The composer's 2009 piece, <em>Steel Hammer</em>, is central to her residency at Drew.
The composer’s 2009 piece, Steel Hammer, is central to her residency at Drew.

University’s artist-in-residence hosts talks, performances.

April 2017 – In words and music, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Julia Wolfe is leaving her mark on Drew University.

Wolfe, Drew’s artist-in-residence, will lead a series of talks and a performance of her 2009 piece, Steel Hammer.

In addition, the Bang on a Can All-Stars—the Brooklyn-based music ensemble that she co-founded—will interact with audience at an open rehearsal before performing the piece. The group includes musicians and sound engineers who have worked with the likes of Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Ornette Coleman, Alison Krauss and director Julie Taymor.

Finally, the All-Stars will read through multimedia works created by students in Special Topics in Documentary Expression—a class that Wolfe is co-teaching with Associate Professor of Art Rebecca Soderholm.

Steel Hammer was inspired by American-worker ballad John Henry and conjures the music of Appalachia through instruments like a mountain dulcimer and harmonica. Here’s an excerpt from a past performance.

In 2015, Wolfe won the Pulitzer Prize in Music for Anthrocite Fields. Last year, she earned a “genius grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation that will support the development of her next composition. So, her residency comes as her stature as an artist is growing.

The flurry of Drew events follows a Symposium on Poetic Histories, which featured five professional artists. Indeed, it’s a busy semester for Wolfe, whose residency is sponsored by an Arts and the Common Good grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Here’s a closer look at the upcoming events:

April 23 – Telling History Through a Musical Lens. An Arts & Letters Salon with Wolfe. Noon at Seminary Hall.

April 24 – Bang on a Can Residency begins with Steel Hammer—An Inside Look. A talk by Wolfe, demonstration by the Bang on a Can All-Stars and questions from the audience. 7 p.m. at The Concert Hall.

April 25 – Open reading. Bang on a Can All-Stars read multimedia works created by students in Special Topics in Documentary Expression. 1:15 p.m. at The Concert Hall.

April 26Steel Hammer. Bang on a Can All-Stars rehearse—taking questions from the audience—and then perform. Meet the artists at a reception afterward. 3:30 p.m. open rehearsal and 8 p.m. performance, both at The Concert Hall.

For a complete list of artist-in-residence events this semester, click here.