Mason Bates

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    Close-Up with Mason Bates


The music of Mason Bates fuses innovative orchestral writing, imaginative narrative forms, the harmonies of jazz and the rhythms of techno. Frequently performed by orchestras large and small, his symphonic music has been the first to receive widespread acceptance for its expanded palette of electronic sounds, and it is championed by leading conductors such as Michael Tilson Thomas, Leonard Slatkin, and John Adams. He has become a visible advocate for bringing new music to new spaces, whether through institutional partnerships such as his residency with the Chicago Symphony, or through his classical/DJ project Mercury Soul, which has transformed spaces ranging from commercial clubs to Frank Gehry-designed concert halls into exciting, hybrid musical events drawing over a thousand people.

This season, Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony premiered Alternative Energy, an 'energy symphony' that spans four movements and hundreds of years. Another major commission, Mass Transmission, received its premiered on the San Francisco Symphony's Mavericks Festival, and the composer serves as this season's Project San Francisco artist-in-residence at the SFS.  The London Symphony Orchestra and Michael Tilson Thomas recently recorded Mothership, and the work was subsequently premiered at the Sydney Opera House by the YouTube Symphony to an online audience of 1.8 million. Appearing on programs from the Detroit Symphony to Portugal's famed Casa da Musica is The B-Sides, a dance suite that drops into five surreal landscapes. While Bates often performs the electronica onstage with orchestras, dozens of repeat performances of his symphonic music happen without him - demonstrating how electronics can act as a new section in the orchestra with little logistical effort.

Many purely acoustic works complement his diverse catalogue, such as Desert Transport - recently conducted by Marin Alsop at the Cabrillo Festival - and Observer in the Magellanic Cloud, which toured with the superstar chorus Chanticleer. The solo piano work White Lies for Lomax, commissioned by Tanglewood, won the Van Cliburn Composers Invitational and is heard regularly on recitals around the country.  A great deal of his music has been performed by the musicians of Young Concert Artists, the acclaimed New York organization where he served as composer-in-residence.

Bringing classical music to new audiences is a central part of Bates' activities as a curator, be it through residencies with institutions such as the Chicago Symphony's MusicNOWseries, or in alternative spaces with Mercury Soul. A collaboration with director Anne Patterson and Maestro Benjamin Shwartz, Mercury Soul embeds sets of classical music into an evening of DJing and beautiful, surreal visuals.  Sold-out performances from San Francisco's famed Mezzanine club to Miami's New World Symphony have brought a new vision of the listening experience to widespread audiences.  Studying English literature and music composition in the Columbia-Juilliard program, Bates worked primarily with John Corigliano, and has also studied with David Del Tredici and Samuel Adler.  A recipient of the Rome and Berlin Prizes as well as fellowships from Tanglewood and the Guggenheim Foundation, he worked with Edmund Campion at UC Berkeley. 

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Mason Bates


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