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Carnegie Hall Presents

Julia Wolfe: Steel Hammer

Thursday, March 3, 2022 7:30 PM Zankel Hall
Steel Hammer
Julia Wolfe’s Steel Hammer is a moving retelling of “John Henry,” a classic American ballad of man versus machine. Based on hearsay, recollection, and tall tales, the piece features exquisite vocal writing complemented by Appalachian folk instruments, such as wooden bones, mountain dulcimer, banjo, clapping, and clogging. Experience the first in a series of seminal works by Wolfe that explores the multifaceted history of the American worker.

Part of: Julia Wolfe


Bang on a Can All-Stars
·· Arlen Hlusko, Cello
·· Robert Black, Bass
·· Vicky Chow, Piano and Melodica
·· David Cossin, Percussion
·· Mark Stewart, Electric Guitar, Banjo, Mountain Dulcimer, and Harmonica
·· Ken Thomson, Clarinets and Harmonica
Rebecca L. Hargrove, Vocalist
Sonya Headlam, Vocalist
Molly Netter, Vocalist


JULIA WOLFE Steel Hammer

Event Duration

The program will last approximately 75 minutes with no intermission.

Listen to Selected Works

Julia Wolfe is holder of the 2021–2022 Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair at Carnegie Hall.

Support for Julia Wolfe as holder of 2021–2022 Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair is provided by the Aaron Copland Fund for Music.


Bang on a Can All-Stars

Formed in 1992, the Bang on a Can All-Stars are recognized worldwide for their ultra-dynamic live performances and recordings of today’s most innovative music. Freely crossing the ...

Formed in 1992, the Bang on a Can All-Stars are recognized worldwide for their ultra-dynamic live performances and recordings of today’s most innovative music. Freely crossing the boundaries between classical, jazz, rock, world, and experimental music, this six-member amplified ensemble has consistently forged a category-defying identity. With a massive repertoire of works written specifically for the group’s distinctive instrumentation and style of performance, the All-Stars have become a genre in their own right. Performing each year throughout the US and internationally, the group’s celebrated projects include their landmark recording of Brian Eno’s ambient classic Music for Airports, as well as live performances with Philip Glass, Don Byron, Iva Bittová, Thurston Moore, and others. Current and recent project highlights include In C, a new dance collaboration with Sasha Waltz & Guests based on Terry Riley’s minimalist classic; Dance Party, a brand-new multimedia concert that pairs composers and choreographers; MEMORY GAME, a new record release and touring program that features legendary composer-singer Meredith Monk; Julia Wolfe’s Flower Power for Bang on a Can All-Stars and orchestra, a multimedia concert that explores the sonic landscape of the late 1960s; Road Trip, an immersive concert collaboratively composed by Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Wolfe to commemorate more than 30 years of Bang on a Can; performances and a recording of Wolfe’s Pulitzer Prize–winning Anthracite Fields for the All-Stars and guest choir; Field Recordings, a major multimedia project that features more 30 commissioned works by pioneering musicians from across all genres and borders; Cloud River Mountain, a collaboration with Chinese superstar singer Gong Linna; and more. The All-Stars record on Cantaloupe Music and have released recordings on the Sony, Universal, and Nonesuch labels.

Robert Black tours the world creating unheard-of music for double bass, collaborating with the most adventurous composers, musicians, dancers, artists, actors, and technophiles from all walks of life. He is a founding member of the Bang on a Can All-Stars. Current projects include First Fridays with Robert Black, a monthly series of streamed solo bass recitals; an audio-video double-bass installation reflecting on the Anthropocene with sound artists Brian House and Sue Huang, filmed at the Fresh Kills Landfill in New York City; an outdoor environmental work for 24 basses with composer Eve Beglarian; and commissions from Carman Moore, Joan Tower, Nick Dunston, Žibuolkė Martinaitytė, Krists Auznieks, Jakhongir Shukurov, and Daniel Sabzghabaei. Solo recordings include Bass Partita and Poetry (Orange Mountain Music), Possessed (Cantaloupe Records), Modern American Bass (New World Records), Giacinto Scelsi: The Works for Solo Bass and Christian Wolff: Complete Works for Bass (Mode Records), and State of the Bass (O.O. Discs).

Hong Kong / Canadian pianist Vicky Chow has been described as “one of our era’s most brilliant pianists” (Pitchfork). Since joining the Bang on a Can All-Stars in 2009, she has collaborated with artists and ensembles such as the International Contemporary Ensemble, The Knights, Tyshawn Sorey, Andy Akiho, John Zorn, Steve Reich, Wet Ink Ensemble, Yarn/Wire, and Momenta Quartet, to name a few. The New Yorker called her recording of Michael Gordon’s Sonatra “a milestone of pianism.” Her album Tristan Perich: Surface Image, released in 2013 on New Amsterdam Records, was among Rolling Stone’s top 10 avant-garde music albums. In 2022, she releases three new solo albums on the Cantaloupe label. Her other recordings can be found on Nonesuch, New Amsterdam, and Tzadik, among others. During the pandemic, she worked with Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane Company on a new production, Afterwardsness, which premiered at the Park Avenue Armory in October 2020, and toured Massachusetts and Minneapolis in fall 2021. Upcoming performances in spring 2022 include premieres of a new concerto by Krists Auznieks in Latvia and Surface Image in Paris, and album release concerts at Roulette in Brooklyn. She serves on the faculty at the Bang on a Can Summer Institute and was previously on the faculty of the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. She is on the board of advisors for Composers Now, and mentors musicians at The Juilliard School. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Chow is now based in Brooklyn. A graduate of Juilliard and the Manhattan School of Music, she is a Yamaha Artist. 

David Cossin was born and raised in Queens and studied classical percussion at the Manhattan School of Music. His interest in classical percussion, drum set, non-Western hand drumming, composition, and improvisation has led to performances across a broad spectrum of musical and artistic forms. Cossin has recorded and performed internationally with Steve Reich and Musicians, Philip Glass, Yo-Yo Ma, Meredith Monk, Cecil Taylor, Talujon Percussion Quartet, the trio Real Quiet, and Sting on his Symphonicity world tour. Theater work includes Blue Man Group, Mabou Mines, and projects with director Peter Sellars. He was featured as solo percussionist in Tan Dun’s award-winning score to the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. As a soloist, he has performed with orchestras around the world, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Orchestra philharmonique de Radio France. His sonic installations have been presented in New York, Italy, and Germany. He is also an active producer, composer, and instrument inventor, expanding the limits of traditional percussion. Cossin teaches percussion at the Aaron Copland School of Music and the Manhattan School of Music’s Contemporary Performance Program.

Internationally acclaimed Canadian cellist Arlen Hlusko is a dynamic, versatile young artist who has performed as a soloist and chamber musician across North America, Asia, and Europe. Newly appointed cellist of the Bang on a Can All-Stars, Hlusko is also a laureate of numerous competitions, Grammy Award winner for her collaboration with The Crossing, and a recent alumna of the Curtis Institute of Music and Carnegie Hall’s Ensemble Connect. In addition to the All-Stars, Hlusko regularly performs with several ensembles based on the East Coast, including Dolce Suono Ensemble, Intersection, and Frisson. She was recently featured on CBC Music’s “30 under 30.” She has been a featured performer with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, BBC Concert Orchestra, and the National Arts Centre Orchestra, among others. Hlusko has also performed at preeminent summer festivals that include Spoleto USA’s Bank of America Chamber Music, Music from Angel Fire, Tippet Rise, and Bay Chamber Concerts. She has served on the faculty of Curtis Summerfest and as a teaching artist with the New York Philharmonic and The Philadelphia Orchestra, and has given master classes in the US, Canada, France, and Germany. Committed to using her music to connect with and serve her community, Hlusko founded her own interactive chamber music concert series, Philadelphia Performances for Autism, and is involved with several community projects in Philadelphia and New York City, including Carnegie Hall’s Musical Connections at Sing Sing Correctional Facility.

Multi-instrumentalist, singer, song leader, composer, and instrument designer Mark Stewart has been heard around the world performing old and new music. Since 1998, he has recorded and toured as guitarist and music director with Paul Simon. Stewart is a founding member of the Bang on a Can All-Stars and the duo Polygraph Lounge with keyboard and theremin wizard Rob Schwimmer. He has also worked with Steve Reich, Sting, Anthony Braxton, Bob Dylan, Wynton Marsalis, Meredith Monk, Stevie Wonder, Philip Glass, Iva Bittová, Bruce Springsteen, Terry Riley, Ornette Coleman, Don Byron, Joan Baez, Hugh Masekela, Paul McCartney, Cecil Taylor, Bill Frisell, Jimmy Cliff, Charles Wuorinen, The Everly Brothers, Steve Gadd, Fred Frith, Alison Krauss, David Krakauer, Bobby McFerrin, David Byrne, James Taylor, The Roches, Aaron Neville, Bette Midler, and Marc Ribot. He is the inventor of the WhirlyCopter, a bicycle-powered Pythagorean choir of singing tubes; and the Big Boing, a 24-foot–long sonic banquet table mbira that seats 30 children playing 490 found objects. Stewart is a visiting lecturer in musical instrument design at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is also a curator of the immersive exhibit of Gunnar Schonbeck’s musical instruments at MASS MoCA, and co-founder of soundstewArt, a company that designs instruments, immersive sound environments, and community music-making experiences. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, and North Adams, Massachusetts, playing, singing, writing popular music, semi-popular music, and unpopular music, while designing instruments that everyone can play.

Ken Thomson is widely regarded for his ability to blend a rich variety of influences and styles into his own musical language while maintaining a voice unmistakably his own. He has a growing catalog of compositions for ensembles of different sizes, and has toured with and released a number of albums with groups that he has created. His bands Sextet, and, before that, Slow/Fast, combine the sounds of jazz and contemporary music in through-composed small-group settings. Two recordings of his chamber music are available: Restless with Karl Larson and Ashley Bathgate, and Thaw with JACK Quartet. With the newly formed Anzû Quartet, he has recorded his own work as well as Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, for release in 2022. He is also active as a freelance clarinetist and saxophonist, performing with Ensemble Signal, International Contemporary Ensemble, Novus, and more. He is on the faculty at the Bang on a Can Summer Institute. He endorses D’Addario reeds, F. Arthur Uebel clarinets, and Yanagisawa saxophones (Conn-Selmer). He splits his time between Brooklyn and Berlin.

In his role as tour manager and sound engineer, Andrew Cotton works closely with both composers and musicians in creating new works. He works with several major producers, specializing in contemporary music projects with artists and concert series as diverse as Elvis Costello, John Harle, BBC Proms, Meltdown, George Russell, Carla Bley, Talvin Singh, Coldcut, KT Tunstall, Andy Sheppard, Angélique Kidjo, Manu Dibango, Iva Bittová, Philip Glass, and Steve Reich, among others. He regularly collaborates with composers Michael Gordon, Julia Wolfe, and David Lang on their pieces for the Bang on a Can All-Stars and large ensemble, dance, and theater. Cotton serves as technical manager and sound collaborator with percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie. As a sound designer, he has worked on the productions The Carbon Copy Building (Turin, New York, Hamburg, and Liverpool) and The New Yorkers (Brooklyn Academy of Music); Jocelyn Pook’s Hearing Voices; Wolfe’s riSE and fLY; Wolfe, Gordon, and Lang’s Road Trip; BBC Scotland’s Hogmanay; Ballet Tech’s events at The Joyce Theater; and the Bang on a Can Marathons, among other events.

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Rebecca L. Hargrove

Rebecca L. Hargrove is pleased to return to Steel Hammer after a successful virtual presentation with Cal Performances. This season, she rejoined the Metropolitan Opera’s chorus in ...

Rebecca L. Hargrove is pleased to return to Steel Hammer after a successful virtual presentation with Cal Performances. This season, she rejoined the Metropolitan Opera’s chorus in productions of Fire Shut Up in My Bones, Die Meistersinger, and Porgy and Bess. She is a 2020 Grammy Award winner for her participation in the 2019–2020 Met production of Porgy and Bess, which won Best Opera Recording. She has also been featured in the companies of Evita and Cabin in the Sky at New York City Center. In the 2019–2020 season, Hargrove starred in the title role of Acquanetta at Bard Summerscape (The New York Times Critic’s Pick), as Mother in The Grey Land mono-opera at Roulette (album available on all streaming platforms), and as Yum-Yum in The Mikado with New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players. Previous engagements include Two Wings: The Music of Black America in Migration with Jason Moran and Alicia Hall Moran at Carnegie Hall, In the Parlour as Nellie Quander at the National Black Theatre, and a series of new plays at the Lucille Lortel Foundation. Follow her updates at rebeccalhargrove.com and on Instagram @rhargrov.

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Sonya Headlam

Soprano Sonya Headlam enjoys a varied career as a soloist, chamber, and ensemble singer of a diverse range of repertoire from the Baroque period to the 21st century. She is a member of The ...

Soprano Sonya Headlam enjoys a varied career as a soloist, chamber, and ensemble singer of a diverse range of repertoire from the Baroque period to the 21st century. She is a member of The Choir of Trinity Wall Street, and performs regularly with the Vocalis Consort and The Raritan Players, the latter of whom she joins on the recently released recording In the Salon of Madame Brillon (Acis). Her most recent solo appearances include Handel’s Messiah with The Choir of Trinity Wall Street and Trinity Baroque Orchestra, and TENET Vocal Artists. Upcoming solo appearances this season include debuts with Apollo’s Fire at the Grand Rapids Bach Festival. Headlam holds a doctor of musical arts from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, where she has also worked as a part-time lecturer in the department of music.

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Molly Netter

A versatile and joyous musician, Canadian American soprano Molly Netter enlivens complex and beautiful music both old and new with “staggering virtuosity and versatility” ...

A versatile and joyous musician, Canadian American soprano Molly Netter enlivens complex and beautiful music both old and new with “staggering virtuosity and versatility” (Chicago Classical Review) and “clear, beautiful tone and vivacious personality” (The New York Times). She has performed as a soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra MusicNOW, Boston Early Music Festival, Apollo’s Fire, Albany Symphony, New World Symphony, Smithsonian Chamber Music Society, and Heartbeat Opera, among others. Her voice can be heard on five Grammy-nominated albums since 2017. Netter is an active performer, educator, and curator of new music, and regularly commissions new works by living composers. Recent collaborators include David Lang, Julia Wolfe, Amy Beth Kirsten, Doug Balliett, Katherine Balch, Molly Joyce, and Jessica Meyer. Notable chamber performance highlights include premiere performances of Pulitzer-winning operas Angel’s Bone (2015) and p r i s m (2017). In addition, Netter was a featured curator and performer in Trinity Wall Street’s acclaimed 2018 festival Time’s Arrow, for which she programmed an eclectic evening of music by Barbara Strozzi paired with newly commissioned contemporary works. In 2020, she began commissioning an entirely new repertoire for self-accompanied singer and clavicytherium, emphasizing the florid voice, early music vocal techniques, and improvisation as a bridge between styles and genres. She holds a bachelor of music in composition and contemporary voice from Oberlin Conservatory, and a master of music in early vocal music from the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. She is on the voice faculty at the Oberlin Baroque Performance Institute. Learn more at mollynettervoice.com.

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