And So It Begins: 2016-17

It’s been a nice summer composing and performing in beautiful places. I began with Liquid Interface and Mothership in Rio, continued with The B-Sides under Marin Alsop in Santa Cruz, and ended with several visits to Santa Fe to work at the opera house. Otherwise, I was at home chipping away at the silence around the opera itself, as well as preparing for a full season of visits to the Kennedy Center, my artistic home. Here is an overview of 2016-17, including performances of works new and old; info about my coming opera debut; and info about the debut of Gus Van Sant’s The Sea of Trees, a film starring Matthew McConaughey for which I scored the music. Enjoy! Mason

Kennedy Center: National Symphony

My duties as composer-in-residence at the Kennedy Center touch on the wide variety of artistic endeavors there, from chamber music to jazz to opera to theater.  The most natural fit is with the renown National Symphony Orchestra, which is performing three works these season: Liquid Interface, Garages of the Valley, and a new work celebrating the life of John F. Kennedy. Scored for mezzo-soprano, orchestra, and electronica, the work will set the poetry of longtime JFK confidant Robert Frost. The premiere occurs on a star-studded concert on May 24, 2017 – the centennial of JFK’s birth.

frost jfk

Kennedy Center: KC Jukebox

A primary focus for me at the Center is the KC Jukebox series, which presents new music in new formats, with immersive production, imaginative stagecraft, and integrated social platforms. Last season took us from a walk-through of a century of ambient music to a “geographical concert” ending with an eco-themed post-party. This season is even bigger and wilder, including the choral superstars Chanticleer, who will be premiering a work of mine in May, and the Thievery Corporation – famed pioneers of electronic-jazz fusion. We begin next month with Mercury Soul, my classical-club project that intersperses classical sets throughout an evening of DJing. Also on the Jukebox are two large works of John Adams, who turns 70 this year.


Philadelphia Orchestra and beyond

Equally as important to me as the premiere of a new work is the life of older pieces, and it is always exciting to forge a new relationship with a great orchestra. The Philadelphia Orchestra’s performances of Alternative Energy under Maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin will bring the visceral soundworld of my ‘energy symphony’ to the Kimmel Center, and it will be thrilling to hear those sounds brought to life by such a storied ensemble. Other big happenings this season: the New Zealand Symphony touring my Violin Concerto with the amazing Anne Akiko Meyers; Forth Worth Symphony’s performances of Anthology of Fantastic Zoology, which was just heard at the Britt Festival under Maestro Teddy Abrams; and the Cello Concerto at Memphis Symphony under my longtime collaborator Robert Moody.

Opera and film

Last week marked a new step for me with the premiere of a film that I scored. Legendary filmmaker Gus Van Sant’s The Sea of Trees starts Matthew McConaughey Naomi Watts, and Ken Watanabe in a mystery-drama set in Japan, and it tells the beautiful and haunting story of marriage and memory. The symphonic score was recorded at Skywalker Studios outside of San Francisco and features some new sounds from me, including an elaborate solo for shakuhachi (bamboo flute). Click here for info.

Sea of Trees