Questions of Practice: Composer Julia Wolfe on the Transformation of Research into Art
24 Apr 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).
About Julia Wolfe
Drawing inspiration from the folk, classical and rock genres, Julia Wolfe’s music is distinguished by an intense physicality and relentless power that push performers to extremes and demand attention from the audience. A finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for her evening-length Steel Hammer, written for the Bang on a Can All-Stars and Trio Mediaeval, Wolfe’s music brings a modern sensibility to each genre while simultaneously tearing down the walls between them. Her music has been heard at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Sydney Olympic Arts Festival, Settembre Musica (Italy), Theatre de la Ville (Paris), Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, and has been recorded on Cantaloupe, Teldec, Point/Universal, Sony Classical and Argo/Decca. Wolfe has been a recipient of numerous grants, including awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Art, and a Fulbright to The Netherlands. Wolfe joined the New York University Steinhardt School’s composition faculty in 2009.
Ars Nova Workshop presents a new commission created and performed by Nels Cline, lead guitarist for the band Wilco.An expansion of Cline’s 2016 recording Lovers (Blue Note Records), the new commission is inspired by research trips that led Cline on an inspiring journey through significant Philadelphia moments, artifacts, and sites.