Steve Reich: Mind Blender

American classical composer, Steve Reich, has at least one thing in common with great science fiction writers: they put your mind through a blender. This week, Reich celebrates his 75th birthday while he continues challenging audiences with a new musical language.

Never heard of Reich? Watch this short documentary on his life and you may have to restrain yourself from checking out everything the AADL has by him. As the documentary says, Reich’s work is often based on repeated melodic patterns set to a regular pulse. His instrumentation is often unusual, such as using hand clapping and tongue clicking for an entire piece, or swinging microphones on pendulums over speakers to produce rhythmic feedback.

Brian Eno says his music wouldn’t exist without Reich’s influence. Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas says, “I know when I’ve truly learned [Reich’s] pieces because they stop hurting.” Reich has named Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and Charlie Parker’s music as strong influences on his work. Put these pieces together and you get a complex rhythmic experience akin to setting your brain blender on ‘Frappe.’

Dance!!

In the last year AADL has had an influx of all things Dance! Starting with well known entertainer Michael Flatley, take a tour of AADL's recent additions in dance related materials.

Michael Flatley has a new DVD out for fans of Lord of the Dance.

Tap Dance History : From Vaudeville To Film contains rare dance footage from the 1930s and 1940s.

Also, the dancetastic film Burlesque was released this year, starring Cher and Christina Aguilera. To read my review of the film, click here.

In books, dancer Cheryl Burke wrote the autobiographical Dancing Lessons : How I Found Passion And Potential On The Dance Floor And In Life

Check out these and more today!

Author Birthdays: Lorca, Scarry, Drabble

June 5th marks the birthday of authors Federico García Lorca, Richard Scarry, and Margaret Drabble.

Federico García Lorca was a Spanish poet and playwright who is believed to have been killed during the Spanish Civil War. Some of his unpublished poems and essays were collected in a volume in 1998, A Season in Granada; the overall theme of the collection is Granada, where Lorca was supposedly killed.

Lorca's works also include: In Search of Duende, which describes theories on dance, music, and bullfights; the play Yerma, which was made into a Spanish language film; and a collection of his letters, which gives a sort of autobiography of his life.

Richard Scarry was an American author and illustrator of children's stories. His most well-known works include those about Busytown, a place inhabited by animals.

Scarry wrote for many ages; we have board books, picture books, and readers. We even have some of his works in Chinese.

Margaret Drabble is an English writer of novels and biographies, as well as some other assorted non-fiction subjects. Of these non-fiction works, AADL has a biography of Angus Wilson (a fellow novelist), and a book on jigsaw puzzles, The Pattern in the Carpet.

Drabble's novels include: The Red Queen, which details the story of a London woman who receives an unpublished memoir of a Korean princess; The Seven Sisters, which Library Journal noted as having "a character who describes herself accurately as having 'much to be ashamed about'"; and The Millstone, set in 1960s London.

June 1st is National Running Day

Whether you run every day and National Running Day is just another Wednesday to you, or if you haven't run since you were a kid but you think it might be (even a little bit) fun, today's a perfect day to lace up those shoes and go for a run. One of the most popular and beautiful places to run in Ann Arbor is Gallup Park, home to a paved, pancake flat, multi-use path that's easy to get to from the parking lots shown here, or you can run there if you're extra ambitious.

After your run, stop by the National Running Day website and post why you run on the scrolling inspire badge. Check out the sometimes funny, often motivating reasons why other people run, such as "I run because I like to eat. A LOT", "I run for cheap therapy", "I run because no one thought I could", and "I run so I can smile the rest of the day". The site also has 10 Ways to Celebrate National Running day, which applies to any day of the week.

The AADL has a great collection of running books and media for the first timer and for the veteran. Happy running!

Back to the Front: 1989 in Music

I went to my first concert in 1989. Bon Jovi was touring their latest, New Jersey, at the since-demolished Silver Stadium in Rochester, NY, and Skid Row opened for them. I was in 2nd grade. The only thing I remember from the show is sitting next to my best friend in the bleacher seats with cotton balls in my ears feeling like a dork (my mom made me wear them!), yet overcome by this conviction that I wanted to experience as much music as I possibly could until forever. Even when I got old.

Turning back to 1989, with the end of the Reagan administration, the Tiananmen Square Massacre, and the Berlin Wall falling that year, it follows that musicians were reaching as far into the future as the world around them. There are several albums from '89 that to this day I keep thinking came out after Cobain died. They didn't. They just sound like they did.

That year, keg-party rappers, Beastie Boys, studied sophisticated sampling techniques and laid them over aggressive break beats that would shape the sound of hip-hop's post Golden Age artists with their release, Paul's Boutique. Check out the Annotated Lyrics to this album for a dip into the goody bag of samples these guys used. It's enough to make Girl Talk giggle.

Meanwhile, nearly ten years after New Order's flux-capacitor rise to power out of the ashes of Joy Division, the best live dance band on the planet unleashed Technique, bringing the sun-drenched clubs of Ibiza to the dank CBGBs of the states. The rave club DJs of the following decade owe every last glow stick to this record.

If the front half of the '90s was driven by the often opposing forces of grunge and Brit-pop, then the road back home leads to Pixies' Doolittle and The Stone Roses' self titled record, respectively. Doolittle's fuzzed out guitar riffs and scream along lyrics are balanced by some of the catchiest rock hooks not written by Kiss. For me, Pixies prove that the beautiful and the profane share the same bungalow. The Stone Roses drew from Ray Davies' ear for phrasing and his love for all things UK, washing it in a dreamy haze that continues to float out of my car's windows on the sunniest of summer days.

Other visionary rock albums from 1989 include The Cure's Disintegration, Nine Inch Nails' Pretty Hate Machine, and Faith No More's The Real Thing. All of which share far more in common with the decade that followed their release than the one that led up to it. Hmmm, somehow neither Bon Jovi nor Skid Row made the cut? But both of them led me to music, so they'll always have a place in my heart, if no longer in my ear.

Celebrities love The Making of Ann Arbor

The Local History databases aren't just for Ann Arborites, international celebrities like them too! The AADL's resources got some national attention this weekend when Russell Crowe retweeted a link to our The Making of Ann Arbor database!

Ann Arbor has been a used as a film location for many years, which means we've had our fair share of celebrity visitors to our fair city. This weekend, actor Russell Crowe tweeted about enjoying a visit to Ann Arbor and asked his followers if they knew the origin of the name. Local History Databases to the rescue! Woo hoo!

As Russell and his followers soon found out, the origin of the name "Ann Arbor" is still hotly debated. Ann's Arbor? Annarbour? Depending on which tome you consult, the name has a different origin. There are a litany of possible Ann's from history that could hold the honor of having the city named after them but which one? The world may never know! But if you want to do your own research beyond The Making of Ann Arbor be sure and check out:

Still Young After All These Years

Neil Young takes the stage at Fox Theater in Detroit on Wednesday, May 4, as part of his eleven city solo tour, Twisted Road. Playing acoustic and electric guitars, pump organ, piano, and (of course) harmonica, the folk-rock legend is likely to play a mix of his greatest hits, like "My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)", "Tell Me Why", and "Cinnamon Girl" along with a strong helping of songs from his 2010 Grammy award winning release, Le Noise, produced by Daniel Lanois. Young won Best Rock Song for "Angry World", his second ever Grammy in a career spanning more than four decades.

Later this year, Neil Young will rejoin Stephen Stills and other members of short-lived '60s band, Buffalo Springfield, for a reunion tour that will make stops in California before headlining the multi-day music and arts festival, Bonnaroo, in Tennessee. Looks like it's going to be a great year for Neil Young fans.

The AADL music collection includes dozens of albums that span Young's impressive career. If you're new to his music, this writer recommends starting with Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, Harvest, and On the Beach.

Jamey Johnson: Rekindling Country Music

Grammy nominee, Jamey Johnson, is the kind of country singer that skeptical country music fans have been waiting a long time for. Unlike most popular country stars, like Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, or Brad Paisley, where most of the songs sound like straight-ahead pop tunes with some pedal steel guitar and twangy vocals thrown in, Johnson is all substance over style. He is a songwriter first and wrote hits for other country musicians before recording under his own name.

Cut from the cloth of honkey-tonkers like George Jones and Alan Jackson, Jamey Johnson breathes his Montgomery, Alabama heritage and bourbon-soaked baritone into his narrative songs, though he can write the honest-as-bones Hank Williams style ballad just as well. Which is why he was able to successfully release 2010’s double-disc album, The Guitar Song, with the first disc titled “The Black Album” and the second “The White Album”. Black is laced with the darker themes of rejection and loss, while White highlights the more optimistic moments in life.

The Guitar Song comes two years after Johnson’s superb 2008 record, The Lonesome Song, with the latest album building strongly on the gritty lens and focused musicianship that sets him far above his peers.

Josh Cox Breaks American 50k Road Record

A couple of Sundays ago, 35 year old American distance runner, Josh Cox, won P.F. Chang's Rock n Roll Arizona Marathon with a blistering, Olympic Trial qualifying time of 2:17:48. But that's not all. After crossing the finish line, Cox kept running in the 50k race (31.07 miles) and not only won that but set a new American record for the 50k road distance, while coming in just 7 seconds shy of the world record. His marathon pace was a crushing 5:15 minutes per mile, while his 50k pace was only one second per mile slower at 5:16 m/m. Unbelievable. As a litmus test for the age group athlete, the current Boston Marathon qualifying time for men under 35 is 3:10:59, or 7:16 m/m. Josh Cox was running 2 minutes per mile faster than that.

If you're inspired to take a crack at a 5k or an ultramarathon or something in between, the AADL has a wide range of run training resources for both the beginner looking to cross the finish line for the first time and the veteran aiming for a new personal record.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

AADL's music collection continues to grow with thirteen Gil Scott-Heron CDs that span his recorded work from the late 1960s to his critically acclaimed 2010 release, I'm New Here.

Gil Scott-Heron is a poet, musician, and author who is credited with essentially creating the genre of Rap with his rhythmic, aggressive, politically charged spoken word performances set to jazz and R&B music. In the 1970s, Scott-Heron collaborated with legendary jazz producer Bob Thiele and pianist Brian Jackson throughout his most prolific decade, releasing nine records that confront controversial issues such as racism in the inner city, media portrayal of African Americans, equity among classes and races, and homophobia.

On last year's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West was the latest in a long line of artists to use Gil Scott-Heron samples in his music, closing his chart topping album with the poet's "Who Will Survive in America," further evidence of the lasting resonance of Scott-Heron's work.

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