Expanding Soul

Mason Bates' Mercury Soul hits the DNA Lounge this Friday

Mercury Soul, the classical/edm concert/club experience launched by composer Mason Bates, returns to San Francisco this coming Friday night for an immersive show at the DNA Lounge mixing live music and DJ-composed electronica. Bates, whose music is quickly becoming among the most widely performed by any living composer, has long maintained a parallel career as a DJ alongside his other musical projects (he's currently writing an opera about Steve Jobs as well as serving as the Kennedy Center's first Artist-in-Residence). Since launching Mercury Soul in 2008 at San Francisco's Mezzanine, various iterations featuring and curated by Bates have appeared in cities across the country, most recently here last October at Ruby Skye. 

Bates has been on a roll lately. Aside from the Jobs opera, his role at the Kennedy Center, and having his music performed by orchestras around the country, last month the San Francisco Symphony premiered his new orchestral work Auditorium, which received a tremendously enthusiastic response from the audience, and they released a marvelously designed recording of his orchestral works. Earlier that month I got a chance to attend final show of the inaugural season program of KC Jukebox, a new series curated by Bates in the Atrium of the Kennedy Center that feels like a hybrid of the San Francisco Symphony's SoundBox series and the Mercury Soul shows. The Washington Post's Anne Midgette described the series "a calculated balance between edginess and familiarity," and that's an apt description of what I witnessed as Bates performed on electronica between live performances of music by contemporary composers including Anna Clyne and Donnacha Dennehy. The Kennedy Center is bringing Jukebox back next season, and I received a press release stating Mercury Soul is expanding next year as well (no dates were provided).

Until then, there's this coming Friday's gig. On the classical side, this week's edition features the renegade Classical Revolution, now a nationwide group of musicians intent on taking classical music to places it hasn't been before, and One Found Sound, a Bay Area chamber orchestra collective that performs without a conductor, relying instead on musicianship and an intense, collaborative approach to achieve a level of surprisingly successful cohesion. Bringing the electronica together will be Bates in his DJ Masonic mode, along with Chicago DJ Justin Reed (The Freakeasy) and DJ Chris Hartnett. Lending a hand in the segues between the genres, and hopefully taking part in the colliding intersections are cellist Alex Kelly and Maestro Ming Luke. 

Expect a mixture of programmed live music and improvised beats. Classical Revolution will perform a Mendelssohn String Octet (Op. 20), as well as Biber’s (Heinrich, not Justin) extraordinary Battalia à 10, written in 1673 and featuring techniques far ahead of its time, before joining with One Found Sound to perform Stravinsky’s Concerto in E-flat, aka “Dumbarton Oaks.” One Found Sound will also perform Jean Francaix's mid-20th CenturyWoodwind Quintet No. 1. Somewhere in the middle of all this, don't be surprised if some Prince or Bowie creeps into the mix, or some long lost funk.

Mercury Soul, Friday, May 20th. Tickets are $15-$30. All ages welcome. 9 PM - 1 AM, 375 11th Street, San Francisco. Tickets here or at the door.

Also of interest: Classical Revolution performs Beethoven & Bowie on Sunday, May 29th at Fort Mason's Cowell Theatre during the SF International Arts Festival.