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Bates: Digital Loom


Release Date: 07/01/2009 
Label:  Msr   Catalog #: 1342   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Mason Bates
Performer:  Mason BatesIsabelle Demers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ChanticleerBiava String QuartetAntares
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 4 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



BATES Blues7. Digital Loom. 1 Siren Music. 2 From Amber Frozen. 3 . Amber. Red River. 4 Rhombus Mason Bates (electronica); Isabelle Demers (org); 1 Chanticleer; 2 Biava Str Qrt; 3 Read more Antares 4 MSR 1342 (63:33)


Mason Bates (b. 1977) has established a reputation as a composer who mixes electronica with live instruments. For those who don’t know, this is the live performance of looped and processed samples from a laptop, a practice that is the digital extension of what first began from DJ turn-tabling in hip-hop, and now can be something far more abstract, and as complex as one wants it to be.


Bates is an active DJ and this experience shows in his practice. In a sense, you could say his music is a direct descendant of the instrument and tape pieces of a composer like Mario Davidovsky. But, of course, there are a couple of huge differences. For one, the electronic parts (at least as far as I can tell) are manipulated in real time by the composer/performer from his laptop. And the other is the sound of the music, which is driven by “beats.” Its dancy ostinatos give the music a drive and lilt that can be infectious.


There are four short pieces that serve as introduction, two interludes, and an “outro.” Digital Loom (2005) is for organ and electronica, Red River (2007) for a quartet of violin, clarinet, cello, and piano. From Amber Frozen (2004) is for string quartet. The CD cover program says “with electronica,” but careful listening (and a re-reading of the composer’s notes) says no, it’s influenced by, but doesn’t include technology in the mix. (If I’m wrong, I’m completely fooled. The next interlude, Amber, does use the string quartet as the starting point of a little electronic fantasia.)


All these pieces are polished and have memorable moments. Like a lot of music from his generation, Bates seems most interested in proving he can mix popular forms with classical, and he’s good at it. Nevertheless, the results can at times feel a little obvious: yes, it’s suitably groovy, but what else is new? Now and then it sounds like Copland with a dose of funkiness, with impressively tricky rhythms. For me, where the music works best is when there’s a genuine tension between long drawn-out gestures, usually in the acoustic instruments, and the insistently rhythmic electronic sounds. These come through most strongly in Digital Loom and Red River.


I do have one answer, though, to the question I posed above, and I hear it directly in the music. The most interesting thing for me in the electronica component is in the tiny details (where God is anyway). Lots of the samples (which seem to be original most of the time, but who knows or cares?) have little pops and clicks, some of them leftover from LP sources, others digital artifacts of chopped-off sound files. They’re deliberately created and then shaped into rhythmic strata. The effect is a little like an extraterrestrial soft-shoe. I like it.


I think Bates is onto something. It’s too early for me to get judgmental whether this is a shtick or something revolutionary. It is great fun a lot of the time, and that counts for a lot.


FANFARE: Robert Carl
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Works on This Recording

1.
Intro "Blues7" by Mason Bates
Performer:  Mason Bates (Electronics)
Period: 20th Century 
2.
Digital Loom by Mason Bates
Performer:  Mason Bates (Electronics), Isabelle Demers (Organ)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chanticleer
Period: 20th Century 
3.
Interlude "Siren Music" by Mason Bates
Performer:  Mason Bates (Electronics)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chanticleer
Period: 20th Century 
4.
From Amber Frozen by Mason Bates
Performer:  Mason Bates (Electronics)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Biava String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
5.
Interlude "Amber" by Mason Bates
Performer:  Mason Bates (Electronics)
Period: 20th Century 
6.
Red River by Mason Bates
Performer:  Mason Bates (Electronics)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Antares
Period:   
Written: 2007 
7.
Outro "Rhombus" by Mason Bates
Performer:  Mason Bates (Electronics)
Period: 20th Century 

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