Recently appointed the first composer-in-residence of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Mason Bates writes music that fuses innovative orchestral writing, imaginative narrative forms, the harmonies of jazz and the rhythms of techno. His symphonic music has been the first to receive widespread acceptance for its expanded palette of electronic sounds. Bates’s activities as a DJ in San Francisco and Chicago have highly informed not only his compositional approach, but his distinctive curating projects. He has become an advocate for bringing new music to new spaces, whether through institutional partnerships such as his residency with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, or through his club/classical 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. In awarding Bates the Heinz Medal in the Humanities, Teresa Heinz remarked that “his music has moved the orchestra into the digital age and dissolved the boundaries of classical music.”
As part of the San Francisco Symphony’s recent Beethoven & Bates Festival, three of his largest works–Alternative Energy, Liquid Interface, and The B-Sides–were recorded for an upcoming CD focusing on his music. As well, his Violin Concerto was recorded by Leonard Slatkin, the London Symphony, and violinist Anne Akiko Meyers. His music’s dramatic realization of narrative forms has recently attracted the attention of artists outside classical music, such as famed director Gus Van Sant, whose upcoming film, Sea of Trees, starring Matthew McConaughey, features a symphonic score by Bates. Bates’ diverse catalogue includes many purely acoustic works, in addition to chamber and vocal music.
Continuing performances of works such as Mothership, which premiered at the Sydney Opera House by the YouTube Symphony to an online audience of 1.8 million; Rusty Air in Carolina, an electro-acoustic tone poem about the ambience of the South; and the sinfonietta Omnivorous Furniture, have demonstrated that electronic sounds can be a welcome addition to the orchestral palette.
Bates returns to the Cabrillo Festival for the West Coast premiere of his latest work, Anthology of Fantastic Zoology, on Opening Night, Friday, August 7th.