Mason Bates

Named 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, and it is championed by leading conductors such as Riccardo Muti, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Leonard Slatkin. 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. 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 electro-acoustic works — Alternative Energy, Liquid Interface, and The B-Sides — were recorded for a CD focusing on his largest works. Another major work, his Violin Concerto, was recorded by Leonard Slatkin, the London Symphony, and extraordinary violinist Anne Akiko Meyers. His symphonic 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 film Sea of Trees starring Matthew McConaughey and Naomi Watts features a symphonic score by Bates.

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, and he was recently named the second-most performed living symphonic composer.

His opera The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs was hailed as one of the best-selling productions in the history of Santa Fe Opera and was awarded the 2019 Grammy for Best Opera Recording.  In 2018, he was named Composer of the Year by Musical America.

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