Mason Bates, Indigo Workshop (2014)

Duration: 5 minutes
Instrumentation: Solo piano
Commissioned by University of Wyoming Cultural Programs and Wyoming Institute for Humanities Research
Premiered by Gabriela Martinez on April 4, 2014, at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wy.
Copyright/publisher: Bill Holab Music

The composer writes:

This short work, commissioned as a companion piece to my solo piano piece White Lies for Lomax, explores the special harmonic and rhythmic characteristics of the blues (the name “the blues” was derived from the indigo-dyed clothing that was common in the South during slavery). The brief and simple theme of the work appears and reappears like a rumor, becoming longer and more expansive with each iteration, and what started rather quietly ends in a cacophony of voices.

About the composer:

Recently awarded the Heinz Medal in the Humanities, Mason Bates writes music that fuses innovative orchestral writing, imaginative narrative forms, the harmonies of jazz and the rhythms of techno. Frequently performed by orchestras large and small, his symphonic music has been the first to receive widespread acceptance for its expanded palette of electronic sounds.

Along with Anna Clyne, Bates was appointed by Music Director Riccardo Muti as one of Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Mead Composers-in-Residence beginning in the 2010/11 season for a term of two years. Muti then extended both Bates’ and Clyne’s terms through the 2014/15 season.

Bringing classical music to new audiences is a central part of Bates’ activities as a curator. Along with Anna Clyne, he has transformed the CSO’s MusicNOW series into an imaginative concert experience drawing large crowds, with cinematic program notes and immersive stagecraft. Another new take on new music is Mercury Soul, which embeds sets of classical music into a fluid evening of DJ-ing 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. A collaboration with director Anne Paterson and Maestro Benjamin Shwartz, it has been performed at Chicago’s Metro with members of the CSO, as well as in spaces from commercial clubs to Frank Gehry-designed concert halls.

During the 2013/14 season, the San Francisco Symphony continued its exploration of Bates’ music with its Beethoven & Bates Festival. Each of his three largest works (Alternative Energy, Liquid Interface and The B-Sides) was paired with a piece by Beethoven, and all three works were recorded and released in 2014.

Carnegie Hall’s 2012/13 season opened with Riccardo Muti leading the CSO in Alternative Energy, an “energy symphony” that spans four movements and depicts hundreds of years in the history of industrial development. Premiered by the CSO in February 2012 to rave reviews, the work subsequently toured California with Muti and the CSO; it received its Canadian premiere in February by the Toronto Symphony. A new violin concerto for Anne Akiko Meyers and the Pittsburgh Symphony premiered in December 2012 under the baton of Leonard Slatkin and had its first CSO performance in April 2014.

Performances of his works, both old and new, can be heard across the country. Alternative Energy is appearing on programs ranging from the Cabrillo Festival to the Hartford and Tucson symphonies. His fast-paced opener Mothership, which premiered at the Sydney Opera House by the YouTube Symphony to an online audience of 1.8 million, also is frequently programmed. Continuing performances of works such as Rusty Air in Carolina, an electro-acoustic tone poem about the ambiance of the South, and the sinfonietta Omnivorous Furniture have demonstrated that electronic sounds can be a welcome addition to the orchestral palette with minimal logistics. While Bates often performs these electronica works onstage with orchestras, dozens of repeat performances of his symphonic music have happened without him.

For more information about Mason Bates, visit