Desert Island Discs?

This week’s Friday Five question was posed by Gina:

So, going back to the original source material responsible for “The Friday Five,” Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, (and its source material, Desert Island Discs the show):

What are your top 5 “desert island” discs?

Wow, that’s such a tough question. It’s a funny one, because you know, this weekend I was listening to the soundtrack of High Fidelity. I’d just had a kind of experience that could have been in that movie/book, actually, well, sort of. A kind of weird, degrading, or at least sorta perplexing, experience with a woman, and one that, for that day, I was determined to mope about. The song that I listened to over and over, because it was exactly how I felt, was track seven from that soundtrack, which the allmusic guide tells me is Fallen for You by Sheila Nicholls. Walking among the books in the Kyobo Bookshop, walking down the streets in Gangnam on that cold strange Sunday morning. What a beautiful, sad, heartbreaking song about disappointment in another person that you can’t help but caring about even despite the disappointment. But you know, after I ran into a buddy of mine and he advised me, in his best English, “Gord, sad song… you don’t! Not today! Only rocking song! Okay?”

I took his advice, and listened to all those other songs on the soundtrack, and I realized, my heart wasn’t broken. I was still glum for most of the day, still I walked with a heaviness in my heart, but it was the heaviness of having lost someone because that person wasn’t grown up, wasn’t strong, and had failed me in a way I couldn’t forgive. Not that we’ll ever meet again anyway—we will never meet. But that’s not losing someone; losing someone is when you see that they don’t see you as human, not fully. Losing someone is when you realize you never saw clearly who they really were. It’s kind of a way of losing some little part of yourself.

But then, that’s true of everything around us. In a sense, all of the world is a series of strange mirrors; even when we try to see the reality of other living beings around us, some corner of our mind is seeking to distinguish similarities and differences, and in a way the whole of the world shimmers before us as a kind of potential mirror. Every new face, every page of a book, every voice that sings out to us.

That day, I saw the normalness of being hurt by people we care for, of being disappointed by the incompatibility of wish with world; and in seeing someone else had faced this before more, faced it so much more painfully than I, so painfully that she had to sing about it, seeing that, the music became for me a refuge. The sorrow of that heartbroken song invoked my own, less deep, less powerful sadness, and the defiance of the other songs, the “You’re gonna miss me but I’ll never come back to you!” songs, they lent me strength when I was feeling a little mired in other peoples’ crap. As my friend Marvin put it once, I think it was “Tunes equals sanity.” Music can be our refuge, it can be our therapy, it can be our medicine and our recreation and it can be the thing that slaps us in the face and tells us just to get on with things.

If you asked me about my Desert Island Discs list evcen three months ago, it? be different. I think I’m unusual compared to the average person (though not compared to most of my friends) in that I’m usually listening to something that’s new to me. I can’t help but always want to listen to new things, as well as returning to those mirrors in which I see myself most clearly.

Here are some of the ones that loom large in my mind, now, though:

  • Elliot Smith’s XO in all of it’s fucked-up depressed but touching and brilliant muddy glory
  • any good recording of Bach’s unaccompanied Cello Suites (this would be 2CDs, I guess, but only one album); this music penetrates my mind to the deepest level, consoles me and challenges me all at once.
  • Jah Wobble’s Molam Dub, just because the coolness of the sounds and the way it makes me feel.
  • Yo La Tengo’s Summer Sun, mainly just because of a couple of tracks, especially the “Season of the Shark”, but also the attention to detail that these people have. They are so absolutely in control of the process of recording. But that “Season of the Shark” was a refuge for me in a time of darkness, and for another thing, there is a feeling of community I’ve felt in it, since that day when Thai and I both showed up at a practice room with it in our headphones, and we sang along with it together at the Deep-In.
  • John Coltrane’s Stellar Regions, an answer which surprises me but it’s so beautiful, that album, in a way that keeps bringing me back… maybe I just sense some vague idea of the directions he would have later gone, or something.

As I say, my answers could differ on another day. The real truth is, I’d have an MD player and tons of MDs, which are small, high-volume, and easily transported. I bought ten to India and they were easier to carry than 4 CDs. Or, at worst, MP3 CDs. But the point of this exercise was to see which 5 albums I’d choose. I’m surprised at the change in my listening habits, the Smith and the Yo La Tengo wouldn’t have been on my list two years ago, or at least not 4 years ago… probably no rock music would have been. Funny, most people get rock first, and branch out. For me, being more open to rock music is part of my branching-out process.

Right, time to go see what the hell the support people are gonna say. I’m moving sites and MT’s not installing correctly. Argh!

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