's piano sonatas. He was truly a musical genius and I continue to rue the reality of his death, for he was one of classical music's most astonishing composers!

Instrumental post-rock, as exemplified by the following bands:

- Couch
- El Ten Eleven
- Explosions in the Sky
- Friends of Dean Martinez
- Godspeed You! Black Emperor
- Kinski
- Lanterna
- Maserati
- Red Sparrowes
- Russian Circles
- This Will Destroy You
- Unwed Sailor

I'd desperately miss my hard bop, death metal, Beethoven, and IDM...but the above bands and their fellow travelers can cover nearly all of the important audio-emotional reactions I'd expect on a retirement island.

Good question Mike, have you read "High Fidelity"? Some times I have asked a similar one when the conversation needed some spice: which 3 records (issued as such; not recompilations) would you take to a desert island?

Surprised to see only one mention to Brazilian music. In the past, I would have answered Elvis Costello, Blues, 60's Psychedelia, Latin Jazz...but after living in Brazil, it is impossible for me not to say Bossa Nova.


Bob Dylan, period, and any period, from early '60s to now. Now and then a Johnny Cash.


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