Recently named the most-performed composer of his generation, Mason Bates serves as the first composer-in-residence of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. His music enlivens imaginative narrative forms with novel orchestral writing, the harmonies of jazz and the rhythms of techno, and it has been the first symphonic music to receive widespread acceptance for its unique integration of electronic sounds. Leading conductors such as Riccardo Muti, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Leonard Slatkin have championed his diverse catalogue. 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 Orchestra, or through his club/classical project Mercury Soul, which transforms 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.”
This season includes several world premieres and performances by leading orchestras, as well as the debut of a score for the Gus Van Sant film The Sea of Trees starring Matthew McConaughey. In addition to performances of Liquid Interface and Garages of the Valley by the National Symphony Orchestra this season, the Kennedy Center will be premiering a new work celebrating the centennial of John F. Kennedy. Scored for mezzo-soprano, orchestra, and electronica, the work juxtaposes the poetry of longtime JFK confidant Robert Frost with excerpts of the President’s own words. Other performances include Alternative Energy with the Philadelphia Orchestra and a performance by the Fort Worth Symphony of Anthology of Fantastic Zoology, which was recently recorded by Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony.
OPERA & FILM.
His music’s dramatic realization of narrative forms has attracted the attention of artists in the dramatic mediums of opera and film. In July 2017, Santa Fe Opera premieres The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, a kinetic and emotional exploration of one of the most compelling figures of our time. Staring baritone Edward Parks and mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, the opera is animated by innovative storytelling on all levels, from an electro-acoustic score to a non-linear narrative to stunning visual effects. In the Fall of 2016 we saw the release of legendary film director Gus Van Sant’s The Sea of Trees, starring Matthew McConaughey, Naomi Watts, and Ken Watanabe. Complementing the mystical narrative of a man lost in Japan’s suicide forest is a symphonic score recorded at Skywalker Studios.
Bringing classical music to new audiences is a central part of Bates’ activities as a curator. 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. Outside the concert hall, his Mercury Soul inhabits commercial clubs and extraordinary spaces, embedding sets of classical music into a fluid evening of DJing and immersive stagecraft. Sold-out performances from San Francisco’s famed Mezzanine club to Miami’s New World Symphony have brought a new vision of the listening experience to widespread audiences, and the project recently returned to San Francisco’s DNA Lounge. Mercury Soul was presented in October by the Kennedy Center, where he 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 electronic artists into the Center’s unique spaces. His new-music series KC Jukebox features the eclectic programming, immersive production, and projected information for which his curating projects have become known, and this season presents a range of artists from Chanticleer to Thievery Corporation.