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Murphy Adams
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Murphy Adams Julia Wolfe's Anthracite Fields is revolutionary and moving in every way. Moments of intense, furious complexity are balanced by a delicate and unique sound world. This became one of my favorite pieces of music immediately after listening. Favorite track: Flowers.
Robby Bowen
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Robby Bowen Many "new music" works try to blend a variety of genres and influences, but end up sounding confused or contrived. With this work (along with the rest of her catalog), Julia Wolfe fluidly shifts between chaotic theatrics, swirling drones, traditional chamber choir passages, and rock band textures. I can't think of anyone besides Bang On A Can who could make such an ambitious piece seem so effortless. Everyone involved in this project completely nailed it. Favorite track: Foundation.
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1.
Foundation 19:35
John Ace, John Art, John Ash,… Ayers, Bab, Backs, Baer, Bail, Bains, Ball, Ban, Banks, Barnes, Barr, Bath, Baum, Bax, Bean, Beck, Bee, Bell, Best, Big, Bike, Birch, Bird, Black, Blain, Blair, Blick, Bloom, Blough, Bock, Boggs, Boltz, Bone, Book, Boone, Booth, Boots, Boss, Bork, Boyd, Boz, Brass, Bray, Breem, Brenn, Briggs, Brill, Brink, Britt, Broad, Brooks, Brown, Brush, Buck, Budd, Bull, Bunn, Burke, Burns, Burt, Burt, Bush, Cain, Camp, Carl, Carp, Carr, Case, Char, Chase, Childs, Christ, Clark, Clem, Cline, Cluff, Clune, Coates, Cole, Cone, Conn, Coon, Coots, Cope, Cox, Coyle, Coyne, Crabb, Craig, Crane, Cray, Creech, Cresh, Croll, Crook, Cross, Crow, Cruse, Crush, Cull, Dale, Danks, Dash, Dawe, Day, Deal, Dean, Deck, Derk, Derr, Dice, Dowe, Doyle, Drake, Drew, Duke, Dumm, Dunn, Dykes, Eck, Edge, Emes, Erb, Fair, Faith, Farr, Faust, Feets, Fern, Fife, Fink, Finn, Fitch, Flack, Fleas, Flesh, Flinn, Float, Flute, Folk, Forbes, Ford, Fox, Frank, Freel, French, Frick, Frill, Fritz, Fry, Fuke, Gantz, Gaul, Gell, George, Gish, Glinn, Gluke, Glump, Goff, Gold, Good, Grant, Grass, Gray, Green, Gregg, Grim, Grimes, Grip, Groom, Gross, Grove, Guy, Gwynn, Hall, Hand, Hane, Hawk, Hayes, Head, Heal, Heist, Helm, Hess, Hill, Hines, Hog, Holt, Homes, Hood, Hope, Howe, Hughes, Hunt, James, Jones, Joy, Judge, Lair, Lake, Lamb, Lane, Lang, Lappe, Leach, Lee, Left, Link, Linn, Lloyd, Lock, Long, Lord, Loss, Lott, Lowe, Luke, Lume, Lutz, Lynch, Lynn, Mack, Marks, Mates, Maul, May, Meck, Meese, Mick, Miles, Mill, Moore, Moss, Mott, Nash, Neil, Ney, Nick, Niles, Noke, Noll, Noon, Nutt, Nye, Orr, Ortz, Paff, Pap, Parks, Paul, Peace, Peel, Pierce, Pink, Pitz, Plant, Please, Plow, Pluck, Plum, Point, Pool, Pope, Posh, Pratt, Price, Prone, Prush, Pyle, Pyne, Quinn, Rage, Rand, Rape, Ray, Read, Reap, Reese, Rhodes, Rice, Rich, Ridge, Ring, Ripp, Rist, Roach, Robb, Rock, Roe, Roots, Rose, Ross, Rouse, Rudd, The briny seas rose and fell, wide shallow seas. Thick steamy swamps covered the earth. The leaves and branches buried deep. Thick roots and trunks buried deep. Buried deep inside the earth. Layer upon layer upon layer buried deep. Heat. Pressure. Time. Massimino Santiarelli, Nicholas Scalgo, Edward Scutulis, Alfred Seabury, Jonathan Shoemaker, Josiah Sibley, Emanuel Skidmore, Martin Sladovick, Andrew Smalley, Thomas Snedden, Sylvester Sokoski, Benjamin Spade, Charles St. Clair, Ignatz Stancheski, James Henry Sullivan, Anton Svanevich, Augustus Swanson, Olif Sweedbury, Anthony Sweeney, Lathrie Symmons, Julius Tamanini, Lino Tarillia, Premo Tonetti, Bladis Tonatis, Rofello Tironzelli, Anthony Tonery, Christian Ulrich, Theodore Valentine, Isaac VanBlaragan, Constantine Vickerell, Edwin Wagstaff, August Yeager, Henry Youngcourt, Martian Yunman, Victor Zaimerovich, Ezekiel Zamoconie, Ezekiel, Ezekiel, Ezekiel, Ezekiel. * The names above appear on the list of the Pennsylvania Mining Accidents index 1869-1916 (from the Denver Public Library Digital Collections) with the exception of Massimino Santiarelli who appeared in Growing Up in Coal Country by Susan Campbell Bartoletti. The geographic description was adapted from information in the book Big Coal by Jeff Goodell.
2.
Breaker Boys 14:24
Mickey Pick-Slate early and late Mickey, Mickey that was the poor little breaker boys fate. mickety pickety rickety tickety lickety splickety kickety, kickety, kick, kick, kick, kick Mickey, Mickey, Mickey, Mickey eight years, nine years, ten years, twelve years, six years, seven years, thirteen, fifteen, fourteen, eleven, seventeen, eighteen, sixteen, Mickey, Mickey, Mickey, Mickey mickety pickety rickety tickety lickety splickety “Oh what a place, you sat on a hard seat. You didn’t dare cushion it, no matter. You had to sit on that plain plank, no matter, with your feet in the shoot, on a plain plank bent over like this. Well I’ll tell you it was very scary. Believe me, believe me. “I don’t know how in the world I got the nerve to go there in the first place. You didn’t dare say anything. You didn’t dare quit, because it was something to have a job at 8 cents an hour. You didn’t wear gloves. You didn’t dare. You weren’t allowed to wear gloves. “Your fingernails, you had none. The ends of them would be bleeding every day from work, bleeding every day.”* Mickey Pick-Slate early and late that was the poor little breaker boys fate. A poor simple woman at the breaker still waits to bring home her poor little Mickey Pick-Slate. inor minor mona mai pascor lahra bonor bai eggs butter cheese bread stick stock stone dead Stick ‘em up and stick ‘em down. Stick ‘em in the old man’s crown. Snail, snail come outa your hole or else I’ll beat you black as coal, black as coal, black as coal stone dead, stone dead Once a man and twice a boy, oh you are my pride and joy. Twice a boy and once a man, catch me catch me if you can. catch me, catch me mickety pickety rickety tickety lickety splickety slate picker, mule kicker, air thicker, make you sicker, sicker, sicker, sicker, sicker, sicker, sicker, sicker, sicker mickety pickety rickety tickety lickety splickety Ten little angels dressed in white tryin’ to get to heaven on the tail of a kite, but the kite string broke and down they fell. Instead of going to heaven the went to… heaven, heaven, heaven, heaven nine little angels, eight little angels heaven, heaven, heaven, heaven seven little angels, six little angels I am king of the castle. I am king. I am king of the castle, king of the castle. I am king. I am king of the castle you are a dirty rascal. *everything in quotes excerpted and adapted from an interview with Anthony (Shorty) Slick (breaker boy) from the film "America and Lewis Hine" directed by Nina Rosenblum, Daedalus Productions, Inc. Other text based on children’s street rhymes.
3.
Speech 06:28
If we must grind up human flesh and bones in the industrial machine that we call modern America, then before God I assert that those who consume the coal and you and I who benefit from that service because we live in comfort, we owe protection to those men and we owe the security to their families if they die. I say it, I voice it, I proclaim it and I care not who in heaven or hell opposes it. That is what I believe. That is what I believe, I believe, I believe. And the miners believe that.* *adapted from a speech by John L. Lewis (head of the United Mine Workers) to the House Labor subcommittee
4.
Flowers 06:38
We all had flowers. We all had gardens. Flowers, flowers, flowers, flowers. Roses and lilies and violets and asters and lilacs and tulips and dahlias and poppies and pansies and bluebells and foxglove and heather and larkspur and dogwood and zinnias and lavender, irises, daffodils, peonies, crocuses, sunflowers, hyacinth, hollyhocks, touch-me-not, baby’s breath, azaleas, petunias, nasturtium, narcissus, marigolds, snap dragons, sweet williams, bleeding hearts, magnolias, chrysanthemums, wisteria, rhododendrons, geraniums, forsythia, forget-me-not, gladiolas, portulacas, mountain laurel, forget-me-not, forget-me-not, forget me, forget me, forget, forget me not. Inspired by an interview with Barbara Powell – daughter and granddaughter of coal miners, who grew up in a patch town in the Anthracite region.
5.
Appliance 12:31
Bake a cake. Drill a hole. Go to the gym. Heat your house. Blend a drink. Blast your guitar. Dry your clothes. Turn on the light. Ring me up. Toast a slice. Blow out your hair. Lock the safe. Grind the beans. Shave your face. Run the dishwasher. Order a book. Charge it to my card. Purify the air. Listen to your favorite song. Call your girlfriend on the phone. Juice an orange. Set your clock. Make some popcorn. Test your blood. Watch a movie. Wash your clothes. Ride the subway. Boil some water. Push the buzzer. Get directions. Replace a knee. Vacuum the rug. Take a hot steaming shower. Send a message. Grind, shave, run, blow, heat, drill, blast, turn, ring, blend, lock, dry Bake, bake, bake, bake, bake a cake, bake a cake. Phoebe Snow about to go on a trip to Buffalo Phoebe, Phoebe “My gown stays white from morn till night. My gown stays white. On the road to Anthracite.” * * Phoebe Snow was a fictitious New York socialite created by Ernest Elmo Calkins (D.L.&W.) in 1900 for an advertising campaign for the Lakawana coal-powered railroad. Her image was accompanied by short rhymes like the one in the last paragraph above.

about

Haunting, poignant and relentlessly physical, Julia Wolfe’s Anthracite Fields is a lovingly detailed oratorio about turn-of-the-20th-century Pennsylvania coal miners, and a fitting recipient of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Music. NPR Music’s Tom Huizenga describes the piece as “...almost a public history project and a music project at the same time,” which hints at the work’s universal appeal.

Weaving together personal interviews that she conducted with miners and their families, along with oral histories, speeches, rhymes and local mining lore, Wolfe sought to honor the working lives of Pennsylvania’s anthracite region. “It’s not necessarily mainstream history,” she told NPR shortly after she received word of winning the Pulitzer. “The politics are very fascinating—the issues about safety, and the consideration for the people who are working and what’s involved in it. But I didn’t want to say, ‘Listen to this. This is a big political issue.’ It really was, ‘Here’s what happened. Here’s this life, and who are we in relationship to that?’ We’re them. They’re us. And basically, these people, working underground, under very dangerous conditions, fueled the nation. That’s very important to understand.”

Featuring the always adventurous Bang on a Can All-Stars and the renowned Choir of Trinity Wall Street, Anthracite Fields merges multiple styles with classical themes—from the deep, ambient sweep of the opening movement “Foundation” (with the All-Stars’ Mark Stewart wrenching waves of keening sound from his electric guitar) to the high-energy work-song mood of “Breaker Boys.” In the sociopolitically poignant “Speech”, inhumane mining conditions are addressed with Stewart taking the lead in haranguing rock vocals, while “Appliances” reflects with mechanical denouement on the economic results of coal power.

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released September 25, 2015

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