Julia Wolfe’s Anthracite Fields, explores coal-mining life and the fields of central Pennsylvania near her hometown. The composer draws from oral histories, interviews, speeches, geographic descriptions, local rhymes, and coal advertisements in creating a unique oratorio that provides an intimate look at a particular slice of American life.
Named after the technical term for the purest form of coal, anthracite, Anthracite Fields was written after Wolfe did extensive research about the industry. She found an incredible, complex world containing bitter political battles, unique tools and specialities, and deep cultural expressions. She writes, “In some ways the piece is a return to my small town Pennsylvania roots. In looking north – the left turn onto route 309, the road-rarely-taken – I delved into a local history. My aim is to honor the people who persevered and endured in the Pennsylvania Anthracite coal region during a time when the industry fueled the nation and to reveal a bit about who we are as American workers.” Anthracite Fields received its world premiere on April 26 2014 and is written for choir and the internationally renowned Bang on a Can All-Stars.