Julia Wolfe takes inspiration from folk, classical, and rock genres, bringing a modern sensibility to each while simultaneously tearing down the walls between them.
Her music is distinguished by an intense physicality and a relentless power that pushes performers to extremes and demands attention from the audience. In the words of The Wall Street Journal, she has “long inhabited a terrain of [her] own, a place where classical forms are recharged by the repetitive patterns of minimalism and the driving energy of rock.”
Her Pulitzer-winning, Grammy-nominated oratorio, Julia Wolfe: Anthracite Fields, for chorus and instruments, draws on oral histories, interviews, speeches, and local advertisements to honor the people who persevered and endured in the Pennsylvania anthracite coal region. Wolfe’s interest in labor history has informed other recent works, including Steel Hammer, an evening-length art-ballad, culled from more than 200 versions of the John Henry legend, that explores the subject of human versus machine. “Fire in my mouth,” commissioned for the New York Philharmonic and premiered in 2019, focuses on the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911, which claimed the lives of 146 workers, most of them immigrant women. Wolfe is a co-founder of the Bang on a Can music collective, a 2016 MacArthur Fellow, and Associate Professor of Music Composition at NYU's Steinhardt School.