Mason W. Bates (born January 23, 1977) is a Grammy-nominated American composer of symphonic music and DJ of electronic dance music. Distinguished by his innovations in orchestration and large-scale form, Bates is best known for his expansion of the orchestra to include electronics. The second-most performed living composer in the United States, he has worked closely with the San Francisco Symphony, as well as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra where he worked as composer-in-residence. In 2015 he was named composer-in-residence of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (their first ever composer-in-residence appointment), and recently had his contract renewed for another two years though 2019-20.
Bates was raised in Richmond, Virginia, where he studied composition with Dika Newlin and piano with Hope Armstrong Erb at St. Christopher's School. His first symphonic was commissioned in 1993 by conductor Robert Moody, who conducted Bates’ choral music at Brevard Muisc Center and premiered Free Variations for Orchestra in Evansville, Indiana. Bates subsequently attended Columbia University-Juilliard School program and earned a BA in English literature and MM in music composition, where he studied with John Corigliano, David Del Tredici, and Samuel Adler.
In 2001, he relocated to the Bay Area and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a PhD in composition in 2008, where he studied with Edmund Campion while working as a DJ in San Francisco clubs and lounges Oakland, California. His work as a DJ led to the founding of Mercury Soul, which performs classical music alongside DJ sets in clubs and in partnership with orchestras.
Notable works include Alternative Energy, an energy symphony premiered by Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Liquid Interface, a water symphony commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra; and The B-Sides, a symphony commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. In 2010 Bates was commissioned to write for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra 2011, an ensemble composed of musicians from around the world. His piece Mothership was performed by the London Symphony Orchestra and went on YouTube a year earlier; it is a mixture of acoustic and electronic elements and features sections for improvisation. In 2014 Bates wrote the film score for Gus Van Sant's 2015 movie The Sea of Trees, starring Matthew McConaughey, Naomi Watts and Ken Watanabe. He made his first foray into the world of opera with the 2017 premiere of The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, an electro-acoustic piece based on the life of tech visionary Steve Jobs, performed by the Santa Fe Opera.
- 2017 Musical America Composer of the Year 2018
- 2015 Kennedy Center Composer-in-Residence
- 2012 Arts and Humanities Heinz Award
- 2012-2013, 2014-2015 Composer of the Year, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
- 2010-15 Chicago Symphony's Mead composer in residence.
- 2007-2010 Young American Composer-in-Residence for the California Symphony
- 2008 Guggenheim Fellowship
- 2008 Van Cliburn American Composer Invitational First Prize
- 2006 Creative Capital Award
- 2004 Rome Prize
- 2005 American Academy in Berlin Prize
- Charles Ives scholarship
- American Academy of Arts and Letters fellowship
- Jacob Druckman Memorial Prize from Aspen Music Festival
- Tanglewood Music Center Fellowship
- Children of Adam, songs of creation for orchestra and chorus (2018)
- Sideman, for band and percussion (2016)
- Auditorium, for orchestra (2016)
- Anthology of Fantastic Zoology, for orchestra (2015)
- Cello Concerto, for cello and orchestra (2014)
- Devil's Radio, for orchestra (2014)
- Garages of the Valley, for orchestra (2014)
- The Rise of Exotic Computing, for sinfonietta and laptop (2013)
- Attack Decay Sustain Release, fanfare for orchestra (2013)
- Violin Concerto, for orchestra and violin (2012)
- Afterlife, for mezzo and orchestra (2012)
- Alternative Energy, for orchestra and electronica (2011)
- Mothership, for orchestra and electronica (2011)
- Desert Transport, for orchestra (2010)
- Sea-Blue Circuitry, for orchestra or band (2010)
- Mainframe Tropics, for orchestra (2010)
- The B-Sides, for orchestra and electronica (2009)
- Music from Underground Spaces, for orchestra and electronica (2008)
- Liquid Interface (2007)
- Rusty Air in Carolina, for orchestra and electronica (2006)
- White Lies for Lomax (2009)
- Omnivorous Furniture, for sinfonietta and electronica (2004)
- Ode, prelude to the Beethoven 9th for orchestra (2001)
- Icarian Rhapsody, for string orchestra (1999)
Chamber and vocal works
- Children of Adam, songs of creation for orchestra and chorus (2018)
- Passage, for mezzo soprano and orchestra (2017)
- Drum-Taps, for choir (2017)
- Carbide and Carbon, for cello ensemble (2013)
- Difficult Bamboo, for Pierrot ensemble and percussion (2013)
- Mass Transmission, for organ, electronics, and chorus (2012)
- Bagatelles, for string quartet and electronica (2012)
- Stereo is King, for three percussionists and tape (2011)
- Observer in a Magellanic Cloud, for chorus (2009)
- Sirens, for 12-part a cappella chorus (2009)
- The Life of Birds, for flute, clarinet, violin, and cello (2008)
- White Lies for Lomax, for piano solo (2007)
- Red River, for violin, clarinet, cello, piano, and electronics (2007)
- Digital Loom, for organ and electronics (2005)
- From Amber Frozen, for string quartet (2004)
- String Band, for piano trio (2002)
- Mercury Soul, for clarinet and piano (2002)
- American Masters - Violin Concerto (Entertainment One Music, 2014)
- Riccardo Muti Conducts Mason Bates and Anna Clyne - Alternative Energy (CSO Resound, 2014)
- Stereo is King (Innova Recordings, 2014)
- Digital Loom'' (MSR Classics, 2009)
- Scrapyard Exotica (Sono Luminus DSL-92193) by Del Sol String Quartet (2015)
- Works for Orchestra (San Francisco Symphony) by San Francisco Symphony (2016)
- Anthology of Fantastic Zoology (CSO Resound) by Chicago Symphony Orchestra (2016)
- The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs (Pentatone) by Santa Fe Opera (2018)
- U.S. Public Records Index Vol 2 (Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc.), 2010.
- "The Heinz Awards :: Mason Bates". Retrieved 27 April 2016.
- "By the Numbers: Living Composers". www.bsomusic.org. Retrieved 2015-04-20.
- "Kennedy Center extends term of composer Bates". Washington Post.
- "Hey DJ: symphonic - electronic superstar Mason Bates turns on the waterworks with the Mobile Symphony Orchestra". al.com.
- "University Symphony Orchestra, Performance, Department of Music, UC Berkeley". Music.berkeley.edu. Retrieved 2010-07-19.
- "Mason Bates, composer-in-residence". Yca.org. Retrieved 2010-07-19.
- "In the Mix - Oakland, California". Oaklandmagazine.com. Retrieved 2010-07-19.
- theseaoftrees-movie.com. Official website for film The Sea of Trees.
- "Steve Jobs opera proves tedious — and a triumph". Washington Post. Washington Post.
- "Composer of the Year: Mason Bates". Musical America.
- , "Mason Bates Kennedy Center Composer-In-Residence" Feb 2015
- "The Heinz Awards: Mason Bates". The Heinz Awards. The Heinz Awards. Retrieved August 24, 2016.
- , "Composer of the Year: Mason Bates"
- "Bates: Never Homeless", Music News: San Francisco Classical Voice, Janos Gereben, October 20, 2009
- "Mason Bates". Californiasymphony.org. Retrieved 2010-07-19.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-06-22. Retrieved 2010-11-25.
- "Anna-Maria Kellen Fellow, Class of Spring 2005". American Academy in Berlin. Retrieved March 10, 2012.
- Rhein, John von (June 19, 2015). "Review: Muti closes season with Bates' magical, musical bestiary". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 9, 2015.
- Kiraly, Philippa (December 15, 2014). "Seattle Symphony Premieres Bates Cello Concerto". Classical Voice North America. Retrieved July 7, 2015.
- Kanny, Mark (December 5, 2012). "Slatkin, PSO champion Mason Bates' Violin Concerto". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved July 7, 2015.
- Rhein, John von (February 3, 2012). "Slatkin, PSO champion Mason Bates' Violin Concerto". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 9, 2015.
- "Mason Bates: Electronica, Meet Orchestra". NPR. March 11, 2012. Retrieved July 9, 2015.
- Petrie, Lisa (May 11, 2009). "An Otherworldly Premiere". San Francisco Classical Voice. Retrieved July 9, 2015.
- "Mason Bates and#124; Explore the Arts - The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts". Kennedy-center.org. Retrieved 2010-07-19.
- "Mason Bates: Liquid Interface - Piece Detail". LA Phil. Retrieved 2010-07-19.
- Balicki, Robert (March 6, 2007). "Composer Makes A Splash With Water Symphony". The Daily Californian. Dailycal.org. Retrieved 2010-07-19.
- Bloom, Elizabeth (September 20, 2014). "Concert review: PSO shows no rust in opening weekend". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved July 14, 2015.
- "Van Cliburn Foundation - Mason Bates". Cliburn.org. Retrieved 2010-07-19.
- "The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs". santafeopera.org. Archived from the original on 2017-02-10.
- Veltman, Chloe (July 23, 2017). "'Nobody has one button': Steve Jobs opera sings Apple founder's praises – and flaws". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017-07-23.
- "From Vienna to Silicon Valley - May 2018 concert - Peninsula Symphony". Peninsula Symphony. Retrieved 2018-05-11.
- "Mason Bates's Mass Transmission: The Story of People Coming Together Over Vast Distances - Carnegie Hall". Retrieved 27 April 2016.