Meet the Composer: Mason Bates

Meet the Composer: Mason Bates

The Minnesota Orchestra performs Garages of the Valley by American composer Mason Bates in concerts on February 22 and 23. It is the first time the Orchestra has performed the piece. We asked the composer to tell us more about it and to share his thoughts on new music, his current projects and a little bit about himself.

Tell us briefly about Garages of the Valley:
This piece was a study for my opera The Revolution of Steve Jobs. I was searching for a way to conjure the quicksilver, mechanistic euphoria inside the garages of Silicon Valley. 

How do you suggest that listeners approach a new piece of music?
I encourage listeners to remember that a lot of new music uses texture and rhythm in place of melody. Those elements undergo transformations, like melodies. It's just a different kind of foreground. 

What are some of the challenges that today’s composers face in the classical music industry?
Classical music is evolving more than folks realize, and it's thanks to imaginative conductors, artistic administrators and symphonic musicians. These are the folks who give a chance to young composers. We still need more orchestras to program a higher percentage of American music. 

Where do you find inspiration for your work?
Music, literature, film, you name it—it’s all fair game!

What is your favorite type of ensemble to compose for?
Orchestra. It's the world's greatest synthesizer.

What are you listening to lately?
I'm fascinated by Janecek at the moment. He has such vivid symphonic music, and it always surprises. I'm also listening to a lot bluegrass (Jeremy Kittel's band Whorls) and the electronic releases of DJ Dan.

Do you have any exciting upcoming projects you’d like to share?
I'm in the early stages of a concerto for orchestra and animated film called World's Greatest Synth: The Making of the Orchestra. It's a kind of Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra from the perspective of instrument engineering. My collaborators are Gary Rydstrom of Lucasfilm and Jim Capobianco, formerly of Pixar and now running his own shop called Aerial Contrivance.

When you aren’t composing, what do you do for fun?
Trying to be a better surfer.

Do you have any special connections to Minnesota?
I know many Minnesotans! And I love their seriousness of purpose and funky way of talking.

Who is your biggest supporter?
There are so many people who have been good to me over the years, it's impossible to name one. At the basic level, there's no one who has been more supportive than my parents. I grew up in a Southern family with no musical emphasis, so it continues to amaze me that they never questioned my direction.  

Hear Mason Bates music in concert with the Minnesota Orchestra >>

More about Mason Bates  >>

Minnesota Orchestra Staff