Interviews

March 2, 2016

By David Ng

When you win a Pulitzer Prize for music, you hear about it just like everyone else — in the news perhaps, or from other people who read about it before you do.

"You don't know anything," said composer Julia Wolfe, who won the coveted award last year for her choral piece "Anthracite Fields," an unconventional exploration into the history of coal mining in rural Pennsylvania.

Wolfe recalled that she was at home in her Tribeca loft, working with colleagues from the Bang on a Can ensemble, when a call came in from Washington, D.C. "I didn't take it. I didn't know who it was," she recounted.

Later that day, she learned about the win from a colleague, and much celebrating ensued. And that missed call? "That was NPR," she said. "I was glad I didn't pick up. I would've said, 'Huh?' "

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April 22, 2015

Julia Wolfe descended hundreds of feet underground, into a dank, dark cavern with gleaming black walls: a Pennsylvania coal mine.

“You can't believe people spent all day there,” Wolfe recalled Tuesday. “It was spooky, a little bit, but so fascinating, a strange kind of beauty.”

Wolfe's visit helped inspire “Anthracite Fields,” a choral tribute to the state's mining heritage - and, now, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in music. The judges described her work as a “powerful oratorio for chorus and sextet evoking Pennsylvania coal-mining life around the turn of the 20th Century.”

“I'm a little stunned,” Wolfe, a music professor at New York University, said a day after her win. “I'm enjoying it, having a good time.”

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August 1, 2014

The music of Beethoven and Bach gets a lot of attention in the Berkshires every summer. But amid the more august offerings, there is a musical collective that wants to rip the powdered wig off traditional classical music. Playing the work of living composers, and using unconventional methods, they are interested in anything but a musical history lesson.

Leading a string ensemble of about twenty musicians an hour before their public recital, conductor Brad Lubman gives his players an unusual criticism—they sound too polished, clean, locked in with each other.

“What I’m getting is it all sounds like you’re going like [sings a note], lets go now [sings a note]. It shouldn’t be that way. It should be disturbing.”

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December 15, 2011

Listen to Julia Wolfe's interview with students at the Columbia School of Journalism.

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February 1, 2011

By Allan Kozinn

Like most composers, Julia Wolfe is often in two places at once psychically: working on new pieces (with working defined as anything from cogitating and experimenting to actually putting the notes on paper) but also seeing that the backlist is getting attention. In recent weeks she has been putting the finishing touches on “Iron Maiden,” a new solo work for the percussionist Evelyn Glennie, and working on “Combat de Boxe,” for the Asko Ensemble of the Netherlands. And she has been gathering thoughts for a work for the Ethel string quartet and a vocalist.

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November 15, 2009

By David Patrick Stearns

NEW YORK — Among downtown New York composers, few stick so relentlessly to the cutting edge as Julia Wolfe.

Now 50, she recently wrote a piece for nine bagpipes that sent her two children running for cover in her SoHo loft. Even her husband, Michael Gordon, who with her cofounded the composer collective Bang on a Can, has been moving toward more mainstream music for opera and film. Back home in Blue Bell, Wolfe's mother supports her daughter's performances with a dignified stoicism.

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March 11, 2003

Julia Wolfe is a composer who is as influenced by the songs of Led Zeppelin as she is by the symphonies of Beethoven. As one of the most acclaimed young composers in New York, she has managed to expand on the definition of what a string quartet can be. This weekend the members of the innovative electric and acoustic string quartet, Ethel, will be performing string quartets by both Ms. Wolfe and John Zorn. Today, she is in our studios to talk about her newest music.

Listen here

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