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New Media Mozart


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Photo by Shaun Fenn

Symphony orchestras worldwide are onto how to attract young, hip subscribers: commission works from young, hip composers like Mason Bates.
California Symphony will premiere Pleasures and Perils, a new work by Bates, a 31-year-old UC Berkeley doctoral student, May 4 and 6, at the Lesher Center for the Arts. Bates, who also writes electronica for his own website and moonlights as a dance club DJ, is California Symphony’s 2007–2010 Young American Composer-in-Residence.

This prestigious program attracts the interest of top musicians from around the country. Bates stood out among the 80 applicants for his ability to infuse familiar classical strains with more contemporary rock, blues, soul, hip-hop, and techno sounds. “I always look for a composer who has an individual voice,” says the symphony’s music director, Barry Jekowsky, “a true musician who is saying something unique, and who, I believe, will make a huge contribution to American music in the future.”

Bates has been hailed by critics on both coasts and just premiered a work for the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center and at Carnegie Hall. For the California Symphony’s May show, Bates will premiere “Music From Underground Spaces.” With its low, eerie sounds, sampled from recordings of earthquakes, the piece evokes “a feeling of going to the center of the earth,” Bates says, “a sense of tectonic plates moving around.”

As DJ Masonic, Bates has spun trip hop, funk, and electronica in dance clubs in San Francisco, Berlin, and Rome, at fashion shows, and at art spaces like the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. But for now, Bates is grateful that California Symphony is what’s sparking his inventive vision. “Having an orchestra at your disposal is as rare as a shooting star, an opportunity to try out all kinds of things.”

Mason Bates headlines Pleasures and Perils with the California Symphony, May 4 and 6, Lesher Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Dr., (925) 943-7469, www.lesherartscenter.org. You can also check out Bates’s electronica music at www.masonicelectronica.com.

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