The Washington Post
“Mason Bates’s musical language lies at the intersection of three major streams of contemporary music—jazz and its offshoots, classical music with all its harmonic and textural experimentation, and electronica. …. It exudes a sense of Americana for the 21st century (much as Dvorak’s music did in the 19th century, and Copland’s in the 20th).”
“The opera, which is having its world premiere at the Santa Fe Opera in a theatrically arresting production…draws you in at every opportunity…At the end of the world premiere of The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, the audience roared its approval as if it had witnessed a blockbuster musical.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“[Alternative Energy is] a formidable and inventive new work…Bates’ most ambitious and epically scaled work to date, and it shows his mastery of the orchestral landscape like nothing before it.”
“Mason Bates’ genre-defying works demonstrate considerable artistry.”
The Washington Post
“[Liquid Interface]…surpassed in sheer sonic beauty even the works by Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky that rounded out the program.”
Composer of the Grammy-winning opera The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, Mason Bates serves as the first composer-in-residence of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Championed by legendary conductors such as Riccardo Muti, Michael Tilson Thomas, Leonard Slatkin, and Yannick Nézet-Séguin, his symphonic music is the first to receive widespread acceptance for its unique integration of electronic sounds, and he was named the most-performed composer of his generation in a recent survey of American music. His opera 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.
As both a DJ and a curator, he has become a visible advocate for bringing new music to new spaces, whether through institutional partnerships such as his former residency with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, or through his club/classical project Mercury Soul, which transforms commercial clubs into exciting hybrid musical events. He has also composed for films, including Gus Van Sant’s The Sea of Trees starring Matthew McConaughey and Naomi Watts.
The 2018-19 season features the premiere of two symphonic works. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra kicks opens its season with the premiere of Resurrexit, an opener which animates the classic biblical narrative with propulsion and theatricality. In December, the National Symphony Orchestra under Gianandrea Noseda premieres Art of War, a large dramatic symphony exploring the drama of human conflict from the perspectives of soldiers, weaponry, and human loss. Animating the symphonic structure are original field recordings of weapons tests made at Camp Pendleton and the printing presses of the US Treasury.
Following its sold-out premiere at Santa Fe Opera, where additional performances were added to accommodate demand, The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs was released on CD and continues appearing around the country, with performances this season at Seattle Opera and Indiana University. The Philadelphia Orchestra deepens its relationship with Bates’ music, bringing Anthology of Fantastic Zoology to Carnegie Hall after performances in Philadelphia. Other performances this season include appearances with the Colorado Symphony in the baroque thriller Auditorium and with the Sioux City Symphony in Passage, which weaves fragments of JFK’s moonshot speech into a celebration of American exploration. Internationally his music, can be heard at the BBC Philharmonic, the Helsinki Philharmonic, and many others.
Bringing classical music to new audiences is a central part of Bates’ activities as a curator, whether as a composer or DJ. With composer Anna Clyne, he transformed the Chicago Symphony’s MusicNOW series into an imaginative concert experience drawing huge crowds, with cinematic program notes and immersive stagecraft. Now serving as the first composer-in-residence of the Kennedy Center, Bates works with the Center’s broad range of artistic constituents, from performances with the National Symphony to appearances with Jason Moran on Kennedy Center Jazz, often integrating DJs into the Center’s unique spaces. His KC Jukebox series presents new music in new formats, featuring immersive production and ambient information to educate the audience, as well as post-parties with DJs to allow people to debrief in a casual setting. This season, the series presents the renown analogue synth composers Kyle Dixon and Michael Klein, renown for their distinctive score to the hit Netflix series Stranger Things. Also appearing on KC Jukebox is Pulitzer Prize-winner Caroline Shaw, Scottish balladier King Creosote, and the beloved chorus Chanticleer.
Working in clubs under the name DJ Masonic, Bates has developed a post-classical rave that has integrated classical music and electronica to packed crowds in collaborations with clubs and orchestras around the country. Mercury Soul embeds sets of classical music into a fluid evening of DJing and immersive stagecraft, bringing a new vision of the listening experience to widespread audiences. This season Mercury Soul presents three shows in San Francisco in two popular venues (The Great Northern and DNA Lounge). A diverse artist exploring the ways classical music integrates into contemporary cultures, he serves on the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, which offers both traditional compositional training and instruction in music technology.