The final subscription concert by the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) for the month of April will feature the world premiere of the latest composition by Mason Bates, “Auditorium.” Those who have been following Bates’ career know that he has a strong personal interest in technology. Thus the performances of many of his works require “electronica,” particularly in the forms of digital synthesis and control. However, the history of technology has also provided inspiration for many of his compositions, such as “Alternative Energy,” a “past and future history” of energy sources composed during his residency with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and first performed in February of 2012, and “Mass Transmission,” a cantata about the early days of wireless long-distance communication, composed for the SFS Centennial Season and first performed in March of 2012.
Bates describes “Auditorium” as “a work for two orchestras – one live, one dead.” The latter refers to a familiar belief that any performing space (auditorium) reverberates not only with sounds of the present but also those of the past (albeit at a much lower amplitude). (In Wes Craven’s film Music of the Heart, Isaac Stern, playing himself, explains this phenomenon to Meryl Streep, playing music teacher Roberta Guaspari, while describing Carnegie Hall to her.) In “Auditorium” Bates juxtaposes the sounds of the orchestra on stage (in this case SFS) with digital manipulation of samples sounds of baroque instruments.
Consistent with Bates’ interest in technology, SFS announced yesterday that the world premiere of “Auditorium” will be given a live webcast using “Facebook Live” video streaming technology. Streaming will begin at approximately 8:15 p.m. (Pacific Daylight Time) on Wednesday, April 27. The streaming link will be set up on the SFS Facebook page. The video will also be archived and made available for on-demand streaming following the performance. The conductor will be Pablo Heras-Casado. This will be part of the second of two weeks of concerts he will be presenting during his visit to the SFS podium in Davies Symphony Hall.
This live video streaming event also serves as a follow-up to last month’s release of the latest recording made by SFS Media. Entitled Mason Bates: Works for Orchestra, the album presents concert recordings of SFS performing three of Bates’ compositions, “The B-Sides,” “Liquid Interface,” and “Alternative Energy.” All of these recordings were made during concerts conducted by SFS Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas in 2014, the first two in January and the last in September.