Julia Wolfe is an American composer. She is a co-founder and co-artistic director of New York’s music collective Bang on a Can, and the artistic director of NYU Steinhardt Music Composition. Her most recent work, premiered in 2019, is Fire in My Mouth, the third in a series of compositions about the American worker: 2009’s Steel Hammer, which examines the folk hero John Henry, and the 2014 Pulitzer prize-winning work Anthracite Fields. In 2015 she was a recipient of the Herb Alpert Award in Music, and in 2016 was a MacArthur Fellow. (October 2019)


Saving ‘New Sounds’

The Bang on a Can All-Stars (David Cossin, percussion; Mark Stewart, guitar; Robert Black, bass; Ashley Bathgate, cello; Vicky Chow, piano; Ken Thomson, clarinet) performing at the Bang on a Can Marathon at the Winter Garden at Brookfield Place, New York, on June 22, 2014

So many times, over the years, friends have called me up, and then, in more recent years, emailed or texted, to say they had heard my music on the radio. They’d share their impressions, their experience of listening. I am always fascinated by the different ways listeners hear and interpret music—the chemistry between the listeners’ ears and what I put on the score. Just days ago, when it seemed that John Schaefer’s radio show New Sounds might be cancelled by WNYC, there was a public outcry. Listeners wrote in, artists spoke up, and the incredible thing is that the station listened. I was amazed to see the outpouring of emotion: people talking about the importance of the show, how it was an essential and beautiful part of their lives. Music mattered. Music in New York City mattered.