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Bay Area composer mixes classical and electronic music in groundbreaking way

Bay Area Grammy-winning composer mixes classical, electronic music in groundbreaking way
Bay Area Grammy-winning composer mixes classical, electronic music in groundbreaking way 03:42

SAN FRANCISCO – Several Bay Area artists are nominated in this year's Grammy Awards, celebrating the best in the music world.

Bay Area composer Mason Bates has earned wide praise for his symphonic works. It was recently announced the San Francisco Opera will perform his Grammy-award winning opera "The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs" this fall.

Bates composes a unique symphony of sounds. His fusion of classical music and electronic beats is changing the way we perceive and experience music. He talked about what inspires him.

"Writing music for me doesn't have to start at the piano," said Bates. "In fact, it can start right here in nature."

Bates also shared why he decided to merge his two worlds together.

Bay Area composer Mason Bates. CBS

"San Francisco is where it all came together for me," said Bates. "By day, I was writing symphonies for the Phoenix Symphony or the LA Philharmonic. And then at night, I would get out and DJ in SoMa. I finally decided one night, I was sitting at the turntables at an old place named Varnish, which has since disappeared. And I thought, why can't I have an orchestra play with these beats at the same time?"

"Orchestras is not really used to dealing with electricity, so when I showed up with speakers and integrated beats into my symphonic music, there was definitely some skepticism," Bates added.

The music industry is now celebrating his work. An opera Bates wrote -- "The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs" -- won a Grammy for Best Opera Recorded in 2019. At this year's Grammys, his piece "Philharmonia Fantastique - The Making of the Orchestra" is up for the Best Engineered Album - Classical category.

"Here we have a sprite right on the viola bow. The spright gets flung off, and lands right on the string of the viola, and almost like a trampoline, is demonstrating the harmonic series," Bates explained.

At the San Francisco Grammy Nominee party, three-time Grammy award-winning Chief Mastering Engineer of Coast Mastering, Michael Romanowski, who worked with Mason on "Philharmonia Fantastique" and who is nominated this year for a Grammy, sung Bates' praises.

"Mason Bates is a fantastic composer, and I love his work," said Romanowski. "It was really great!"

Bates continues to innovate. He's DJ Masonic in the world of electronic music, recently collaborating with Juan Atkins, the so-called godfather of techno at the Kennedy Center.

The two are teaming up again for an event presented by Mercury Soul in partnership with Red Curtain Addict to bring their beats home to the Bay Area.

"For Mason, he's a DJ and he's all out in the community," said Red Curtain Addict founder Kari Lincks Coomans. "He's so charismatic. He's an innovator, and getting to work side-by-side with him for events with Mercury Soul has been so exciting. He's always pushing the envelope."

For Bates, music is storytelling. He said mixing a melody with electronic sounds, has the power to take us places, to take us on musical journey.

The night of January 27th, Bates will perform with DJ Juan Atkins and a live string ensemble at San Francisco's Public Works.

His Grammy-nominated piece "Philharmonia Fantastique: The Making of the Orchestra" can currently be viewed on Apple TV.

The 65th Annual Grammy Awards will air Sunday February 5th on CBS. 

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