Denise Burt

Graphic arts and design for music / Insta: deniseburt / Twitter: @DanishDenise

CD: Julia Wolfe – Steel Hammer

Bang on a Can Allstars, Trio Mediaeval

Released on Cantaloupe Music, 2014

Images: found photographs, reworked digitally


Steel Hammer is a vocal work based on the American legend of John Henry – a man who hammered a tunnel through pure rock with his bare hands, beating the steam-driven machine pitted against him. Henry collapses and dies of exhaustion in his triumph. As Julia herself says, it’s “human vs. machine in the quintessential American legend”. She culled text from over 200 different versions of the story and made a new whole that weaves the fragments together to celebrate not only the diversity of the legend but the act of storytelling itself.