updated 24 November 2023
© Peter Serling

Julia Wolfe

American composer born 18 December 1958 in Philadelphia.

Julia Wolfe graduated with a Master of Music from Yale University, where she studied with Martin Bresnick, and then obtained Doctorate from Princeton University. In 1987, along with David Lang and Michael Gordon, whom she met at Yale, she founded the Bang on a Can Ensemble, of which all three composers remain the artistic directors. Every year, Bang on a Can organises and performs in a series of Marathon Concerts which take place in the Winter Garden of the atrium of the World Financial Center in Manhattan. She has composed several works in collaboration with David Lang and Michael Gordon, including The Carbon Copy Building (1999), Lost Objects (2001), Shelter (2005), and Water (2008). Julia Wolfe is also the artistic director of the composition programme at the New York University Steinhardt School.

In her works, Julia Wolfe draws inspiration from folk, classical, and rock music, lending an intense physical dimension to her music which often pushes performers to their limits. Her predilection for combinations of string instruments, be they quartets or ensembles, is manifest in works such as Cruel Sister (2004) for string orchestra, based upon an English ballade and commissioned by the Music Chambre Orchestra; Fuel (2007) for string orchestra, composed in collaboration with director Bill Morrison; and Spinning (2018) for three cellos and vocalist, a multimedia work written for cellist Maya Beiser.

Her music has been performed in the United States — at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall — as well as at the Sydney Olympic Arts Festival, Muziekgebouw (Netherlands), Barbican Centre in London, Settembre Musica in Italy, and at the Théâtre de la Ville in Paris, and has been recorded by Cantaloupe Music, Teldec, Universal, Sony Classical, and Argo/Decca.

In 2015, her oratorio Anthracite Fields (2014) for choir and ensemble, a commission of the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. This piece commemorates the coal miners who worked in north-east Pennsylania, with a text using the testimonies (oral history, interviews, and speeches) of these individuals. In the same year, she received the Herb Alpert Prize, and the following year, the MacArthur Prize. In January 2019, the New York Philharmonic premiered Fire in my mouth for orchestra and female choir. In this work, Wolfe further explored the history of labour in the United States, focussing on the role of women in the clothing industry in New York at the beginning of the 20th century.

The political dimension of her work continues to expand: in 2022, she composed Her Story, a reflection on women’s rights based on the insults hurled at the suffragettes and their current resonance, and in 2023, unEarth, on climate change.

Her works are published by Red Poppy.

© Ircam-Centre Pompidou, 2019


Site de la compositrice.

  • Solo (excluding voice)
    • elec my lips from speaking for piano and CD (1993), 15 mn, Red Poppy
    • elec East Broadway for toy-piano and audio playback (1996), 3 mn, Red Poppy
    • Earring for piano (2000), 2 mn, Red Poppy
    • Compassion for piano (2001), 12 mn, Red Poppy
    • Lass for flute (2014), 8 mn, Red Poppy
    • Emunah for cello (2015), 10 mn, Red Poppy
    • Spinning Jenny for violin (2016), 4 mn, Red Poppy
    • MUTED for violin (2018), 45 mn, Red Poppy
  • Chamber music
  • Instrumental ensemble music
  • Concertant music
    • elec My Beautiful Scream concerto for amplified string quartet and orchestra (2003), 25 mn, Red Poppy
    • elec True Love for amplified accordion and ensemble (2006), 24 mn, Red Poppy
    • riSE and fLY body concerto for percussion and orchestra (2012), 25 mn, Red Poppy
    • Wind in my Hair for cello and orchestra (2018), 20 mn, Red Poppy
    • elec Flower Power for amplified ensemble and orchestra (2020), 34 mn, Red Poppy
  • Vocal music and instrument(s)
    • elec stage The Carbon Copy Building for solo voices and ensemble (1999), 1 h 12 mn, Red Poppy
    • elec stage Lost Objects for voices, choir, DJ, baroque orchestra and ensemble (2001), 1 h 2 mn, Red Poppy
    • elec stage Shelter for three sopranos and ensemble (2005), 1 h 5 mn, Red Poppy
    • Thirst for mixed choir and ensemble (2008), 27 mn, Red Poppy
    • stage Water for choir and orchestra (2008), 1 h 16 mn, Red Poppy
    • stage Steel Hammer for two sopranos, viola and ensemble (2009), 1 h 10 mn, Red Poppy
    • You breathe for choir and string quartet (2013), 5 mn, Red Poppy
    • elec Anthracite Fields for choir and ensemble (2014), 1 h 5 mn, Red Poppy
    • elec With a blue dress on for violin / voice, four recorded violins and four recorded voices (2010, 2014), 10 mn, Red Poppy
    • Cloud River Mountain for soprano and ensemble (2017, 2015), 60 mn, Red Poppy
    • Spinning for three cellos and voices (2018), 60 mn, Red Poppy
    • Fire in my mouth for two sopranos, two contraltos, girl's choir and orchestra (2019), 60 mn, Red Poppy
    • Her Story for ten women's voices and orchestra (2022), 40 mn, Red Poppy
    • Letter from Abigail for choir and chamber ensemble (2022), 20 mn, Red Poppy
    • unEarth for soprano solo, men's chorus, children's chorus, and orchestra (2023), 45 mn, Red Poppy
  • A cappella vocal music
  • Unspecified instrumentation

Liens Internet

(liens vérifiés en octobre 2023).

Discographie sélective

  • Julia WOLFE, « Fire in my mouth », 1 CD Decca Gold, 2019, 028948186037.
  • Julia WOLFE, Foundation ; Breaker Boys; Speech ; Flowers ; Appliances, dans « Anthracite Fields », 1 CD Cantaloupe Music, 2015, CA21111.
  • Julia WOLFE, Cruel Sister ; Fuel, Ensemble Resonanz, Brad Lubman : direction, dans « Cruel Sister », 1 CD Cantaloupe Music, 2011, CA21069.
  • Julia WOLFE, LAD ; Dark Full Ride ; My lips from speaking ; Stronghold, dans « Dark Full Ride », 1 CD Cantaloupe Music, 2009, CA21058.
  • Julia WOLFE, Dig deep ; Four Marys ; Early that summer, dans « The String Quartets », 1 CD Cantaloupe Music, 2002, CA21011.
  • Julia WOLFE, Tell me everything ; Early that summer ; Arsenal of Democracy ; Four Marys ; Steam, dans « Arsenal Of Democracy », 1 CD Point Music, 1996, 454 054-2.
  • Julia WOLFE, *Four Marys,*The Cassatt String Quartet, dans « Cassatt », 1 CD Composers Recordings Inc., 1994, CD 671.