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Thu, Dec 7, 2017 6:00pm –

Knox Hall Room 509
606 West 122 Street
Columbia University
New York, NY, 10027

Columbia Oral History Master of Arts

"Beyond words": oral tradition and the music of Julia Wolfe

Photography: Peter Serling 2009

One of America’s most important composers, Julia Wolfe has often mined the past as inspiration for her contemporary music. Oral tradition, memory and oral history are central to two of her best-known works: Steel Hammer (2009), which has as its source more than 200 variations of the quintessential American folk ballad, the legendary “John Henry.” And the text for Anthracite Fields (2014), her choral oratorio about life and death in Pennsylvania coal country, was, in Wolfe’s words, “culled from oral histories and interviews, local rhymes, a coal advertisement, geological descriptions, a mining accident index, contemporary daily everyday activities that make use of coal power, and an impassioned political speech by John L. Lewis, the head of the United Mine Workers Union.”

Join Columbia Oral History Master of Arts as Julia Wolfe discusses her multiple roles as composer, researcher and interviewer, and how her compositions, rooted in the past and focusing on workers, labor, and industrialization, have gained new relevance and audiences, in coal country, throughout the U.S. and beyond.