Wednesday, January 29, 2020
Mason Bates to Take Sun Valley Music Festival into Orbit
Mason Bates turned the Pavilion lawn into a nightclub following Wednesday’s symphony concert, as images of the dancers before him flickered across the big screen.
Sunday, August 18, 2019


Mason Bates got symphony lovers up and out of their seats dancing to a techno vibe Wednesday night. And tonight he hopes to send patrons of the Sun Valley Music Festival into orbit in a program titled “Music Inspired by Outer Space.”

Bates, the mastermind behind the Grammy Award-winning “The Revolution of Steve Jobs,” will perform an encore of “Devil’s Radio,” commissioned by the Sun Valley Music Festival for its 30th anniversary season in 2014.

He will follow that up with “Passage,” which uses audio from John F. Kennedy’s moonshot speech. It will also feature mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, a two-time Grammy Award winner who played Laurene Jobs in Bates’ opera.

Dancers couldn’t help but join into Mason Bates’ electronic beat.

The symphony will also play Gustav Holst’s “The Planets,” composed during World War I, when it takes the stage at the Sun Valley Pavilion at 6:30 tonight.

The show—and Monday night’s concert--will precede the symphony’s grand finale—Mahler’s Second—on Thursday, Aug. 22.

Music Director Alasdair Neale said that Mason Bates, who has been in residency with the Sun Valley Music Festival, has redefined what a 21st century orchestra can do with his electronica sound.

But it didn’t start out that way. Bates, in fact, grew up in a traditional music regimen, a choir boy in Virginia. Early on he was bitten by the composing bug, ignoring piano practice to compose songs.

Even Ginger Harmon jigged down the Pavilion walkway.

He came to classical music backwards, he said, becoming enamored with more modern composers like Gershwin, Bartok and Copland before becoming turned onto Beethoven and Mozart.

“They seemed a little distant at first,” he said.

He was commissioned to compose a piece as a high school sophomore and he never looked back.

It was when he headed to New York City to study at Julliard that he discovered electronic music at dance clubs and all-night raves. He began tripping out on the big techno beats, drums and bass, trip hop, downtempo and jungle sounds as he learned to turn and twist the knobs and turntables as a deejay.

Bob and Barbara Bentley have been reveling in the gorgeous summer evenings that have accompanied the Sun Valley Music Festival.

He further honed his familiarity with the alternate sound as he moved to the West Coast where he got a PhD at UC Berkeley.

At first, he kept his classical music palette separated from his electronic music life. Then he began blending the two.

He composed an energy symphony called “Alternative Energy” for the Chicago Symphony and a water symphony called “Liquid Interface” for the National Symphony Orchestra, which he performed in Sun Valley Wednesday night.

Neale noted that electronic music is a natural extension of things like the wind machine used by Richard Wagner.

And, Bates pointed out, Pink Floyd promoted the use of electronic sounds in “Dark Side of the Moon,”  while the Beatles used a synthesizer and moog.

“At the end of the day, I just want it to be a robust work,” he said.

  • On Monday, Aug. 19, the action will shift to the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood for the Musicians’ Choice Chamber Music concert.


On the menu: Vaughan Williams’ “Phantasy Quintet for Two Violins, Two Violas and Cello.” Also, Schulhoff’s “Concertino for Flute, Viola and Bass,” and Brahms’ “Trio in A minor for Clarinet, Cello and Piano.” And, finally, Ravel’s “Allegro for Harp, Flute, Clarinet and String Quartet.”

The latter was designed to exhibit the expressive range of the double-action pedal harp.

The concert starts at 6:30 p.m. and, like Sunday’s, it’s free.





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