riSe and fLY was inspired by New York City street beats and the rhythm of American work song. In New York there is an amazing array of live street musicians gracing subway platforms and street corners — accordion players, singers, Chinese erhus, and more. But perhaps the most amazing music comes from the street drummers. Banging out grooves on plastic tubs and pots and pans, they speak the rhythm of the city. They make me smile and I am one of their most attentive listeners. When Colin Currie asked for a new work I thought of them. I also thought Colin is amazing. He can do anything. But I don't want to just write him another percussion concerto. I wanted to take him to a new place and to bring something earthy and visceral to the orchestra — to break with formality and get down and dirty. It is urban folk music for the orchestra. riSE and fLY connects to my love of American folk as does much of my recent work including my art ballad, Steel Hammer, telling the story of the story of the John Henry legend. While there is no direct narrative in riSe and fLY it is in a sense its own short history — moving from the American folk tradition of body percussion to the contemporary urban "folk" rhythms of the street. The title, riSe and fLY, is taken from a phrase of a chain gang work song from the collection of Alan Lomax, the great American folksong collector.
— Julia Wolfe