Award-winning composer Julia Wolfe has been appointed the Debs Chair composer-in-residence at Carnegie Hall. Artistic Director of Music Composition at NYU Steinhardt, Wolfe is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and Pulitzer Prize for work that harnesses issues of social justice and labor history through sound and music.
Wolfe’s residency launches this week with her highly acclaimed composition, Steel Hammer. Wolfe, who received the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in Music, uses her exceptional skills as a composer to tell stories and explore their social/historical context. In particular her work has shed light on the plight of the American worker.
Carnegie Hall will present three evenings of Wolfe’s landmark works as a part of her tenure at Carnegie Hall, beginning with Steel Hammer on Thursday, March 3. Steel Hammer was first performed in 2009, at Zankel Hall by ensembles Bang on a Can All-Stars and Trio Mediæval. The performance received rave reviews, including, “Ms. Wolfe has undertaken an obsessive study of the song’s many versions and has made an expansive, eclectic setting of the results,” from The New York Times.
On April 13, Carnegie Hall presents Wolfe's Cruel Sister for string orchestra. Following the narrative arc of an Old English ballad, Wolfe creates an ominous and foreboding sound world with her use of “biting string attacks, unsettling drones, and otherworldly strumming and plucking.” Audiences of the show from its 2014 run at Zankel Hall, were rapt and entranced.
New commissions and a strong NYU presence abounds as Wolfe teams up with Carnegie Hall’s celebrated Ensemble Connect on May 2nd, and the intrepid Asphalt Orchestra on May 22. Wolfe curated Ensemble Connect’s Up Close concert, which includes new commissions for NYU composers Shelley Washington and Robert Honstein, as well as a world premiere by undergrad Steinhardt composer alum Kyle Brenn. Later in the season, on May 22nd, Asphalt Orchestra (new music marching band) plays Carnegie Hall commissions including works by NYU composers Leila Adu-Gilmore and Kendall Williams.
On May 19th Wolfe’s Pulitzer Prize–winning Anthracite Fields will be her final work for the Carnegie season. Based on the hardships of the Pennsylvania anthracite region, Wolfe weaves together personal interviews, political speeches, geographical descriptions, local rhymes, an accident index, and an advertisement to offer up a deeply moving composition that depicts the wrenching reality of life in the mines. The Los Angeles Times said Wolfe “...captures not only the sadness of hard lives lost but also of the sweetness and passion of a way of daily life now also lost. The music compels without overstatement. This is a major, profound work.”