(Warning) Don’t listen while driving!
A piece of music, scientifically established as the most relaxing ever written, reducing heart-rate, and inducing sleep to the extent that it is not advisable to listen to it while driving, is chosen by the head teacher of Sherborne school, Dr Dominic Luckett.
One of the joys of working at Sherborne is the sheer quality of the music. The school has an outstanding musical reputation and we are triply blessed by having a wonderful team of music teachers, led by our inspirational and utterly fabulous Director of Music, James Henderson; exceptional talent among our boys, who regularly gain grade 8 distinctions, ATCL and LTCL diplomas; and superb performing venues including our own Music School and Chapel, Cheap Street Church and, of course, the surpassingly beautiful Sherborne Abbey.
Being cast away on a desert island would be hard in many ways but being starved of live music would be high on the list of deprivations. Music has always been important to me and in my gap year between my undergraduate degree and doctorate, I worked in a (now sadly defunct) specialist classical record shop on London’s Cheapside where the days were mostly spent in conversation with people far more knowledgeable than me who would analyse and debate the relative merits of the latest recordings.
It was a great education and, since then, music has continued to be a central part of my life, whether attending choral evensong whilst at Oxford, concert-going in London or listening to recordings at home and at work (Penny, my long- suffering PA, is immensely tolerant of the constant disturbance). Choosing just eight records is no easy task but, in anticipation of the day when my ship goes down, I have selected the following.
Maurice Ravel – Le Tombeau de Couperin
Ravel is a much-underrated composer and I could easily choose nothing but his music to while away the long hours on the island. If I had to select just one piece it would be the orchestral version of Le Tombeau de Couperin whichhe adapted from his original piano score. It was written during World War One in memory of friends who had died and is a work that is both poignant and joyful. However many times I listen to it, it is never anything other than fresh and life-affirming. The recording by Pierre Boulez and the New York Philharmonic is especially brilliant.
Ernest Moeran – Serenade in G Major
A neglected genius of English music is Ernest Moeran. Born in 1894, he endured the horrors of World War One and was seriously wounded on the Western Front. After the war, he worked as a composer and was particularly influenced by the English folk-song tradition. Although
Gustav Mahler – Symphony No. 2
All Mahler’s symphonies are magnificent but none more so than the second. A colossal work, it combines sheer power and force with writing of the most exquisite subtlety and spirituality.
Simon Rattle and the CBSO released an awe-inspiring recording at about the time I started working in the record shop and, when the manager was not around, we would drive customers from the premises by playing the final movement far, far too loud.
J.S. Bach – Goldberg Variations
Whereas Mahler shows what can be done with massive orchestral forces, Bach’s keyboard repertoire reminds us of the elegant perfection that can be coaxed by skilled hands from a single instrument. When in need of a moment of quiet contemplation on my isolated beach, I will listen to Lang Lang playing the Goldbergs.
And, for as long as that lasts, all will be well within the narrow horizons of my solitary world.
Miles Davies – Kind of Blue
Considered by many to be the greatest jazz album ever, Kind of Blue is a work of improvisatory genius, and has been the soundtrack to many of the most memorable moments of my life since I first heard it nearly 40 years ago. I would hate to be without it.
Tomasz Stanko Quartet – Soul of Things
Where Miles Davis led, the great Polish free jazz trumpeter Tomasz Stanko followed. His work ranges from the lyrical to the more challenging avant- garde. Soul of Things is towards the more accessible end of his spectrum and I defy anyone not to be moved by the haunting poetry of Variation 4.
Marconi Union – Weightless
When life on my island becomes stressful, or when I can’t sleep, I shall listen to Weightless, a piece of ambient music written with the express intention of reducing anxiety.
It has, apparently, been scientifically established as the most relaxing piece of music ever written, reducing heart rate, and inducing sleep to the extent that it is not advisable to listen to it whilst driving. Then, when I need to wake up again, I shall listen to the Mahler …
Herbert Howells – Like as the Hart
When planning my wedding (or, at least, those elements of it where my input was permitted), Cara and I spent hours thinking about the music we wanted. We were married in St Etheldreda’s, a little-known medieval gem in central London and England’s oldest Catholic church.
The music was performed by a fabulous choir assembled by musician friends of ours. Being married at Christmas, the service and the music had a suitably festive theme but we also asked for Howell’s setting of Psalm 42. It is not remotely festive, nor particularly suitable for a wedding, but it is beautiful and, whenever I listen to it, it reminds me of my very happy wedding day; of Cara; and of our children, Charlie and Jemima, with whom we were subsequently blessed and all of whom I would miss terribly whilst languishing on my island.
For my book, I would take Some Notes on Lifemanship by Stephen Potter, purely because it is absurd, clever and very funny, and would serve to cheer me up on those days when the sun didn’t shine.
My luxury item
And, finally, for my luxury, I would take my Concept2 rowing machine in the hope that I could stay in reasonable shape until I get rescued and not pile on the pounds after eating too many coconuts.
Click here to listen to Dr Luckett’s entire palylist on YouTube: