Questions of Practice: Composer Julia Wolfe on the Transformation of Research into Art

Julia Wolfe, composer, Pulitzer Prize finalist, and Bang on a Can co-founder. Filmed at The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage on April 7, 2014.

The artist and the archive: the two have become bedfellows of late, with artists increasingly mining archives, and thus history, for content. Composer Julia Wolfe, of Bang on a Can fame, has wittily mined the subject of mining itself (coal) for a new choral composition titled Anthracite Fields (2014), which was funded by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. In 2015, Anthracite Fields won the Pulitzer Prize for musical composition.

We spoke with Wolfe to learn more about how she transformed the historical nuggets of her research into pollution-free sound energy—or rather, a new choral work and live performance by the 140-voice Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia. Visit the Mendelssohn Club’s project website to learn more about the project and to read the commission’s program notes (PDF).

Grants & Grantees

New Paradise Laboratories is an experimental performance ensemble that explores radical means to bend conventional ideas of theater.

Grants & Grantees

Founded in 1982, Choral Arts Philadelphia has performed nearly 300 works by more than 100 composers.

Collaborators & Colleagues

R. Larry Todd is Arts and Sciences Professor of Music and former chair of the music department at Duke University.

Settlement Music School will develop programs that are responsive to the needs of nearby residents by studying neighborhood demographics and working with “community advocates.”

The Liberian Women’s Chorus for Change will conduct a community concert at the Collingdale Agape Missionary Church of the Nazarene, as part of the Philadelphia Folklore Project’s Center-supported initiative.

Questions of Practice

The premiere American Impresario article comes from one of the nation’s most adventurous radio producers, WNYC’s John Schaefer, host of Soundcheck, New Sounds, and the New Sounds Live concert series.

Andrea Clearfield—a working musician, composer, curator, and member of the group—discusses how making and listening to music is changing.

Grants & Grantees

Among the largest art museums in the United States, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is a pilgrimage site for modern and contemporary art professionals.

Grants & Grantees

Vera Nakonechny, a 2008 Pew Fellow, is a Ukrainian embroiderer, bead worker, and weaver.

Pew Fellow Germaine Ingram talks with us about the responsibilities of creating socially engaged art.

As part of her Carnegie International project, Zoe Strauss is taking portraits of the residents of Homestead, PA. Plus, news on Brian Phillips, Frank Sherlock, Kinan Abou-Afach, Matthew Cox, Jay Kirk, and more.

On Monday, June 16, 2014, The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage honored its 2014 grantees. Browse our slide show for exclusive photos from this celebratory event.