I have grown to hate digital music.
Don’t get me wrong, this disdain really has nothing to do with reduced sound quality, the resurgence of Walkman-era antisocial behavior or some pathological fear of convenience. Those, when compared to my real issue, seem pretty minor.
No, my issue is that it has robbed society of that innocent voyeuristic experience of checking out one of the greatest snapshots into personality – the music collection. While, admittedly, not a wholly accurate litmus of the full depth and breadth of someone’s personality, there is a certain amount of insight that comes with a quick perusal of musical choices. Simon and Garfunkel says one thing about a music fan, the Sex Pistols something else.
It’s that idea that has anchored the BBC Radio program – or programme as the case may be – Desert Island Discs for more than 75 years. The show is remarkable in its simplicity – each week a guest interview punctuated with eight music choices, a luxury item and a book with which they would choose to be stranded on a desert island.
I’ve long been fascinated by this show and recently, curious and inspired, I made inquiries of a variety of Augusta-area musicians, makers and shakers. The results I got were both interesting and illuminating. Not only did I find the lists fascinating, but also how the loose-and-simple rules were interpreted. Coco Rubio, of Sky City and Soul Bar fame, wanted music that would remind him of his family and so had his wife, Holly, and daughter, Maya, each pick four songs so he would have them with him always. He also took a copy of The Little Prince and a solar-powered eco-dome. Smart.
Local artist Raoul Pacheco and writer Brian Panowich took a far different approach. Believing they could live on a far simpler diet, opting to trade eight songs for a single album. Panowich went for Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness at the Edge of Town and Pacheco chose the criminally underrated self-titled debut by the Athens act Macha.
My favorite list came from Ryan Griffis, an Augusta-based bass player best known for his work with extremely heavy acts such as Chairleg. While it did include some of the acts that clearly influenced him musically – both Mudvayne and Megadeth make an appearance – his list most clearly illustrated the ‘Don’t judge a book …’ ethos of Desert Island Discs and included some Petty, Perry (Katy, not Joe), Pink Floyd and a copy of Thomas Paine’s 18th century political treatise Common Sense.
An interesting side-note. Almost everyone that participated in my fast-and-loose musical survey commented on how difficult the process was – despite a clear understanding that they would not actually be stranded on a desert island. I believe this says something about how we are affected by and attach importance to the things we love. I feel certain, for instance, that asking about eight desert island movies would have been approached with the same sort of gravity. So while it is true that we are not defined by what we listen to, what we listen to can offer an interesting peek into who we are.