Julia Wolfe's 'Anthracite Fields' wins 2015 Pulitzer Prize in music

Julia Wolfe's 'Anthracite Fields' wins 2015 Pulitzer Prize in music
Julia Wolfe, left, and conductor Julian Wachner after "Anthracite Fields" was performed by the Choir of Trinity Wall Street and Bang on a Can All-Stars at Lincoln Center in New York in May 2014. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Julia Wolfe has won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in music for her folk-classical hybrid work "Anthracite Fields."

The piece was given its premiere in April 2014 at the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, performed by the Bang on a Can All-Stars and the Mendelssohn Club Chorus. It also was part of the New York Philharmonic's first biennial of new music. The Los Angeles Master Chorale is scheduled to perform "Anthracite Fields" next March at Walt Disney Concert Hall.


"Anthracite Fields" is an oratorio about coal miners in northeastern Pennsylvania at the turn of the 20th century. It weaves personal interviews that Wolfe conducted with miners and their families, as well as oral histories and speeches, local mining lore and rhymes, and coal industry advertisements, among other elements.

In his article about the best classical music moments of 2014, Los Angeles Times music critic Mark Swed -- a member of the Pulitzer jury that selected Wolfe this year -- wrote that "Anthracite Fields" was "an unforgettably haunting, harrowing evocation of the plight of Pennsylvania's coal miners, incorporating many musical styles and effectively shadowy visuals."

Wolfe, 56, is a Philadelphia native and graduate of the University of Michigan and one of the founders of Bang on a Can. She was a runner-up for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in music for her piece "Steel Hammer." "Anthracite Fields" was commissioned through Meet the Composer's Commissioning Music/USA program.

Music category finalists, announced Monday with winners at Columbia University in New York, included Lei Liang, who teaches at UC San Diego and was nominated for "Xiaoxiang"; and John Zorn for his "The Aristos." Zorn will present a day of concerts May 2 consisting of one show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art followed by two night performances at UCLA's Royce Hall.