NEW SOUNDS #2: BAYOU BORN - Julia Wolfe and Annea Lockwood

Hey there, reader/listener/new friend!

Thanks for stopping in! All of us here at Loop38 firmly believe that it’s much easier to enjoy a concert when you have some background in what you’re about to hear and why it’s incredible! SO, leading up our concerts this year, I will be posting these short little tidbits about our featured composers. Hoping that this will feel like you’re chilling with a friend, getting psyched about great music! Feel free to take a peak, have a listen, and get a taste for what’s to come!

Our upcoming concert bayou born is coming up this Tuesday night! It will be up at the Live Oak Meeting House, which is also a James Turrell designed space. It’s free, you just need to sign up! Today we’re going to get to know two of the composers on our program, Julia Wolfe and Annea Lockwood!

First up, Julia Wolfe (born 1958) is a 2016 MacArthur Fellow and the winner of the 2015 Pulitzer prize in music for her work Anthracite Fields. Her music draws inspiration from folk, classical, and rock genres, and combines them with a modern sensibility that simultaneously reinvents all three. She is a founding member and co-artistic director of the Bang on a Can Festival and has been commissioned by major orchestras across the world including a 2018 commission from the New York Philharmonic. Her music is physically and mentally demanding from both the performers and the audience alike.

I thought that Wolfe’s Pulitzer winning Anthracite Fields was a good place to start today! The work is an all encompassing masterpiece for chorus and orchestra that draws on a myriad of sources to piece together the story of those who laboured in the Pennsylvania Anthracite coal mines. The work draws on testimonials, interviews, oral histories, and historical documents to paint a heartbreaking picture of a dark and dusty life. Below is a documentary featuring clips of the work as well as Wolfe talking about it!

Drawing on her success with Anthracite Fields, Wolfe was recently commissioned by the New York Philharmonic to write another immersive piece: her visual and musical event “Fire in my Mouth” premieres in February of 2019. It explores the devastating Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911 that killed more than 100 young immigrants. Listen to the feature on it below:

The deeply challenging physicality of Wolfe’s work can be heard especially in her grueling string works. A particular favourite of mine is “Cruel Sister” for string orchestra:

Although I had heard of Wolfe, it was stumbling across this interview with her last year that really made me fall in love. How she talks about discovering her sound, and self, is incredibly interesting and accessible.

Up next is the amazing Annea Lockwood. She was born in New Zealand in 1939. In 1961, she moved to England to study composition at the Royal College of Music, additionally studying at Darmstadt and completing her studies in Cologne and Holland. Due to her strong connection with Pauline Oliveros and John Cage, she eventually moved to the United States and currently lives in Compond, NY.

In the 1960s, Lockwood began collaborating and creating outside the “expected” sphere of classical composition; in 1962 she began her series called “Piano transplants”, in which defucnct pianos were burned, planted, and placed into water. Here’s a clip below of her “Piano Transplant: Burning”:

Although the initial object of these Transplants were to gain recordings, they very quickly trasitioned into the realm of performance art. Her future works would focus heavily on enviornmental sounds, life narratives, and sound installations. Another personal favourite of mine is “A Give you Back”, an anthem for solo soprano written on text by Native American poet Joy Harjo. Listen below, but also take a listen to some of Harjo’s spoken word poetry too!

A moment of connection with our other featured composer Julia Wolfe, Lockwood was commissioned by Bang on a Can All-Stars for a surround-sound installation. Although I couldn’t find a video of Vortex, I was able to find a clip of a lecture she gave about being a composer and sound artist. Check it out:

Let me also say that Lockwood is one of the friendliest composer I have ever communicated with. I completely fangirled her one night and e-mailed her and she was absolutely lovely.

That’s all for today!! Make sure you come on out Tuesday night to bayou born !!!