Desert Island Disks

While the following releases are not new, there is something about looking to the past and hearing what is distinct about older music. And “If you were going to be marooned on a desert island, what would you want to bring?” But here’s a twist on the game for the true music lover: you can only choose CD albums. After all, music has inspired humankind for centuries.. Whether or not I am actually on a desert island, I always find music to be a good antidote against daily stresses. Music is a motivator and encouragement in seemingly desolate situations.

Having experienced many genres and variations of music, these are the 10 albums that would be on my desert island (“enrich my desert island experience” would be a little more vivid).

Pocket Symphony
This album uses a wide variety of instruments to create serene music that can really resonate strongly with the soul. Personally, this is my meditation soundtrack, and I could hardly leave for a desert island without it.

Pocket Symphony is the fifth album of Air’s, and in its debut in March 2007, it sold 17,000 copies within the first 7 days. With 15 tracks that range from the rhythmic beauty of “Once Upon a Time” to the flowing beats of “Mer du Japon,” the album reflects the vast range of Air’s talents—from vocals to instrumentals to composition, their music is melodic. In their exploration of the capability and power of instruments and music itself, Air leads their listeners on a soul journey through thoughtful and relaxing music.

Seiji Ozawa, Boston Symphony Orchestra
Vivaldi: The Four Seasons

Vivaldi has an astonishing ability to really recreate the genuine tones of the natural world in his music. The precision and attention to detail that conductor Ozawa shows in his rendition of Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons makes this recording, in my opinion, one that has yet to be surpassed. His attention to detail not only to each resonating phrase but also to everything between the notes brings out the magic in this composition. Vivaldi’s composition expertly displays every instrument in the symphony to its true capability throughout the movements, bringing us music that is as refreshing as nature itself.

Hans Zimmer
Inception: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

The music in this album is meant to be background music for the huge range of scenes and scenarios in the movie. Thus, these tracks don’t have overpowering themes or melodies and act as a great tool for creating the right ambiance for any mood.
Hans Zimmer is the man behind the music to so many “epic” movies. Known for his characteristic compositions that bring intensity and wonder to the scene, Zimmer’s music is inspiring both on and off the screen. Listening to the tracks of this album allows one to wipe away mental noise and focus on the things at hand. Thought-provoking and emotionally inspirational tracks like “Time” and “Mombasa,” while individually very diverse in style, are spiritually and sentimentally motivating. This album really can stand alone, apart from the motion picture, as a great collection of ambient music.

For Lack of a Better Name
For a trip to a desert island, it’s important to bring along a fun favorite. For me, it’s this Deadmau5 album. He’s not my favorite artist or composer, but I always find his music enjoyable; his songs are repeatable, and the emotion that is found in pieces like “Strobe” feels remarkably sincere.

One of the best-known electronica artists and producers, Deadmau5 is an energetic and passionate musician. His style is unique in that his songs use few samples and focus on key build-ups and dynamic phrases. This album features one of his best-known singles, “Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff,” and the album’s entire track listing flaunts an impressive variety of styles and themes that will unfailingly bring a smile.

Leopold Stokowski
Walt Disney’s Fantasia [Soundtrack]

In this album, Walt Disney Productions, along with Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra, reminds us of the power of a child’s imagination and how brilliant it can be, as they say, to think like a child. In a situation where every perspective and suggestion helps, I would find this reminder invaluable for my predicament on the desert island.

Although this series was remastered in 2000 in the release of Fantasia 2000, I still prefer this original recording because I feel that there was a much greater focus on the heart of the music.

Sir Colin Davis, London Symphony Orchestra
Elgar: Enigma Variations

Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations is named so because each variation on an original theme is titled with someone’s initials (CAE), with the exception of four that are simply a spelled-out name (such as “Nimrod”) and one that is simply “***.” The idea for the Enigma Variations was actually suggested by Elgar’s wife, Alice, who is featured in the first variation, CAE. Supposedly, Elgar came home from a busy day of giving violin lessons and sat down at his piano. As a way to relax, he began to rather absent-mindedly improvise on a tune that had been in his head. Alice enjoyed this theme Elgar came up with, and they began to discuss how some of their friends might play that theme, based on their style and personality. Thus the Enigma Variations was born. The reason I chose to bring Elgar’s composition to the island is not because it is simply beautiful, but because of the story and the feeling behind the music and melodies. And Elgar emphasizes the importance and value of remembering the people who are important in one’s life.

Yael Naim
Yael Naim
During times of confusion and frustration, Yael Naim reminds me that even things that I cannot understand literally can still be meaningful and beautiful. This talented French singer-songwriter not only has a beautiful voice, but also the ability to use that voice in three different languages: English, French, and Hebrew. I was first introduced to her music through her single “New Soul,” which has since become highly popular due to its appearance in a MacBook Air video commercial. Looking into her other music, I found her lyrics and style to be mesmerizing. Her accent and unique perspective of music add a wonderful touch to all of her songs.

In this self-titled album, Naim’s musical insight shines through. This is the second of three albums she has released so far. Her English lyrics—the only ones I can speak for—are clever and sync with the unique instrumental style that she uses. Yael Naim also includes a cover of Britney Spear’s “Toxic,” an originally very sharp and fast-paced pop song. Naim makes it an entirely different song by slowing the tempo to almost half of the original’s, and with her French accent and elegant voice, she makes her version of the song very sensually pleasing yet classy. Whatever language she sings, her music really touches the heart.

Original 2002 Hairspray Broadway Cast
Hairspray [Cast Recording]

It is important to bring music to keep inspiring stories in your head for those darker moments. So, here we will look to Broadway, because the energy is there and Broadway music is evocative because there’s always an intriguing narrative behind it. Personally, Hairspray is by far my favorite Broadway musical; it has a great message and the characters are sincere and funny.

Broadway musicals always astound me with the pure amount of talent that they can gather on stage. Every character is a brilliant singer and storyteller. I find this especially true in this version of Broadway’s Hairspray. The energy and dedication of every singer and actor of this performance is evident in every track of this album. From the brilliant instrumentals in “You Can’t Stop the Beat” to the heart of “Good Morning Baltimore,” there’s something to appreciate in every track on this recording.

Sungha Jung

Broadway and symphonic orchestras are powerful because of the complexity and harmony of their dozens of components and melodies. Jung’s music, however, features just one acoustic guitar and his incredible skill in finger-style guitar playing. It includes original music as well as a remarkable transcription of the famous Japanese pianist Yiruma’s “River Flows in You.” Unplugged and unaccompanied, Jung’s playing is captivating and passionate; it illustrates the beauty of simplicity in this CD.

If I Could Tell You
It’s always easy to give up and stop trying, especially in increasingly desolate situations. When I was growing up, my family went to a lot of symphony and classical pianists’ concerts. When this album was released, my parents became huge fans of Yanni, and when he went on tour and held a concert near our home, my family bought tickets right away. It was my first non-classical concert, and it was so energetic that I still remember it vividly.

Yanni is a Greek self-taught pianist. He never had formal musical training, and for much of his musical career could not read music notes. As a result, all of his music comes from the passion and love for the piano that he has inside. In this album, his 12th, his music reflects a lot of the emotions and reflections he experienced through a life-changing move to the east coast of the United States.

by Olivia Lin