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American Mavericks at Carnegie Hall: The California Contingent

On Thursday evening, March 29, New York City’s Carnegie Hall continues the final week of its American Mavericks series—which focuses on 17 singular composers of the 20th and 21st centuries, from Charles Ives to Morton Feldman to Steve Reich—with a decidedly West Coast focus.

"American Mavericks" Curator and Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas; photo by Terrence McCarthy, culled from Carnegie Hall web site.

Series curator and conductor Michael Tilson Thomas will lead members of the San Francisco Symphony , along with conductor Donato Cabrera and others, in a program dominated by three Californian composers. The eccentric evening includes the wildly inventive Harry Partch’s Daphne of the Dunes and Lou Harrison’s joyously cacaphonous Concerto for Organ and Percussion Orchestra, as well as the New York premiere of contemporary composer Mason Bates’s Mass Transmission.

Written for chorus, electronics, and organ (performed here by the Young People’s Chorus of New York City, the composer, and organist Paul Jacobs, respectively), Mass Transmission relays the story of early 20th century Dutch children working as colonial pages in Asian colonies such as Java and the radio communications between the children and their parents back home. In an American Mavericks video interview, Bates explains the instrumentation in this way:

If you have the chorus as this kind of animal warmth of human emotions as seen through the eyes of these children who are speaking with their parents, and if on the other end of the spectrum you have this kind of mechanistic world of tecnology and the static that the electronics are going to inhabit, I like the idea of the organist being this kind of omniscient figure operating between those two things.

The program also features composer David Del Tredici’s Syzygy. For more information on this concert, visit the event page at Carnegie Hall’s web site. For an excellent overview of the American Mavericks series, including the “Introducing the Mavericks” blog series, visit here.