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L.A. Beat

No such thing as desert island music

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I got into a discussion with a friend the other day that led into that old hypothetical argument: if you knew you were going to be stranded on a remote island somewhere for an undetermined period of time, which albums would you want to take with you? Now this little argument is silly I know. It is really an unanswerable question; for though I could likely list 150 albums I would like to take along, the sad truth is eventually I would grow tired of hearing the same 150 hours of music played repeatedly. Once you have memorized every note, examined every lyric and danced to every beat; then what do you do?

If one introduces logic into the equation, this whole scenario is flawed right from the beginning. Is this island remote and secluded - some hunk of sand floating in the middle of nowhere? If so, did I remember to pack an iPod that is solar-powered? Did I bring a Discman and a lifetime supply of batteries? If there is a place on the island to plug in a music player, then there must be electricity. If there is electricity, what the heck am I doing on the island in the first place?

If this was a huge tropical island like certain television characters were stranded on for eight seasons; I would be too busy exploring and struggling to find food, shelter and water to even be concerned with albums. If this were a tiny little bump of an island, as often pictured in silly comic strips, the only things I would want with me would include a fishing rod, an inflatable raft and a flare gun - all music be damned.
Nevertheless, for the sake of this hypothetical game I have been giving it some thought. However, I just cannot seem to turn the logic off.
Let us assume this island is capable of supporting life for a long period. There is a nice freshwater spring somewhere and a variety of edibles to select from. Let us assume that I am physically healthy and psychologically fit, able to creatively care for myself and wise enough to stave off tropical-borne disease and infection. Let us assume there is some portable nuclear nuclear generator somewhere to supply me with an unlimited source of energy for my stereo system. Let us assume that my stereo system is weatherproof and can run well even if buried in sand. Having assumed all of these things, then I can start thinking about music.

I have to think, 'okay, I am going to be all alone, depressed and miserable one third of the time; manic and emotional (or just plain bored) another third, and too busy trying to weave palm fronds and de-husk coconuts for the remainder. I am going to want music that fits my moods - lifting my spirits in the low periods and soothing me at night while drowning out the sound of waves and jungle animals. I am going to want albums that can be listened to time and time again, without growing old and stale.  This means lyrics that do not just repeat 'baby, baby, baby'; and structures that involve some complexity. I would want albums that grow on me; much like the beard that would be creeping across my face.

I would want records that feature more than two-minute songs; without those silly hidden tracks that pre-empted by 12 minutes of silence. I would want songs that have subtlety; tiny parts that can be missed if you are not paying close enough attention. Most importantly, I would want songs that enhance, reflect and support my changing psychological states.

Some nice classical music perhaps, for laying on my back watching the stars at night. Some uplifting ska or reggae for those mornings struggling to make a fire or debone a fish.  Perhaps some progressive or instrumental metal; for additional inspiration before venturing off to hunt wild pigs. I would likely want to take some nice 'nostalgia' music - a handful of albums that have deeper meaning; reminding me of better times, people and places. I would want albums that make me feel good; regardless of whether they ever cracked the Billboard charts; regardless of what year they were made. I would want albums that stand up to the test of time. I would want albums that don't even exist yet - new music written solely for people stranded on deserted islands. I would want soundtracks and scores, live concerts and unplugged performances. I would want far more music than I could possibly fit on some puny little sand hill in a vast expanse of blue.

Having thought about all of this far too much for one week, I finally came to a decision. Were I to be stranded on a desert island for an indeterminate period of time, with all hope of rescue being inconsequential and enough supplies to last me a lifetime, I know what music I would want. I would want a guitar, some form of drums, a grand piano, a cello or stand-up bass; and some excellent, even-tempered friends; each with a nice vocal range and a vivid imagination to help me play them. This would be the only way I could adequately resolve such a silly hypothetical situation. If I had a few solid people to keep me company, I would be content with an unlimited supply of songs; none of which has been written yet. With all the spare time we would have; we could recreate our own versions of everyone else's 'classic' desert-island albums.

 — By Chris Hibbard, Music Lover, Special to L.A. Beat

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