In the latter role, Bates has performed at venues like New York's floating rave ship, The Frying Pan, and at San Francisco's famed Skylark and Cloud 9 clubs. Last week, he played the new Acrylico Lounge in Rome, Italy, where he is spending a year at the American Academy, thanks to a fellowship and the 2003 Rome Prize he won for his more "classical" compositional endeavors.
Bates' activities in these very different musical spaces began quite distinctly during the time he spent at both Columbia University and the Juilliard School in New York.
Studying music composition at Juilliard during the day, he was out exploring New York's underground lounges and clubs at night, where he says, "I found a highly informed audience listening to richly textured electronic music."
But as radically different as his two musical worlds may be, Bates says his classical and electronica activities have always been complementary. "One of the wonderful things about classical music is the composer's interaction with the wide variety of musicians who bring a work to life, often many months or years after [it] has been written. Electronica, on the other hand, gives immediate results to the composer working [alone] in the studio." He points out that such immediacy, and the limitless palette of sounds that the producer can create from scratch, can be very appealing to a composer.
Even so, Bates says that a highly compositional approach informs all of his electronica work, whether creating trip-hop tracks or DJing at a lounge. "It can be a challenging task to turn a bunch of homemade sounds into a musically coherent track, or to plan an overall shape to a two-hour set."
His concerto-like Sounds for His Animation, commissioned and premiered by The New Juilliard Ensemble, is a product of Bates' passions. Designed for synthesizer and chamber orchestra, it will be performed this week by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, with the composer as synthesizer soloist.
The blending of synthesizer and orchestra was a monumental task. Bates suggests that the myriad of sounds the synthesizer can produce offers a challenge when writing for it as a solo instrument. "But that's what fascinated me: Featuring an instrument blessed with a wonderful identity crisis shatters the conventional relationship between orchestra and soloist. This is one reason I decided against using the word concerto anywhere near this piece, since the synth can act chameleon-like among the various textures of the orchestra."
The challenges of the work go beyond the compositional, they also apply to his role of soloist in the ASO concert. "Having to navigate through all the buttons, wheels and knobs can be a real squirrel on the head! At one point, my right hand is busy with a tricky passage while my left is messing with some dials. Perhaps in that way it is most comparable to a 21st-century organ concerto, though the synth involved is resolutely mid-'80s." says Bates, referring to the Yamaha V50 he carts around for performances.
Besides studying on two continents (he is also pursuing a Ph.D. at University of California at Berkeley) and DJing, Bates has a good handful of performances on this season's docket, not to mention important commissions, including one for The Juilliard School's 100th anniversary in 2005. He notes how his very different musical influences are, perhaps, merging even more. "While kept quite apart initially," he says, "more recently both worlds have started to influence each other in my music. Two new electro- acoustic commissions are suggesting interesting hybrids to me, so we'll see what happens."
Their show with Chris, Lord about 3 years at the Unicorn was the best.
I am a connoisseur of this real soul music like the comment above I'm glad…
You've got a few of my faves listed here, plus a bunch I've never heard…
This is such a cool idea and the performance is great (I've been twice) but…