Desert Island Discs: No.6 ‘Magnum Mysterium’

Continuing with my obsession with choral music, though this extraordinary piece of contemplative liturgical music is by a modern composer – Danish-American Morten Lauridsen. It helps that this recording is from Westminster Cathedral and is high quality (for Youtube).

One to play with the lights off, and no interruptions.


Desert Island Discs: No.5 ‘Crucifixus’

To celebrate the Pope’s visit to Britain, and to offer some counterbalance to my resolutely anti-Catholic (and sometimes quite offensive) Facebook news-stream, here’s my favourite piece of music of all time: ‘Crucifixus’ by Antonio Lotti (1667-1740). This is a short, seeringly beautiful part of Lotti’s setting of the Catholic Mass. My version of choice is by The Sixteen, and it’s hard to find anything good on YouTube. The clip below is a poor quality recording, but the voices are exceptional and the setting breathtaking.

Desert Island Discs: No.3 ‘Empty Glasses’

I first came across ‘Empty Glasses’ by The Amps on the soundtrack to one of the many skateboarding videos I used to watch as a teenager. The Amps were a short-lived American band formed in 1995 by Kim Deal of The Pixes / The Breeders fame. Whilst at first listening this is a fairly unremarkable mid-90s indie-rock number, it’s certainly stuck with me for its raw, dirty energy and, probably, because it reminds me of the freedom and excitement of whole weeks spent skateboarding around the city. It also got me into The Pixes, about which, possibly, more later.

Desert Island Discs: No. 2 ‘Miserere mei deus’

I was first introduced to Gregorio Allegri’s ‘Miserere mei deus’ (the Italian composer’s setting of Psalm 51) by my mother whilst she was on a research sabbatical from teaching at Merton College, Oxford. I guess around 1995. Composed in the 1630s for exclusive use in the Sistine Chapel, it’s an extraordinarily beautiful piece of Renaissance church music. The story of how Mozart ‘stole’ the piece by learning it from heart and transcribing it afterwards is equally astonishing. Read more about it here.

Obviously, nothing beats hearing this live, in a church setting. But here’s one of the better YouTube settings I could find, by The Sixteen. And with the added bonus of the venue – St Luke’s in Old Street.


Tallis Scholars in Rome
Kings College Chapel Choir in 1987

Desert Island Discs: No. 1 ‘Blue Flowers’

Welcome to a new sporadic series – my very own Desert Island Discs. Though I’m not limiting myself to eight. And the order is accidental. I’ll post stuff up when I think of it.

So, to start.

‘Blue Flowers’ by Dr Octagon

The above is actually the Dan the Automator remix, but I like the video on it. You can hear the original here. Some wit on YouTube described the track as trippy astro panic shock corridor style and actually that’s a pretty good stab at it. Just drool at those lyrics.