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MOTHERSHIP (for Wind Ensemble, Soloists and Electronics) by MASON BATES (USA, 1977)

[#37] April 06, 2020

2011 | Wind Ensemble, Soloists and electronics | Grade 5 | 10’- 15’ | Tone poem, with electronics

Mason Bates
Photo Credit: Ryan Schude

Mothership, for Wind Ensemble, Soloists and Electronica is our Composition of the Week.

The orchestral version of Mason Bates’ score was commissioned by the You Tube Symphony, a project lead by its Music Director Michel Tilson Thomas, and was premiered on March 21, 2011 by the above-mentioned orchestra at the Sidney Opera House, Australia, for a live audience of 2 million people worldwide.

Solo-Instruments included electric guitar, violin, zheng (Chinese zither) and bass guitar.

Mothership is a single-movement composition. Bates explains his work on the score’s program notes:

“This energetic opener imagines the orchestra as a mothership that is “docked” by several visiting soloists, who offer brief but virtuosic riffs on the work’s thematic material over action-packed electro-acoustic orchestral figuration. The piece follows the form of a scherzo with double trio {…} Mothership shares a formal connection with the symphonic scherzo but is brought to life by thrilling sounds of the 21st Century”.

The wind ensemble version was done subsequently by Bates himself. The instrumentation uses a standard wind ensemble setting including a full double reed section, saxophone quartet, harp, piano, double bass, timpani, four percussionists and a laptop for live electronics.

The solo parts in the band version can be improvised or played as written. The music is available directly through the composer’s website, and it is on rental.

Mason Bates (born in January 1997) is a multi-award-winning American composer. He has showed an early interest in bridging the worlds of electronic music and symphonic music. He is the first composer-in-residence of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Bates has also been in residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony and the Pittsburgh Symphony among many other.

His first opera, “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs” was premiered in 2017 by the Santa Fe Opera, and received a Grammy Award in 2019 for the Best Opera Recording.


For more information on Mason Bates:


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