My friend Will got me hooked on the DIDA podcasts in a badÂ way last month, and since then I’ve listened to everyone from Artur Rubinstein to Joanna Lumley (’87 and ’07) to Kingsley Amis to Vivienne Westwood. Â My favorites so far include: GÃ¿orgÃ¿ Ligeti ’82, Sondheim ’80, and Imogen Holst ’72, but there is something in there for everyone. Â I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Peter Maxwell Davies and Harrison Birtwistle, given what I think of their music. Â Grace Bumbry‘s accent was Next Level crazy.
Because you can listen to archived episodes through the decades, you can track a (somewhat disappointing)Â culturalÂ evolution. Â Initially, the program was focused on classical musicians, stage actors, and poets. Â Even the film stars chose all-classical selections (witness Lauren Bacall, who didn’t really seem to understand a word ofÂ what she was saying.) Â Received Pronunciation was de rigeur, andÂ Roy Plomley, the founding host, stressed the playful, imaginative side of the game.
Jimmy Stewart wasÂ one of the earliest guests I’ve found to takeÂ a mostly non-classical approach. Â During Sue Lawley’s reign in the ’90s, the interviews took on a more confrontational tack, and the musical selections trendedÂ decidedlyÂ more towards pop, to the point where now, hardly anyone chooses a classical selection. Â The proportion of film/TV stars and politicians invited to the show began to outweigh that of the classical artists. Â People stopped disguising their regional accents.
The fun of listening to DID is, of course,Â concocting one’s own set of selections and responses. Â Here are mine:
Could you take care of yourself on the island? Reasonably well.
Could you set up a shelter? Â Yes.
Cultivate? Sure. Â Fish? I caught an eel once.
Could you endure loneliness? Â As long as I stayed busy.
Could you rig up a shift or a raft? Â Perhaps
Would you try to escape? Â No.
1. Bach, Complete Sonatas and Partitas for Violin, performed by Arthur Grumiaux
The profoundest and most philosophical music I know. Â The fact that it isÂ written for a solo instrument would give it a particularÂ resonance on the island. Â There are many fine recordings, but Grumiaux’s is a sentimental favorite.
Reminds me of my childhood (my parents were both big fans) and would give me something to sing along to.
3. Beethoven, Late Quartets, performed by the Fine Arts Quartet
There’s plenty to console, perplex and mesmerize in this music. Â I would prefer the recording by the Fine Arts Quartet, but it’s not on Spotify, so the link above is for the Budapest’s recording.
4.Â Kurt Weill, The Seven Deadly Sins, performed by Marianne Faithfull
This is another recording that’s not on Spotify (or YouTube), but none other will do. Â MF’s rendition of “The Pirate Jenny” is on the same disc, so I included it above. Â More singalong fodder, beautiful orchestration and great nostalgiaÂ value.
5. Sondheim, Into the Woods,Â Original London Cast
Life would be hardÂ without this. Â I linked to the Original Broadway Cast under duress, since the OLC isn’t on Spotify.
6. Ravel, Daphnis et ChloÃ©, London Symphony/Abbado
7. Schnittke, Symphony No. 8, Russian State Symphony/Polyansky
This transcendental masterpiece is paired with Schnittke’s totally irreverent score to “The Census List”. Â The two compliment each other incredibly well.
8. Wagner, Der Ring des Nibelungen, Wiener Philharmoniker/Solti
I’m not as familiar with the entirety of the Ring Cycle as I’d like to be, though my adoration of Wagner’s music increases with each passing year. Â Gaining familiarity would give me plenty to do on the island.
Book (in addition to the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare)
If it were allowed, I’d take the Oxford Companion to Shakespeare; if not, I’d takeÂ Â the entirety ofÂ A Song of Ice and Fire, as long as the 6th and 7th novels were airdropped to me when they’ve been finished.
Wow, you’re not kidding about Grace Bumbry’s accent! If I could swap Siri’s voice out for Ms. Bumbry, I’d never stop talking to my phone.