‘Philharmonia Fantastique’: Mason Bates’s New Concerto Has Animated Future
By Geoff Boucher
Philharmonia Fantastique: The Making of the Orchestra is a Vulcan Productions short film that accompanies a new 25-minute concerto composed by Mason Bates (The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs) and features the talents of Oscar-winning sound designer Gary Rydstrom and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Jim Capobianco.
The film combines live-action and animation to take audiences “inside” the instruments of an orchestra to see how they work and will be screened in tandem with live symphonic performances. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra will present the world premiere of Philharmonia Fantastique from March 26-28, 2020, followed by the San Francisco Symphony’s interpretation on April 16-18.
The massive undertaking was co-commissioned by five of America’s top orchestras: Chicago Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, National Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Performance dates in 2020 and 2021 will be announced for the other commissioning partners in the months ahead.
Philharmonia Fantastique represents the most ambitious project to date from Bates, who has explored the intersection of music and technology in projects such as the Grammy-winning opera The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs. Bate has also pursued that theme as a DJ and curator for series like San Francisco’s Mercury Soul and KC Jukebox at the Kennedy Center.
Bates enlisted seven-time Academy Award-winning Sound Designer Gary Rydstrom (Titanic) to direct the film and Rydstrom in turn recruited Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Jim Capobianco (Mary Poppins: The Return) to join the promising collective.
“Music itself has always been a marriage of technology and art,” Rydstrom said. “We use both new and old technologies to explore how music comes together, how radically different sounds and techniques converge into the full sound of an orchestra.”