Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Where Minimalism Meets the Mountain Dulcimer

Allan Kozinn has a nice piece in the New York Times about Bang on a Can composer Julia Wolfe vis-a-vis her Composer Portrait tomorrow night at Miller Theatre.

With references to her 2004 piece "Cruel Sister," which will be performed at that concert and also will be featured on a new recording, Kozinn traces Wolfe's interactions with folk music from her days in college to the present. "Cruel Sister" is based on the traditional English ballad of the same name (which Wolfe heard on Pentangle's 1970 album that uses it as its title track), although Wolfe, as Kozinn tells us, uses neither the lyrics nor the melody from the ballad but rather draws on it to create an original piece of programmatic music. Apparently, she also composed in 2009 a piece of music called "Steel Hammer," which draws on a variety of "John Henry" variants and was premiered at Carnegie Hall by the awesome Trio Medieval and the Bang on a Can All-Stars.

I had the pleasure of seeing the last Julia Wolfe Composer Portrait at Miller Theatre back in 2003 (where in my post-concert excitement to congratulate her, I, um, perhaps interrupted Steve Reich's conversation with her -- Reich was actually quite gracious about it). And we regularly featured her music and conducted at least one interview with her on the Live from Miller Theatre radio program.

I definitely wish I could be there tomorrow night for the show at Miller.

In the meantime, let's rock out on some of this:

(HT: Steve Winters.)

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