• Bang on a Can: Julia Wolfe's Steel Hammer
Cal Performances at Home: Spring Season. Original, full-length performances streamed direct to your home screen.

“‘Steel Hammer’ bangs out a spectacularly inventive social message.”
Los Angeles Times

New Music

Bang on a Can

Julia Wolfe’s Steel Hammer


Robert Black, bass
David Cossin, percussion
Vicky Chow, piano
Arlen Hlusko, cello
Mark Stewart, electric guitar, mountain dulcimer, harmonica
Ken Thomson, clarinets, harmonica

Molly Netter, voice
Rebecca Hargrove, voice
Sonya Headlam, voice

Cal Performances at Home premieres a new film, Steel Hammer, based on the acclaimed oratorio by Bang on a Can’s co-founder, Pulitzer Prize winner Julia Wolfe—a dazzling work that mines the sounds and stories of Appalachia. In Steel Hammer, Wolfe creates a musical amalgamation of every version of the folktale of “John Henry” that she could get her hands on—more than 200!—and weaves these often contradictory stories into an expansive allegory about the human cost of industrialization. The music marries folk cadences with driving rhythms in Wolfe’s densely layered compositional style. The film soundtrack, recorded by the Bang on a Can All-Stars and vocal trio, features hammered dulcimer, mouth harp, bones, clogs, banjo, and metal percussion.

“A musical archaeology of a familiar tale—one that preserves, even enlarges, its central mystery” (The New Yorker).

       An Illuminations: Fact or Fiction event >

The Cal Performances at Home Spring 2021 season is dedicated to Gail and Dan Rubinfeld, leading supporters of Cal Performances and the well-being of our artists for almost 30 years.

Major support provided by the U.S. Bank Foundation.

Patron Sponsor: Françoise Stone 

Premiere Watch Party

Thu, May 6, 2021
7pm PDT
Available on demand through August 4, 2021

Bang on a Can
Julia Wolfe’s Steel Hammer

Cal Performances at Home Pricing

The pricing for individual Cal Performances at Home performances is on the honor system and is based on the number of people watching the performance. Or, for the best value, purchase the Spring Stream Pass for $144, which is only $12 per show!


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  • Two people viewing the performance


  • Four or more people viewing the performance


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Program Notes

Program notes will be available approximately one week before the performance.

Premiere Watch Party

Thu, May 6, 2021
7pm PDT
Available on demand through August 4, 2021

Bang on a Can
Julia Wolfe’s Steel Hammer

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