For orchestra and electronica - Proceed to purchase if you would like to buy a study score.
Conductor's Score and Performance Parts for RENTAL ONLY. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to request a rental application form.
Approximate Duration: 20'
It was between Tchaikovsky and Brahms that Michael Tilson Thomas, surprisingly mellow in his dressing room during one intermission, broached the idea of a new work. Fresh off the podium after the concerto, and apparently undistracted by the looming symphony in the second half, he suggested a collection of five pieces focusing on texture and sonority - perhaps like Schoenberg's Five Pieces for Orchestra. Since my music had largely gone in the other direction - large works that bathed the listener in immersive experiences - the idea intrigued me. I had often imagined a suite of concise, off-kilter symphonic pieces that would incorporate the grooves and theatrics of electronica in a highly focused manner. So, like the forgotten bands from the flipside of an old piece of vinyl, The B-Sides offers brief landings on a variety of peculiar planets, unified by a focus on fluorescent orchestral sonorities and the morphing rhythms of electronica.
The first stop is the dusky, circuit-board landscape of "Broom of the System. To the ticking of a future clock, our broom - brought to life by sandpaper blocks and, at one point, an actual broom - quietly and anonymously keeps everything running, like a chimney-sweep in a huge machine. The title is from a short-story collection by David Foster Wallace, though one could place the fairy-like broom in Borges' Anthology of Fantastic Zoology.
The ensuing "Aerosol Melody (Hanalei)" blooms on the Northshore of Kauai, where a gentle, bending melody evaporates at cadence points. Djembe and springy pizzicati populate the strange fauna of this purely acoustic movement, inspired by several trips with the Fleishhacker family. The lazy string glissandi ultimately put the movement, beachside, to sleep.
"Gemini in the Solar Wind" is a re-imagination of the first American spacewalk, using actual communication samples from the 1965 Gemini IV voyage provided by NASA. In this re-telling, clips of words, phrases, and static from the original are rearranged to show Ed White, seduced by the vastness and mystery of space, deliriously unhooking from the spacecraft to drift away blissfully.
His final vision of the coast of Northern California drops us down close to home. The initial grit of "Temescal Noir," like the Oakland neighborhood of the title, eventually shows its subtle charm in hazy, jazz-tinged hues. Unbothered by electronics, this movement receives some industrious help in the rhythm department by a typewriter and oil drum. At its end, the broom returns in a cameo, again altering the tempo, and this propels us into "Warehouse Medicine." An homage to techno's birthplace - the empty warehouses of Detroit - the final stop on The B-Sides gives no quarter. Huge brass swells and out-of-tune pizzicati emulate some of the visceral sonorities of techno, and on this pounding note The B-Sides bows out.
The work is dedicated to Michael, whose impromptu composition lessons informed the work to an enormous degree, in addition to the countless concerts I have experienced while living in the Bay Area. Many thanks, as well, to the wonderful musicians who have brought this to life.
2 flutes (1st doubling piccolo)
2 oboes (2nd doubling English Horn - optional)
1 Eb clarinet (doubling bass clarinet)
2 Bb clarinets (2nd doubling bass clarinet)
4 horns in F
3 C trumpets (mutes: straight, harmon, plunger)
2 tenor trombones
electronica (see performance notes)
percussion (3 players)
All that is needed is a laptop, two speakers, placed on the left and right sides of the stage, and a few onstage monitors. Included with the rental of the materials is a download link for a simple software sampler that triggers the sounds from the laptop (an additional percussionist or an assistant conductor simply hits laptop keys at rehearsal numbers). The electronic component is simple, inexpensive, and designed to work within a compressed orchestral rehearsal period, and a 'live' version of the electronic part can be realized when the composer is present.
"The B-Sides” emerged as a characteristically colorful and puckish score from a composer whose cheerful disregard for stylistic boundaries is a godsend. … In the central piece, Bates combines vivid orchestral writing with clips of communications with the 1965 Gemini IV mission to imagine an astronaut's serene freak-out; other movements feature a lazy tropical lilt and a dark, jazzy strut in homage to Henry Mancini. The piece is vibrant and amusing….”
— San Francisco Chronicle