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Recently named the second most-performed living composer, Mason Bates currently serves as the first composer-in-residence of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. His music fuses innovative orchestral writing, imaginative narrative forms, the harmonies of jazz and the rhythms of techno, and it has been the first symphonic music to receive widespread acceptance for its unique integration of electronic sounds.
Leading conductors such as Riccardo Muti, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Leonard Slatkin have championed his diverse catalogue. Bates’ activities as a DJ have highly informed not only his compositional approach, but his distinctive curating projects. 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 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, 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 Beethoven & Bates Festival, three of his largest works — Alternative Energy, Liquid Interface, and The B-Sides — have been recorded for an upcoming CD focused on his music. Another major work, his Violin Concerto, was recorded by Leonard Slatkin, the London Symphony, and extraordinary violinist Anne Akiko Meyers. His music’s dramatic realization of narrative forms has recently attracted the attention of great 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. Currently he is composing an opera on the topic of Steve Jobs to be premiered at Santa Fe Opera in 2017.
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, have demonstrated that electronic sounds can be a welcome addition to the orchestral palette with minimal logistics. While Bates often performs the electronica onstage with orchestras, dozens of repeat performances of his symphonic music happen without him. For more info, go to www.masonbates.com and www.mercurysoul.org.