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

Jenn McCreary (Pew Fellow, 2013) believes that the poem is “a dialogue and exchange between poet and reader; a breathing entity rather than a closed, coherent object.”

Collaborators & Colleagues

Stephen Petronio has honed a unique language of movement that speaks to the intuitive and complex possibilities of the body.

The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance is a service organization that represents the interests of 400 arts, culture, and heritage organizations in the Philadelphia area.

Conductor Donald Nally and violinist Hanna Khoury on how tradition influences their approach to bringing together a classical Arab chamber ensemble and a Western choir in performance.

This month, Afaa Michael Weaver is awarded the $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, Joshua Mosley’s work appears at the Whitney Biennial, King Britt curates at MoMA PS1, and much more.

Grants & Grantees

Over her 40-year career in performance, Merián Soto (Pew Fellow, 2015) has focused on investigating the living body and its relationship to consciousness. Her conceptual and process-based pieces work towards, in the artist’s words, “a dance of the future, a dance of healing, transformation, and transcendence.”

Collaborators & Colleagues

Lance Fung has worked as an independent curator since 2005, realizing innovative projects in China, Finland, Italy, and the United States.

Philadelphia choreographer Nichole Canuso presents a solo performance that uses personal reminiscences and universal yearnings to explore the relationship between memory and self.

Grants & Grantees

Astral Artists celebrated its 20th-anniversary season with a concert of commissioned works by three noted African-American composers: Alvin Singleton, David Sanford, and Evelyn Simpson-Curenton.

Dolce Suono Ensemble, founded by flutist Mimi Stillman in 2005, presents highly acclaimed chamber music concerts in Philadelphia and on tour.

The Center’s 2014 Year in Review celebrates a spectacular year of innovative cultural presentations and stimulating discussions.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Tom Schorgl has been president and CEO of the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture since its inception in 1997.