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Events & Exhibitions

Noel Meek on ‘How Libraries Think’


Mark your calendars for a unique concert that employs non-professional musicians to explore the human and non-human relationships between the diverse staff of Christchurch City Libraries Ngā Kete Wānanga o Ōtautahi, their varied library collections, and the central building they work from, Tūranga.

This Tiny Fest Tiny Activation work is the creation of composer Noel Meek and is supported and funded by SOUNZ. Noel spoke to us about what’s in store for audiences.

How has this piece come about?

Last year I was awarded the SOUNZ community commission, which is a small commission that goes toward composing and presenting a concert that works with a particular community group. My proposal was to work with librarians – and it was accepted. Tiny Fest picked up on it and suggested it as one of the tiny activations, but the work itself is funded by SOUNZ which will also be recording it.

So, tell us what it’s all about?

My own practice – as a composer, musician and artist – explores the connections between humans and non-humans, for want of a better term. I’ve created work about rivers, making music with rivers, looking at the wairua of the river. It’s about creating a healthy relationship through music with something that is non-human – in a kaupapa Māori way such as recognising mountains and rivers as people. For me it’s about how to do that respectfully as a Pākeha; what does that look like? For this latest work, I wanted to look at something good that Europeans brought with them from Europe – and there wasn’t a lot – but libraries were one good thing. They’re a great repository of knowledge and Tūranga is one of the best libraries, and one which has Māori tikanga embedded in it. It’s a vibrantly cultural place and I wanted to reflect that in a composition. So, it’s very much about looking at the ecology between the building, the collection and the people who work there – the librarians.

Does the piece itself involves the librarians?

Yes, hopefully! It’s a structured improvisation, and there are nearly 400 librarians in the network, so I’m hoping to get at least 40 of them involved.

Do the librarians have to be musicians?

No, not at all. Because it’s a structured improvisation, I’m not going to ask them to read music or memorise anything. The way I work with people is to develop a set of instructions on how to make music, and they then improvise around the structure I’ve given them, but how they interpret it is up to them. So, with this piece, they don’t have to be musically inclined, it’s designed to be exploratory.

What instruments will you be using in the work?

When it comes to making the music, we’re using items from the collection – so there won’t be any traditional instruments at all – they’ll be using books and other items like toys, AV equipment, things around the library itself. It will be very gentle music.

That’s such an interesting concept – it makes you think about all the things surrounding you in everyday life that can create sound.

That’s definitely part of my practice – I use objects in music making. I’m very much interested in the concept of working with the tools that can be found in the ecology of the place.

Who is this piece for primarily – the librarians or the audience?

Both. All my music is along these lines – it’s an experience for the librarians and also for the audience. The composition will be performed amongst the books and so the audience can walk around the performance. It’s about 15 minutes long.

It’s a refreshing concept to make music without having to be a trained musician.

I’m not classically trained myself – I’m an autodidact in that way. I now have a master’s degree in composition -but I did that without being classical trained. I love working with people who aren’t trained – music is not just something for trained professionals, it’s something for all people. Music has become professionalised to such a degree that a lot of people think they can’t play music and historically that’s not the case.

Don’t miss ‘How Libraries Think’ – a Tiny Fest Tiny Activation by Noel Meek

Hapori | Community, First Floor, Tūranga (Christchurch Central Library)

25 May 2024 7:00pm – 8:30 pm

Please note – you must register your attendance. Click here to RSVP.


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