Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Desert Island Discs

The BBC Radio 4 programme Desert Island Discs has been broadcast since 1942. The standard format of the show involves interesting people explaining their choice of 8 favourite gramophone records to take with them when they're marooned on a desert island.  The DID archive includes a big subset (1500) of the 2800 programmes available to download in MP3.

You can search the entire archive of castaways and their music choices on the DID website. It was great to see Villa-Lobos included in 22 programmes, chosen by such interesting castaways as Captain Jacques Cousteau, soprano Regina Resnik, and actors Richard Attenborough and Peter Ustinov. All of these chose Bachianas Brasileiras #5; it's not a surprise to see BB#5 chosen by 16 of these 22. Even guitarist Julian Bream chose BB#5, rather than one of the guitar works. Other interesting choices: James Mason picked guitar Prelude #3, while Goon Show writer Michael Bentine chose Uirapuru. Though less popular than other pieces - Elgar's Nimrod Variation was the choice of twice as many castaways, while Beethoven's 9the Symphony was the top pick - it's still a pretty impressive list.

The amazing presenters - only 4 in all those years! - often dig deep in their questions, and the musical choices say a lot about the guests.  Lately I've been listening to a DID MP3 - about 25 minutes - on each leg of my bicycle commute, and I've really been enlightened and entertained. Check it out!

Here is the evocative theme of the show "The Sleepy Lagoon", written by Eric Coates in 1930.

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