I was inspired by my recent viewing of one of my favorite movies to make out my top ten CD’s of music that I would bring with me if I were stranded on a desert island. This list applies only to the time I post it, and will surely change soon after, at least partially. Also, these are in no particular order of rank.

  1. J.S. Bach – Lute Suites & Violin Sonatas and Partitas. What can I say, Bach is my favorite composer of all time, and these pieces are some of my favorites. It includes the Prelude, Fugue and Allegro, BWV 998 – one of the most under-appreciated and obscure works of Bach that, unfortunately only guitarists know because it was a work for lute. It has one of Bach’s most incredible fugues that he ever wrote (in my opinion). I particularly love these recordings by guitarist Paul Galbraith, played on 8-string classical guitar. His transcriptions for guitar are thoughtful, historically informed, and musical.
  2. Louis Andriessen – De Staat. I HATED this piece the first time I heard it. For some reason, it was just something so different that my mind violently rejected it on the first hearing. I didn’t hear it again for several years, but something made me go back and check it out again. During that second hearing, I cound’t believe that I had rejected it so quickly, and I was quite disturbed by the fact that I did. I simply adore this piece with a passion. It contains the coolest writing for brass intruments I’ve ever heard, and I always wonder how many rehearsals it took to get it right – it must have been about a million.
  3. Dmitri Shostakovich – String Quartet No. 8. Another piece I can’t live without. I discovered it through some samples on a metal album when I was still a teenager, and it’s never gotten tiresome for me. It certainly appeals to my hardcore metal sensibilities, but also to my dark and delicate side. Shostakovich himself descibed its affect on him in this way: “The psuedo-tragedy of this quartet is such that, while I was composing it, the tears just kept streaming down like urine after a half-dozen beers.” Wow.
  4. John Dowland – Lachrimae. Dowland is my second favorite composer after J.S. Bach. His Lachrimae pavans for viol consort are, in my opinion, one of the first and earliest examples of what would later evolve into the string quartet. The pieces themselves are reflections of Dowland – dark and sublime – ahead of his time. He was truly a romantic 250 years before the romantics.
  5. John Dowland – Works for Solo Lute. I can’t live on the island without Dowland’s works for lute. His fantasias and fancys show plucked string techniques that would not again be realized until the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Again, way ahead of his time and brilliant.
  6. Dr. Dre – The Chronic. A brilliant and landmark album, and completely American. This album is uncompromising, and completely real, depicting a side and a culture of America that most Americans would rather not like to think about. It also pretty much invented theWest Coast style and spawned a new genre of rap. The slow, low and laid-back beats with the contrasting poly-rhythmic vocal fascinates me every time, and makes me proud that I come from the same musical culture that produced it.
  7. Meshuggah – Nothing. No one in the realm of popular music is doing more interesting or complex things, rhythmically speaking than Meshuggah. Starting within a death-metal framework, they push their music way out of the confines of that genre and into a world of its own. They are constantly evolving and pushing themselves to new heights, never getting complacent – just like any great artist is compelled to do.
  8. John Mayer – Room for Squares. John Mayer is one of the most talented song writers of our time. His lyrics are relevant, and always hit you right where it hurts – no matter who you are. His songs are also brilliantly written and always subtly changing right under your nose, always following the affect of the words. I think “Room for Squares” is one of the greatest pop albums ever written – yes I said it!
  9. Stevie Wonder – Songs in the Key of Life. Dude – if you don’t know this album, you should be ashamed. Awesome songs, innovative and original. The arrangements themselves are on par with anything Duke Ellington ever did. Even though it’s from 1976, it still sounds fresh today, and just about every R&B singer out there today owes their vocal style to Stevie.
  10. Perotin – Sacred Vocal Works. I was blown away when I heard this for the first time. It just sounded like nothing I had ever heard before, and this performance by the Hilliard Ensemble is absolutely incredible – it moves my soul. Perotin’s works have also had a profound effect on my own music. Amazing, and transcendent work.