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Julia Wolfe. Photo by Peter Serling.

Questions of Practice: Composer Julia Wolfe on the Transformation of Research into Art

Julia Wolfe, composer, Pulitzer Prize finalist, and Bang on a Can co-founder. Filmed at The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage on April 7, 2014.

The artist and the archive: the two have become bedfellows of late, with artists increasingly mining archives, and thus history, for content. Composer Julia Wolfe, of Bang on a Can fame, has wittily mined the subject of mining itself (coal) for a new choral composition titled Anthracite Fields (2014), which was funded by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. In 2015, Anthracite Fields won the Pulitzer Prize for musical composition.

We spoke with Wolfe to learn more about how she transformed the historical nuggets of her research into pollution-free sound energy—or rather, a new choral work and live performance by the 140-voice Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia. Visit the Mendelssohn Club’s project website to learn more about the project and to read the commission’s program notes (PDF).