Mason BATES (b. 1977)
Digital Loom: Intro: BLUES7 [2:43]; Digital Loom (2005) [17:04]; Siren Music [2:36]; From Amber Frozen (2004) [12:55]; Amber [3:22]; Red River (2007) [19:35]; Outro: Rhombus [5:32]
Mason Bates (electronica); Isabelle Demers (organ); Chanticleer; Baiva Quartet; Antares
rec. Trinity Church, Wall Street, New York [2-6], Sear Sound, New York [10-14], Yale University [8] DDD
MSR CLASSICS MS1342 [63:55]

This is a composer with an interesting voice who deserves to be heard.

The intro track, entitled BLUES7, is electronically produced and is in a smooth funk style, with a memorable groove and an overall feel which would make it a suitable contender for the pop market as well as the classical, and demonstrates the range of this composerís influences.

The main work, Digital Loom is a five movement work for organ and electronics, commissioned for the centenary of the Juilliard School. Building slowly with sustained long notes, well-placed crackle and a gentle underlying pulse, this is music which immediately has a sense of atmosphere. Bates is a composer from the dance music world who is combining his genre with contemporary classical. He chose to use the organ because it was loud enough to compete with a speaker system. The combination of the organís ecclesiastical connotations with dance music is both symbolic of a changing world and highly musically effective. The organ is given rhythmic material which combines well with the electronica which surrounds it.

Siren Music provides another short interlude, with vocal sounds creating a tapestry of textures over a dance rhythm. This is a fascinating work, which wholly incorporates the voices into the overall track, giving the impression that they could also have been produced by computer, if the quality of the singing had not given it away.

From Amber Frozen, a single movement work for string quartet is closer in style to the perception of contemporary classical music, although dance music rhythms are immediately apparent in the pizzicato interplay at the opening. The music grows, beginning in an essentially percussive manner, with textures building and changing throughout the work until melodic material takes over and is gradually deconstructed towards the end of the work. The interlude, Amber takes material from the previous work and remixes it with electronics. This is highly convincing and it is fascinating to see the music used in this way.

Red River is another major work, spanning almost twenty minutes in five movements for a mixed ensemble of clarinet, violin, cello and piano with electronics. Based on the journey of the Colorado, there are obvious influences from twentieth century American composers, such as Copland, as well as the clear fusion with Batesís dance music style. There are some wonderfully expressive lyrical moments in this work, and the electronics are used at times to represent human intervention with nature.

The disc ends with an Ďoutroí (the opposite of an intro), entitled Rhombus, which has a similar jazz funk style to the opening work and balances well.

This is a fascinating disc, and reminiscent of the sort of music that Gabriel Prokofiev and Shiva Feshareki are producing in the UK; these are young composers who are combining the music of their generation with contemporary classical music to create a new exciting genre which re-writes the rules and has a sense of fresh energy. Batesís music is well constructed and has a wide appeal. The variety contained within this disc demonstrates a considerable imagination.

Carla Rees

Batesís music is well constructed and has a wide appeal - A considerable imagination. ... see Full Review