I love to ask people what they would take to a desert island — one album, one book, one painting, one sweater, one picture, the game can go on and on. I love the question because it forces us to confront the overabundance we take for granted today. Any album you want to listen to is at your fingertips on Spotify or YouTube. Any book is available within seconds from Amazon or a library download. This allows us to have broad, sweeping tastes, and media that suits our every mood. But what if it were not so easy? What if media were not limitless? What if you had to make a single choice, to find pleasure and inspiration from single source for the rest of your life (or at least until the occurrence of the very fortunate circumstance of a cruise ship passing by your island)?
I’ve spent years pondering this question, particularly for music. I’ve settled on a firm answer. It is Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians. This piece was composed by Steve Reich during 1974-1976, and premiered on April 24, 1976 at The Town Hall in New York City. It’s a meditative, pulsating, shifting, hypnotic, and beautiful work, built on a cycle of 11 chords, and my favorite.