View Mobile Site
Fire Music

Saturday 8.3 8pm

Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium
Guest Conductor Carolyn Kuan

Sean Friar Noise Gate [World Premiere | Festival Commission]
Thomas Newman It Got Dark (Kronos Quartet, string quartet)
Mason Bates Alternative Energy



Program change: Mason Bates performs electronica with the orchestra in his celebrated work, Alternative Energy, an ‘energy symphony’ spanning four movements and hundreds of years, will be performed instead of the previously programmed Fire Music by Brett Dean.

Sponsored by


Three composers in residence and the world’s most renowned string quartet join guest conductor Carolyn Kuan and the Festival Orchestra for a program of evocative works that find their roots in each composer’s deep sense of place. Award-winning musical mavericks Kronos Quartet return as soloists in Thomas Newman’s It Got Dark. Newman has composed music for more than 50 motion pictures and television series, including Skyfall, American Beauty, Shawshank Redemption, Finding Nemo, and Six Feet Under, earning him eleven Academy Award nominations and five Grammy Awards. It Got Dark, written for Kronos (first as a chamber work and then as a concerto), is the result of his many years of collecting ephemera—photographs, postcards and recorded interviews—from the areas surrounding his home on the west side of Los Angeles. Newman writes, “I always meant to organize them in a way that shed light or cast shadow over what is now vs. what was then, and my unique position of seeing both at once....To that end, it is music of loss and memory, much distorted by my interpretation of hope and hopelessness, sorrow and joy.”

Opening the concert is a world premiere Festival commission by 28-year-old Sean Friar, whose piece is also inspired by his life in Los Angeles. The youngest winner of the Rome Prize in more than 25 years, Friar was selected by composer John Adams in an ongoing collaboration with the Festival to feature emerging young talents. Friar’s newest work, Noise Gate, is inspired by his delight in being able, within just minutes, to travel from the urban hustle and cacophony of L.A. and find pockets of peaceful seclusion in nature where the volume of the city gets tuned out, as the sounds of the natural environment get turned up–reminding him of a “noise gate,” an electronic device used in a recording studio to control the volume of an audio signal.

This evening culminates when composer Mason Bates joins the orchestra in his celebrated work, Alternative Energy. The San Francisco Chronicle described it as a "formidable and inventive new work...a narrative so compelling and so imaginatively crafted... Its four movements offer a time-traveling montage, from 1896 through the year 2222, that is alternately whimsical, moving and eerie. It's also Bates' most ambitious and epically scaled work to date, and it shows his mastery of the orchestral landscape like nothing before it."

MEETUPS! Come down to the Civic early to enjoy the live entertainment, food & wine, artists booths and festive atmosphere of the Church Street Fair!

Program Notes

Noise Gate

Sean Friar (b. 1985)

One of my favorite aspects about living in Los Angeles is the speed with which I can move from a bustling urban environment to a vibrant natural one.  In less than ten minutes, I can get from my home to a point on canyon trail in which I cannot see or hear anything man-made.  Though the natural beauty of these trails is inspiring itself, what I find most fascinating is observing the process of my ears recalibrating themselves from the sounds of the city to the sounds of nature.  At first, I seem to hear nothing.  Then, I notice the most prominent birds, then the quieter ones, the wind, and finally, small animals rustling in nearby bushes.  If I sit motionless on a rock, the rustling animals will get closer and louder as they forget that I am there.  Before long, the sounds of nature seem to become just as loud and complex as those from the city, but with an entirely different character and purpose.  I always find this experience transfixing and invigorating, and Noise Gate takes its shape and energy from it.

A noise gate is computer hardware or software that is used to control the volume of an audio signal.  Any signal which is below a certain threshold will be completely eliminated, thus removing the quieter "noise" from the final product.  One could imagine the form of this piece beginning with a noise gate with a high threshold that is then gradually lowered as the loudest sounds disappear, allowing the more delicate ones to come through.

—Sean Friar

Not recorded

It Got Dark (2009)
Thomas Newman (b. 1955)

Download an It Got Dark Listening Guide here.

Venice, California in 1917. A young couple sits in a white rowboat by the bank of a small canal. She is wearing a hat, looking at the squat palm trees across the water. He is looking into the distance, pointing towards a walking bridge behind the boat. But what is he pointing at? And why? The area under the bridge is dreamlike, full of shadows and reflection. The water is clear. The bungalows lining the canal are trim and well tended. There are clouds in the sky, but the day is sunny. Above this scene, in ink, is faded writing. The words are almost unreadable... "The pink, I've heard, is the ice moss." The writer, of course, is referring to the plants lining the south bank of the canal, a moment's observation from a place now mostly forgotten.

It Got Dark is a result of many years of collecting ephemera--photographs, postcards, recorded interviews--from the areas surrounding my home on the west side of Los Angeles. I always meant to organize them in a way that shed light or cast shadow over what is now vs. what was then, and my unique position of seeing both at once... The feeling I get looking at something and the feeling I wish to evoke through listening.

Eight short movements include spoken words of Angelina Marquez Olivera, great granddaughter of Francisco Marquez, patriarch of Santa Monica Canyon's original land grant family; Emil Sandmeier, butler to humorist Will Rogers from 1930 to Will's death in 1935; and a poem by Virginia Benton Horner, one of the canyon's earliest residents.

—Thomas Newman

It Got Dark was commissioned for the Kronos Quartet and the Los Angeles Philharmonic by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association. It premiered on December 3, 2009 at Walt Disney Concert Hall, with John Adams conducting.

Not recorded


Alternative Energy (2012)
Mason Bates (b. 1977)


Not recorded