News

Steel Hammer film premiere at Cal Performances at Home (streaming)

May 5, 2021

Thursday May 6 at 7pm PDT/10pm EDT, Cal Performances at Home premieres Steel Hammer, a new film featuring the acclaimed oratorio by Julia Wolfe. Film will be available on demand through August 4.

Described by The Boston Globe as “[an] epic explosion and reconstruction of the folk ballad,” Julia Wolfe’s Steel Hammer is a meditation on over 200 versions of the John Henry legend, with voices and the Bang on a Can All-Stars, along with mountain dulcimer, wooden bones, banjo, harmonicas, clogging, and body percussion.

The various versions — based on hearsay, recollection, and tall tales — reveal both the evolution of the story, as well as the timeless tale of human versus machine. Wolfe draws upon these extreme variations, fragmenting and weaving the contradictory versions of the ballad that have circulated since the late 1800s into a new whole in order to tell “the story of the story” and to embody the simultaneous diverse paths it has traveled. To tell the tale, film-maker Jeremy Robins blends striking imagery and new performance footage of the Bang on a Can All-Stars, as well as a dynamic trio of three female voices.

Opening night, May 6, includes a “watch party” with a live chat, so viewers can chat with each other, connect and share their thoughts and reflections with others in real time. The chat will open a little before the show begins and then continue during the show as well.

Immediately following the premiere on May 6, viewers are invited to join a Post-Watch Party Discussion via Zoom filmmaker Jeremy Robins and hosted by Cal Performances Director of Artistic Planning Katy Tucker.


Bang on a Can All-Stars

Robert Black – bass
David Cossin – percussion
Vicky Chow – piano
Arlen Hlusko – cello
Mark Stewart – electric guitar, banjo, mountain dulcimer, harmonica
Ken Thomson – clarinets, harmonica
Rebecca L. Hargrove – voice
Sonya Headlam – voice
Molly Netter – voice

David Bloom: Music Director

Steel Hammer Film Credits

Jeremy Robins – Director, Editor, Animator
Kharon Benson – Camera Operator
Hugo Faraco – Camera Operator
Clements Wronski – Camera Operator
Ras Dia – Set Operators Coordinator
Emily Hart – Archival Researcher
Márion Talán Del Rosa – Costume Design
Theo Kogan – Stylist

Steel Hammer Film Soundtrack Credits

Produced by David Cossin
Recorded March-April 2021
The Bunker Studio, Brooklyn, NY
Cossin Studio, New York, NYEngineered by:
Alex Conroy and David Cossin
Edited, Mixed, and Mastered by:
David Cossin

Steel Hammer Film Soundtrack also includes previously recorded audio recorded at: The James L. Dolan Music Recording Studio at New York University, November 2011 & February 2012
Produced, Edited, Mixed, and Mastered by: Damian leGassick
Engineered by: Paul Geluso
Assisted by: Brian A Bourque, Eric Xu