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Classically Techno

Hey, Mr. DJ, turn the music up. I want to listen to some classical music with my baby.

Oakland resident Mason Bates brings together the classical and electronica worlds with his original compositions. A classically trained composer who studied at Columbia University and Juilliard, he began dabbling in underground electronica during his college days.

Since then, Bates has created a hybrid of the two, composing for orchestras with electronica beats and performing live with his laptop amid the instruments.

Bates will give a public lecture and demonstration ("Electronica on Vinyl: the Intelligent Dance Music Movement") at California State University, Stanislaus, on March 23 and a performance with Stan State conductor Stuart Sims and the department of music at the State Theatre on March 24.

Bates said as disparate as the two musical styles seem, electronica and classical share certain core qualities.

"There are so many different reasons why they have nothing to do with each other, and then there are some reasons that bring them together," he said. "I at first was attracted to all the things that separated classical from electronica."

But on closer listen, he said the textures and nonvocal nature of both genres brought them together.

"When you don't have that vocal link, it allows the music to be more of the focus -- the textures, harmonies and rhythms," he said. "And that's the kind of ear you have when you listen to classical concert music. That is where I find they overlap."

He said the response from the classical world has been surprisingly positive. While some think of techno and electronica as the slick, thumping dance beats heard only in clubs and car commercials, Bates insists "there is a whole world of beats out there."

He said his music takes the "visceral energy of electronica beats combined with the incredible amount of textures in an orchestra to create more fluorescent possibilities."

Live performances bring that energy to the forefront as well. Instead of just plugging in his laptop and leaning back, Bates is actively involved in the orchestra performance.

He sets up his laptop and an electronic drum pad in the percussion section. Then he plays along, working with the conductor, adding his electronica beats to the live orchestra.

"It is like playing a percussion instrument," he said. I am banging away in rhythm on this drum pad. I wanted my end of the performance to be more than pressing a space bar."


WHAT: Mason Bates, electronica/classical composer

WHEN: Public lecture 7:30 p.m. March 23; performance 8 p.m. March 24

WHERE: Lecture, California State University, Stanislaus, Turlock; performance, State Theatre, 1307 J St., Modesto

TICKETS: Lecture free; performance $10 general, $8 students, staff and seniors

CALL: 667-3959, 527-4697

ONLINE: www.masonic electronica.com

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