Happy birthday Steve Reich

American minimalist composer Steve Reich was born on 3 Oct 1936 and he turns 75 today. He is one of America’s best known and most celebrated contemporary composers. He has received worldwide critical acclaim and won many awards including the Pulitzer prize for music and Grammy Awards for his works Different Trains and Piece for 18 musicians.

His musical interests are wide, and he has trained in African drumming and religious chant, as well as having a strong interest in jazz and a degree in philosophy.

Minimalist music often involves short, repeating melodic figures, a technique it shares with psychedelic rock, which Britannica describes as using ” repetitive structures and droning techniques to express the hallucinations of LSD and other drugs in a musical language”. Velvet Underground is often offered as an example. Reich achieves this same effect by using techniques such as tape loops that are slightly out of phase, sometimes using the spoken human voice as an instrument.

He is keen to abolish the divide between popular and classical music, which he sees as an artificial development and for which he points the finger at Schoenberg. According to critic Alex Ross (author of The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century) he has succeeded:

“Reich’s influence is vast, reaching far outside classical composition to encompass jazz, rock, pop, electronic music, and hip-hop.

Brian Eno and David Bowie for example, are said to have been big fans of Piece for 18 musicians when it came out. Ross also suggests Piece for 18 musicians as one of five modern classical pieces for pop listeners so why not give it a try?

Celebrating the older person

CoverSaturday was the International Day of Older Persons.

In our youth-obsessed world, it can be easy to forget the wonderful gifts that age can bring . Many of us end up embracing instead the glass half-empty attitude that “old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative,” to quote French entertainer Maurice Chevalier.

So let’s buck the trend!  Let’s recognise and celebrate the many contributions that older people make to the community, and let’s discover how to make the most of the second halves of our lives.

The library, as usual, has much to offer:

And, above all, don’t forget “with mirth and laughter [to] let old wrinkles come” (thank you, Mr Shakespeare!*) by enjoying some “age-appropriate” humour.

Make also a note in your calendars to attend the Health, Safety and Wellbeing Expo on Monday 10 October.

The expo will be hosted by Age Concern Canterbury, with support from the Christchurch City Council and Papanui High School.  It promises to be a fun day combining information about services for older adults with free entertainment, including cooking demonstrations by MasterChef runner-up Jax Hamilton.

Library staff will be there on the day, so come and have a chat and discover the myriad ways in which we can help you enjoy your “golden years”.

*The quote is from The Merchant of Venice.

Those wonderful men with their farming machines

Farming has its heritage along with the rest our society, and its technology has a bit of fascination even for us townies.

A lot changed in terms of technology in a short time in the twentieth century. It always amazed me that my father went to church in a horse and buggy in his childhood, and that he saw men landing on the moon. That’s a lot of change for one lifetime.

PhotoIn farming terms it was perhaps as startling. He worked a horse team as young man and never lived down landing the whole lot at the bottom of a gully when ploughing on a steep hill.

Perhaps that was the reason he just loved farm machinery. He was the first in his district to obtain a header when they became available, a huge step up from threshing by hand and the threshing mills. He used to bring in the cereal crops for the whole district.

Not everything was such fun though. The first tractors had metal wheels with metal lugs on them and metal seats – as you can see on tractor in  this photo – and they were hell to spend all day driving on. In good New Zealand number eight wire style, our farm yard used to be littered with machinery which was originally horse-drawn and had been adapted to pull behind a tractor. The machine being pulled here looks very familiar.

It is the traction engines I remember most though. As now, they emerged from retirement at every agricultural show and sometimes we saw them still in action on farms in our district. Wonderful behemoths that even a science fiction writer could not out do.

Browse the farming images in our collection.