Back in the 20th century, a friend of mine returned from a prolonged stay in South Asia with a suitcase. He rented a room painted white and slept on a tatami mat. He made me think of a modern-day monk.
"That's all I need," he declared proudly. Then I watched him reintegrate into Western life. Within three years he had bought a house and had filled it to the brim with found and reclaimed furnishings.
My friend's swift transformation made me acutely aware of how overstuffed our lives are and how, despite our best efforts, it's hard to keep cherishing a lone prized object, when there are 50 more vying for our attention.
Our entire way of life is built upon desire for more. If we stopped shopping recreationally, our economy would collapse -- just witness life in the U.S.A, circa 2011. It's the same with art: books, paintings, music.
If we reduce our consumption of culture, artists starve and potential goes unrealised. It becomes our duty of read, to listen, to devour the fruits of others' creativity.
But I'm interested in how much we really need. There's a growing movement of people who are trying to live with 100 things, led by a guy named Dave Bruno -- an unsound plan for our economy, but a brilliant tonic for our cluttered lives.
I'd like to play a similar game with Western art music. It's like the old music on a desert island game, and this one is particularly challenging, probably impossible.
What are the 100 pieces of music -- including full operas -- that we simply can't live without in 2011?
Email your suggestions, and short justification to firstname.lastname@example.org
I would be very unhappy if I had to surrender this little piece of music from my life. As improbable as it may sound, it is Gabriel Fauré's Nocturne No. 2 for solo piano. There is a full story, a subtantial journey, in its 6-plus minutes. It is pretty, but is also beautifully structured. Even so, I know it doesn't stand a chance of making it onto a Top 100 list.
Here is the great French pianist Samson François (1924-1970) to play it: