WOLFE Julia, LAD for 9 bagpipes (arr. for electric guitar by Sean Shibe)

Julia Wolfe studied at Yale School of Music where she became associated with fellow composers Michael Gordon and David Lang, and in 1987 they formed the Bang on a Can collective. The trio soon attracted considerable attention for their Bang of a Can Marathon festivals of new music in Lower Manhattan, with single performances lasting almost a full day, where the audience was instructed to dress and act informally and to come and go as they pleased. Wolfe’s music is rooted in the American minimalist style of composers such as Steve Reich and Philip Glass, but laced with the aggressive drive and energy of rock music.

LAD, for 9 bagpipes, was composed for the 2007 Bang on a Can Festival and first performed by a bagpipe ensemble led by Matthew Welch. It was Welch who introduced Wolfe to a variety of techniques on the bagpipes, most notably the long crying glissandi which Wolfe describes as “a crazy siren-like sound”, and “animal sounds” that recall a heavily distorted electric guitar.

Welch later performed a version for eight pre-recorded bagpipes with himself playing the ninth part live, an arrangement recalling the series of Counterpoint works by Steve Reich. In 2018, Scottish guitarist Sean Shibe adapted LAD for live electric guitar accompanied by a backing track. In Shibe’s  words “there’s something really destructive and terrible about it [LAD], but it also has a redemptive element too.”

© Tom McKinney 2022


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