Classical Music, Club Culture, and Electronica Collide in Mercury Soul

For Immediate Release

March 12, 2013

Classical Music, Club Culture, and Electronica Collide in Mercury Soul

Innovative musical collaboration at Strip District’s STATIC features PSO musicians and Composer of the Year Mason Bates


PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s Composer of the Year Mason Bates joins forces with musicians from the PSO, conductor Joshua Gersen, music director Benjamin Shwartz,  director/designer Anne Patterson and Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama in PSO Presents Mercury Soul. Using the innovations of both modern stagecraft and club production, Mercury Soulre-imagines the classical music experience for a broad audience in extraordinary spaces, from clubs to warehouses to concert halls.

Mercury Soul has performed to sold-out shows around the country, from San Francisco’s famed Mezzanine club to Miami’s New World Symphony and Chicago’s Metro. The Pittsburgh installment of Mercury Soultakes place on Friday, April 5, 2013 at 9 p.m. at STATIC (1650 Smallman Street, Strip District, Pittsburgh). Tickets can be purchased for $20 by calling the Heinz Hall box office at 412.392.4900, or by visiting the PSO online at  General admission $20; 21+ Student price of $15 (with valid university ID); “VIP” packages available – includes private, reserved seating in the balcony. $300/table of 6. This is a 21+ event.  There is ample, secure, lit parking across the street from the venue ($5 charge). There is a free coat check.





Mercury Soul gives audiences the freedom to dance, roam and experience music and visual art in a club setting. The event begins with a DJ set featuring Mason Bates and PSO bass player Jeffrey Grubbs, intersperses classical contemporary sets featuring PSO musicians. Highlights include PSO Concertmaster Noah Bendix-Balgley performing John Corigliano’s Stomp for solo violin; selections from John Adams’ John’s Book of Alleged Dances performed by violinists Jennifer Orchard & Jeremy Black, violist Andrew Wickesberg and cellist Michael Lipman, and the world premiere of Mason Bates’ The Rise of Exotic Computing, commissioned by the PSO for the occasion Interludes written by Bates and performed by the musicians will allow for fluid transitions between classical and DJ sets. Audiences will move among multiple stages and dance freely during DJ sets.


Under the guidance of the show’s director/designer Anne Patterson and CMU faculty members Tina Shackleford, Cindy Limauro and Larry Shea, a group of students at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama are designing the lighting and projected media for the Pittsburgh edition of Mercury Soul.


“We took inspiration from the city itself, seeking out geographic, cultural and structural elements of Pittsburgh that will distinguish this event from its previous iterations,” notes Charles Dabezies, a lighting and video design student at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Drama.


“Pittsburgh is known as the City of Bridges,” says Dabezies.“With an aesthetic inspired by the concept of ‘bridging,’ our design would skillfully support Mercury Soul’s amalgam of classical symphonic and modern electronic music. Bridges are also found in the cross-town collaboration between longstanding city institutions Carnegie Mellon University and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and between the Static event audience and the PSO as they meet in this venue for the first time.”


Using the theme of bridges as a broad jumping-off point for the lighting and media design, students will merge striking time-lapse video of Pittsburgh, architecturally mapped projections, live performance video with real-time effects, and evocative programmed lighting. Using a combination of the d3 media server, analog video mixers, and professional cueing programs, the media and lighting will concurrently highlight the performers, provide artful visuals, and guide the audience’s attention throughout the evening’s program.


Bates describes Mercury Soul as a “dee-jayed party with electronic dance music that is visited by a SWAT team of classical musicians.” It’s a party that attracts a new and diverse audience to contemporary classical music while also appealing to a more mainstream audience—one that The Atlanta Journal-Constitution calls a “complete and sensory experience.”

Mason Bates is the 2012-2013 Composer of the Year for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, a position which places him in residence with the community, allowing him to engage directly with audiences and young student composers. His music fuses innovative orchestral writing, imaginative narrative forms, the harmonies of jazz and the rhythms of techno. Frequently performed by orchestras large and small, his symphonic music has been the first to receive widespread acceptance for its expanded palette of electronic sounds, and it is championed by leading conductors such as Riccardo Muti, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Leonard Slatkin.

According to The Washington Post, ““Mason Bates’s musical language lies at the intersection of three major streams of contemporary music — jazz and its offshoots, classical music with all its harmonic and textural experimentation, and electronica. …. It exudes a sense of Americana for the 21st century.” The Chicago Tribune says “Bates’ stylistic personality is as firmly rooted in the world of pop music and electronica as it is in the more rigorous realm of classical music.”

Carnegie Hall’s 2012-13 season opened with Riccardo Muti leading the Chicago Symphony in Bates’ Alternative Energy, an ‘energy symphony’ that spans four movements and hundreds of years.  Premiered last season to rave reviews, the work subsequently toured California and receives its Canadian premiere in February by the Toronto Symphony.  A new violin concerto for Anne Akiko Meyers and the Pittsburgh Symphony premiered in December 2012 under the baton of Leonard Slatkin, and the Pittsburgh Symphony is performing many of Bates’ works as he serves as Composer of the Year.

This season, the Houston Ballet premieres a major new ballet to The B-Sides, a dance suite that drops into five surreal landscapes that has been performed around the country since its San Francisco Symphony premiere.  And the Phoenix Symphony presents two of his works this season — Desert Transport, which conjures a helicopter trip over the Arizona landscape, and a new song cycle for soprano and orchestra.  While Bates often performs the electronica onstage with orchestras, dozens of repeat performances of his symphonic music happen without him – demonstrating how electronics can act as a new section in the orchestra with little logistical effort.  A good example is Mothership, which premiered at the Sydney Opera House by the YouTube Symphony to an online audience of 1.8 million: it is appearing on symphonic programs across the country this season.

Many purely acoustic works complement his diverse catalogue, such as Sirens, an a cappella work touring with the superstar chorus Chanticleer. The solo piano work White Lies for Lomax, commissioned by Tanglewood Music Center, won the Van Cliburn Composers Invitational and is heard regularly on recitals.  A new string quartet premiered by the Del Sol Quartet at the 2012 Cabrillo Festival receives its Bay Area premiere this December.  A great deal of his music has been performed by the musicians of Young Concert Artists, the acclaimed New York organization where he served as composer-in-residence.

Bringing classical music to new audiences is a central part of Bates’ activities as a curator, be it through residencies with institutions such as the Chicago Symphony’s MusicNOW series, or in alternative spaces with Mercury Soul. For more info, go to       

BENJAMIN SHWARTZ has conducted performances in diverse venues ranging from Berlin’s

Philharmonie to San Francisco’s Junk Yard. His work with orchestras and opera houses includes the Los

Angeles Philharmonic, the Royal Scottish National Symphony, the Tokyo Symphony, the Taipei

Symphony, the BBC Scottish Symphony, the New World Symphony, the Iceland Symphony and the

Curtis Opera. For three years, he was Resident Conductor of the San Francisco Symphony and Music

Director of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra.


ANNE PATTERSON is a visual artist, designer and director based in New York City. Her innovative

strategy of integrating scenic lighting and projection elements within the traditional symphonic hall is

revolutionizing the concert experience. Patterson creates stunning, immersive installations that frame and inform the musical experience. Highlight productions include Every Good Boy Deserves Favor by

Previn/Stoppard for the Philadelphia Orchestra, Bach’s St. John Passion for Atlanta Symphony

Orchestra, 14 operas at the Aspen Opera Theater Center, and The Women of Brewster Place at Arena

Stage and the Alliance Theater.


JOSHUA DAVID GERSEN, winner of the prestigious 2011 Aspen Conducting Prize, as well as the 2010 Robert J. Harth Conducting Prize from the Aspen Music Festival, made his conducting debut at age 11 with the Greater Bridgeport Youth Orchestra in Bridgeport, CT, and his professional conducting debut 5 years later, when he led the Greater Bridgeport Symphony in a performance of his own composition, A Symphonic Movement.  He is currently the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Conducting Fellow of the New World Symphony, where he serves as the assistant conductor to the symphonys Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas, and also leads the orchestra in various subscription, education, and family concerts.  He has also recently been appointed Music Director of the New York Youth Symphony, a post he began in the fall of 2012.  Gersen is a graduate from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he studied conducting with the esteemed Otto-Werner Mueller.


Complete program details follow:


1650 Smallman Street


Friday, April 5, 9 p.m.





DJ Masonic (Mason Bates ), composer/DJ

Benjamin Shwartz, music director

Anne Patterson, director/designer

Joshua Gersen, conductor

Jeffrey Grubbs, bass, DJ sets


Noah Bendix-Balgley, solo violin             

Jennifer Orchard, violin 

Jeremy Black, violin

Andrew Wickesberg, viola                                   

Michael Lipman, cello       

Betsy Heston, bass

Rhian Kenny, flute

Jocelyn Plant, oboe

TBC, English horn

Kelly Coyle Tanase, clarinet

James Rodgers, bassoon   

Philip A. Pandolfi, bassoon

Ronald Schneider, horn                                       

Chad Winkler, trumpet 

Charles Lirette, trumpet

James Nova, trombone, tenor

Murray Crewe, trombone, bass

Gretchen Van Hoesen, harp

Jim Benoit, percussion

TBC, percussion Rodrigo Ojeda, piano






ADAMS Selections from John’s Book of Alleged Dances


STRAVINSKY Concertino for Twelve Instruments


BATES The Rise of Exotic Computing (PSO commission & World Premiere)





Contact: James Barthen, Vice President of Public Affairs
Phone: 412.392.4835 | email:

Contact: Louise Sciannameo, Associate Vice President of Public Affairs
Phone: 412.392.4866 | email:

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