Julia Wolfe

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Headshot of a woman.

Photo by Peter Serling

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Composer

Composer Julia Wolfe recently premiered her third oratorio that is centered on American labor history—this latest piece is based on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that occurred in New York City in 1911. 146 workers—most of them immigrant women—died. Julia was determined not show these women as victims, but rather as resourceful people who had the courage to travel to a new country and band together to struggle for better working conditions. Fire in my mouth, a multi-media work, opened with the New York Philharmonic as its orchestra, a chorus of 146 women, a sold-out house and a cheering standing ovation. It was a good night.

Julia Wolfe, who has won a Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur fellowship, has a large and varied body of work. A composer that is hard to classify, she not only embraces all musical genres, she hears sound itself as a music which is helpful when you want to recreate the particular roar of a factory floor. In this week’s podcast, Julia talks about her deep interest in history, her wide embrace of music and her methods for translating the sounds of work into music.