Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Julia Wolfe (“Anthracite Fields,” 2015) and “cello goddess” (The New Yorker) Maya Beiser honor the essential labor of spinning thread. “Spinning” celebrates the work once performed by hand by women. Music has long been a vital part of the craft — both as a propelling force and as a distraction. To pay homage to the human dignity of this “women’s work,” Wolfe and Beiser create a sonic universe for three cellos and voice performed by Beiser with Melody Giron and Lavena Johanson featuring multimedia projections imagined by the innovative artist Laurie Olinder. In Beiser’s words, “I found in Julia’s music a rare quality — combining folk, rock and classical elements in a distinct and relentless energy. This collaboration is one that has been in our minds for many years, and we are thrilled to now embark on this journey together.”
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Julia Wolfe, a 2016 MacArthur Fellow and winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in music, draws inspiration from folk, classical, and rock genres, bringing a modern sensibility to each while simultaneously tearing down the walls between them.
Her Pulitzer-winning concert-length oratorio, Anthracite Fields for chorus and instruments, draws on oral histories, interviews, speeches, and more to honor the people who persevered and endured in the Pennsylvania Anthracite coal region. Mark Swed of The Los Angeles Times wrote Anthracite Fields “captures not only the sadness of hard lives lost…but also of the sweetness and passion of a way of daily life now also lost. The music compels without overstatement. This is a major, profound work.”
Wolfe’s music is distinguished by an intense physicality and a relentless power that pushes performers to extremes and demands attention from the audience. Recent projects include her evening-length Steel Hammer for the Bang on a Can All-Stars and singers which is touring in an expanded theatrical form with director Anne Bogart and her SITI Company and received its New York premiere at BAM’s 2015 Next Wave festival. Wolfe’s body concertoriSE and fLY, commissioned by the BBC and performed last season by the Cincinnati Symphony, featured percussionist Colin Currie playing rapid-re body slaps and street percussion. The New York Philharmonic recently announced her new evening-length commission for orchestra and women’s chorus that will premiere in the fall of 2018. For the Philharmonic commission, Wolfe continues her interest in American labor history with the subject of women in New York’s garment industry at the turn of the century.
Wolfe has written a major body of work for strings, from quartets to full orchestra. Her quartets, as described by The New Yorker, “combine the violent forward drive of rock music with an aura of minimalist serenity [using] the four instruments as a big guitar, whipping psychedelic states of mind into frenzied and ecstatic climaxes.” Wolfe’s Cruel Sister forstring orchestra, inspired by a traditional English ballad, was commissioned by the MunichChamber Orchestra and received its U.S. premiere at the Spoleto Festival. Fuel for string orchestra is a collaboration with lmmaker Bill Morrison. She has collaborated with theater artist Anna Deveare Smith, choreographer Susan Marshall, designers Jeff Sugg and JimFindlay, and director François Girard, among others. Her music has been heard at venues throughout the world, including the Sydney Olympic Arts Festival, LG Arts Center (SouthKorea), Settembre Musica (Italy), Theatre de la Ville (France), the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall, and has been recorded on Cantaloupe Music,Teldec, Point/Universal, Sony Classical, and Argo/Decca.
In 2009 Wolfe joined the NYU Steinhardt School composition faculty. Wolfe is co-founderand co-artistic director of New York’s legendary music collective Bang on a Can.
Cellist Maya Beiser dees categories. Passionately forging a career path through uncharted territories, she has captivated audiences worldwide with her virtuosity, eclectic repertoire,and relentless quest to redene her instrument’s boundaries. The Boston Globe declares,“With virtuoso chops, rock-star charisma, and an appetite for pushing her instrument to the edge of avant-garde adventurousness, Maya Beiser is the post-modern diva of the cello,”while Rolling Stone calls her a “cello rock star.”
Raised in the Galilee Mountains in Israel, surrounded by the music and rituals of Jews,Muslims, and Christians, while studying classical cello repertoire, Maya has dedicated her work to reinventing solo cello performance in the mainstream classical arena. A featured performer on the world’s most prestigious stages including Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall,Kennedy Center, London’s South Bank Centre, Sydney Opera House, Beijing Festival, Big Ears festival, and the Barbican’s Sound Unbound, she has collaborated with a wide range of artists across many disciplines, including Brian Eno, Philip Glass, Shirin Neshat, Steve Reich,David Lang, Tan Dun, Robert Woodruff, Bill Morrison, Evan Ziporyn and Osvaldo Golijov,among many others.
Maya’s critically acclaimed multimedia productions World To Come, Almost Human,Provenance, Elsewhere: A Cello Opera, and All Vows have consistently been chosen for top critics’ “Best Of The Year” lists. Her latest production, All Vows, premiered at the YerbaBuena Center for the Arts in 2014 and has since been on tour in the US including performances in Washington, DC; Dallas; Houston; Chicago; and New York. Other recent andupcoming highlights include featured solo performances as part of the Barbican’s SoundUnbound festival in London; two new cello concerti premieres, Mohammed Fairouz’s celloconcerto with the Detroit Symphony and Mark Anthony Turnage’s cello concerto with the Swedish Chamber orchestra; as well as two multimedia solo production collaborations with David Lang and Julia Wolfe.
Highlights of Maya’s tours include performances at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago, CelebritySeries in Boston, Ojai Music Festival, International Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven,and major venues and festivals in Barcelona, Paris, Amsterdam, Torino, Tokyo, Taipei,Athens, Mexico City and Bogota. She has appeared with many of the world’s top orchestras performing new works for the cello including the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, MontrealSymphony, BBC Concert Orchestra, Boston Pops, Sydney Symphony, Seattle Symphony,Nashville Symphony, China Philharmonic, and Shanghai Philharmonic, among many others.
Maya’s vast discography includes ten solo albums and many studio recordings and lmmusic collaborations. Her latest album, Trance Classical, released July 2016, debuted at No.1 on the Apple Music classical chart. Her 2010 album Provenance topped the classical and world music charts on both Amazon and iTunes, and her album Time Loops was selected among NPR’s top 10 recordings of 2012. Her album Uncovered, a collection of re-imaginedand re-contextualized classic rock masterpieces, made the top 10 on the Billboard Classical Chart.
Maya Beiser is a 2015 United States Artists (USA) Distinguished Fellow in Music and a 2017 Mellon Distinguished Visiting Artist at MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology. Invited to present at the prestigious TED main stage in Long Beach, CA, Maya’s 2011 TEDtalk has been watched by close to one million people and translated to 32 languages. In 2013, she was a featured guest alongside such luminaries as Yoko Ono, Marina Abramović, and IsabellaRossellini at ICASTICA, a festival celebrating women working in artistic elds in Arezzo,Italy. Maya is a graduate of Yale University and was a founding member of the Bang on aCan All-Stars.
Laurie Olinder is a multimedia designer, painter, and photographer. She is a founding member of New York’s Ridge Theater and has been recognized with an OBIE Award, a New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award, and an Eliot Norton Award for Outstanding Design in the Theater. Ms. Olinder has designed projections for numerous contemporary composers and performers, including John Adams, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Gavin Bryars, Bryce Dressner, Phillip Glass, Michael Gordon, Henryk Gorecki, Kronos Quartet, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe, Her work has been shown at American Repertory Theatre, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and MASS MoCA.
In The News
THE NEW YORK TIMES: “A Composer Confronts Mining’s Past”
“Ms. Wolfe, one of the founders of the new-music collective Bang on a Can, has won the Pulitzer, been awarded a MacArthur ‘genius’ grant […] She plans to continue writing pieces inspired by struggling American industries.” Continue Reading
NPR MUSIC: “Cello Goddess”
“Maya Beiser’s Twitter handle — @CelloGoddess — says it all. She’s a brilliant cellist with a stunning command of her instrument.” Continue Reading
Spinning is funded in part by The MAP Fund, supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Programs in Peak Performances’ 2017–18 season are made possible in part by funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. The production of Spinning is made possible in part with support from The Aaron Copland Fund for Music.