JULIA WOLFE (b.1958): Anthracite Fields.
Catalogue Number: 10R076
Description: This is an hour-long oratorio describing and honoring the workers and communities involved in the anthracite mining industry of eastern Pennsylvania, an important resource during the American industrial revolution of the nineteenth century which centered on the large deposits of this hard, clean-burning form of coal found in the area where the composer grew up. Wolfe draws on mine records, oral histories and geological data for her texts, which paint a vivid picture of an unique slice of American history. The music is based on repeated ostinato gestures, much in the manner of minimalism, at times moving into the driving energy of rock music, and the work as a whole has a readily accessible, populist feel, a hybrid of popular entertainment and the concert hall. The highly rhythmic score, often suggesting mechanism or the percussion of steel on rock, features the chorus in sumptuous tonal harmony and energetic cross-rhythms. One poignantly radiant movement depicts the flower gardens of the community, contrasting with the mechanistic drive of the lists of miners killed in accidents and the clattering energy of the children's rhymes depicting the boys whose job it was to separate crushed rock from precious anthracite, their fingers skinned and bleeding. The contrast between the stark industrial landscape and its human component presented in such a direct, potent idiom makes this a powerful and compelling work. Choir of Trinity Wall Street, Bang on a Can All-Stars