Bang on a Can All-Stars—New York’s iconoclastic contemporary-music ensemble—performs Steel Hammer, an acclaimed oratorio by the group’s co-founder, Pulitzer Prize winner Julia Wolfe. Wolfe creates a musical combination of every version of the traditional American folktale of “John Henry,” weaving together more than 200 versions of the story into an expansive allegory about the human cost of industrialization and the role of perspective in storytelling. The music marries folk cadences with driving rhythms in Wolfe’s layered compositional style, and is performed by three female vocalists and a chamber ensemble that features hammered dulcimer, mouth harp, bones, clogs, banjo, and metal percussion.

This performance is part of Cal Performances’ 202021 Illuminations: Fact or Fiction series.

Cal Performances at Home Spring 2021 press release >>
Event Page >

PHOTO 1
Pictured: Composer Julia Wolfe. Bang on a Can All-Stars perform Wolfe's Steel Hammer as part of Cal Performances at Home, streaming premiere May 6 at 7pm PDT; Performance will be available to view on demand until August 4, 2021.
(credit: Peter Serling)
PHOTO 2
Pictured: Bang on a Can All-Stars perform Julia Wolfe's Steel Hammer as part of Cal Performances at Home, streaming premiere May 6 at 7pm PDT; Performance will be available to view on demand until August 4, 2021.
(credit: Lisa Bauso)
PHOTO 3
Pictured: Bang on a Can All-Stars perform Julia Wolfe's Steel Hammer as part of Cal Performances at Home, streaming premiere May 6 at 7pm PDT; Performance will be available to view on demand until August 4, 2021.
(credit: Lisa Bauso)
PHOTO 4
Pictured: Bang on a Can All-Stars perform Julia Wolfe's Steel Hammer as part of Cal Performances at Home, streaming premiere May 6 at 7pm PDT; Performance will be available to view on demand until August 4, 2021.
(credit: Courtesy of Bang on a Can All-Stars)