MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS AND THE SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY RELEASE MASON BATES: WORKS FOR ORCHESTRA ON SFS MEDIA MARCH 11, 2016

02.09.16
Mason Bates
San Francisco Symphony

Album of Bates's three largest electro-acoustic orchestral works features first ever recordings of the SF Symphony-commissioned The B-Sides and Liquid Interface plus the first CD release of Alternative Energy

Pre-order now on iTunes.com/SFSymphony and SFSymphony.org/MasonBates

Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) and the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) will release a new recording featuring Bay Area composer Mason Bates's three largest electro-acoustic orchestral works on the Orchestra's Grammy Award-winning SFS Media label on Friday, March 11, 2016. It is available for  pre-order on iTunes.com/SFSymphony and SFSymphony.org/MasonBates today. The album of Bates's largest orchestral works features the first recordings of the SFS-commissioned The B-Sides and Liquid Interface, in addition to Alternative Energy. These three works illustrate Bates's exuberantly inventive music that expands the symphonic palette with sounds of the digital age: techno, drum ‘n' bass, field recordings and more, with the composer performing on electronica. MTT and the SFS have championed Bates's works for over a decade, evolving a partnership built on multi-year commissioning, performing, recording, and touring projects. Watch the album's promotional video here.

"The three pieces on this album are my largest electro-acoustic works, my wildest explorations into the power of an expanded symphonic palette and its implications for imaginative new forms," said Mason Bates. "The sounds range from glaciers to industrial techno to a NASA spacewalk. New sounds have often provoked new forms throughout music history... and I look to the digital world as an important twenty-first century expansion of the orchestral sound world." 

"Mason has an enormous imagination for extending and creating another vocabulary of sound," said Michael Tilson Thomas. "It complements what he's doing with his notes and bass lines and melodies. He blends these two aspects together, and it's volatile and engaging." 

Of the long term collaboration, MTT said, "Just as we continue to examine the music of composers like Beethoven it is important to develop and support composers writing today, and treat new music in the way we treat music of the past-to revisit it over the years, record it, tour with it. This is part of developing creative partnerships with composers over the course of their careers. Ongoing relationships like this are inseparable from our work together as musicians and open new dimensions in our music-making for everyone." 

Adds Bates: "Michael has been a tremendous mentor over the years, always challenging me with obscure listening assignments and, often, actual composition assignments (The B-sides as a response to Schoenberg's Five Pieces for Orchestra for example). During my years in the Bay Area, it has been quite a trip to migrate from SFS audience member to contributing composer, and the San Francisco Symphony continues to be my window into the limitless possibilities of an orchestra." 

Mason Bates writes music that fuses innovative orchestral writing, imaginative narrative forms, the harmonies of jazz and the rhythms of electronic dance music. Frequently performed by orchestras large and small, Bates has become a visible advocate for bringing new music to new spaces, whether through partnerships with Orchestras or through his Mercury Soul project which has transformed commercial spaces, clubs and concert halls into exciting, hybrid musical events. Bates was the recipient of the 2012 Heinz Award for Arts and Humanities. In presenting him with the award, Teresa Heinz remarked that "his music has moved the orchestra into the digital age and dissolved the boundaries of classical music." In the 2015-16 season, he joined the Kennedy Center as its composer-in-residence and is currently writing an opera about the late tech giant Steve Jobs. The SF Symphony has commissioned and premiered many works by Bates, including The B-Sides, Mass Transmission, composed for the Orchestra's Centennial, Attack Sustain Decay Release, and his newest work, Auditorium, which will receive its world premiere by the SFS in April 2016 in Davies Symphony Hall. 

Bates's The B-Sides (2009) was commissioned and premiered by the SF Symphony in 2009. "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," says Bates. "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." 

Of Liquid Interface (2007) Bates explains, "Water has influenced countless musical endeavors-La Mer and Siegfried's Rhine Journey quickly come to mind. But after living on Berlin's enormous Wannsee and seeing this huge body of water transform from an ice sheet thick enough to support sausage venders, to a refreshing swimming destination heavy with humidity, I became consumed with writing a new take on the idea. If the play of the waves inspired Debussy, then what about water in its variety of forms?" These varying states are illustrated in Liquid Interface, most notably with an actual recording of glaciers breaking into the Antarctic. "Again, the distinguishing elements of Liquid Interface are not just the electronic sounds, but more so the way that these expanded palettes articulate large narrative forms," Bates explains. 

Alternative Energy (2011) is "an ‘energy symphony' spanning four movements and hundreds of years. Beginning in a rustic Midwestern junkyard in the late 19th Century, the piece travels through ever greater and more powerful forces of energy-such as a present-day particle collider and a futuristic Chinese nuclear plant-until it reaches a future Icelandic rainforest, where humanity's last inhabitants seek a return to a simpler way of life." Sounds outside the regular symphonic palette that Mason Bates uses in this piece include percussion instruments of actual auto parts from a junkyard to simulate the cranking of a car motor in the first movement; recordings from FermiLab's particle accelerator in the second movement, which takes place in present-day Chicago; and techno beats in the work's third movement to illustrate a futuristic, bustling energy industry in Xinjiang Province, China, in 2112. 

Mason Bates: Works For Orchestra will be available as a hybrid SACD compatible with conventional CD players, and as a digital download - including as high-resolution 24-bit downloads - and on all major streaming services. The album is available for pre-order starting today on iTunes with Mastered for iTunes audio quality at iTunes.com/SFSymphony and on the SF Symphony's e-store at sfsymphony.org/MasonBates. A promotional video about the recording featuring performance footage and interviews with the artists can be viewed at bit.ly/BatesSFSVideo. 

Liquid Interface and the B-Sides were recorded in January 8-18, 2014 and Alternative Energy was recorded in September 10-13, 2014. All works were recorded in PCM 192kHz/24-bit audio in Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco. 

Download the full press release.