Bang on a Can All-Stars / Trio Mediaeval

Julia Wolfe: Steel Hammer

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Julia Wolfe
Julia Wolfe © Peter Serling
Bang on a Can All-Stars
Bang on a Can All-Stars © Peter Serling

Superhero from the Appalachian Mountains

Even for the state of the art, there are legends – such as the Bang on a Can All-Stars, who are always in search of very up-to-date, exciting music, regardless of genre categories. Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Meredith Monk and Ornette Coleman are just a few of the artists who have already collaborated with the New York collective. For their Elbphilharmonie debut, the musicians have chosen a work by founding member and Pulitzer prizewinner Julia Wolfe, which traces the myth surrounding the American folk hero John Henry as an oratorio between minimal music and country.

There are hundreds of versions of this story, passed down by word of mouth and already cast in music many times whether by Johnny Cash, Van Morrison or Bruce Springsteen: at the end of the 19th century, a worker is supposed to have competed against a new kind of steam-driven hammer in railway construction with his muscle strength and won – to pay with his life as a result.

Julia Wolfe has composed a meta myth with »Steel Hammer«: »The work is inspired by my love of legends and the music of the Appalachian Mountains. I fragmented the many different and somewhat contradictory versions of the ballad and wove it into a completely new format. The music often circles around individual words or phrases to tell the ultimate story and its different paths.«

The Appalachian dulcimer (a kind of zither) joins the usual line-up of Bang on a Can with clarinet, a lot of percussion, guitars, piano, cello and double bass and provides for the American country sound. Trio Mediæval, a top-class a-cappella ensemble from Norway, completes the overall sound with its clear soprano and alto voices, which Julia Wolfe particularly appreciates for their great wealth of experience in the vocal tradition of their homeland.


Bang on a Can All-Stars

Vicky Chow piano
David Cossin drums
Arlen Hlusko violoncello
Mark Stewart guitars
Ken Thomson clarinet

Trio Mediæval vocal ensemble

Linn Andrea Fuglseth soprano
Anna Maria Friman soprano
Jorunn Lovise Husan alto


Julia Wolfe
Steel Hammer


(in German)

19:00 / Elbphilharmonie, Großer Saal

Estimated end time

approx. 21:15


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Promoter: HamburgMusik

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