Mason Bates
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has embarked on an ambitious project to explore recent programming trends among 21 major American orchestras. Their research found that Mason Bates is the second most performed living composer! Recently awarded the Heinz Medal in the Humanities, Mason Bates writes music that 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.

From the Baltimore Symphony:

By Ricky O’Bannon

Classical music is not easily quantified.

And not without good reason. A beautiful violin sonata or exhilarating symphony finale are much better described in subjective qualitative terms than some scientific measurement.

But numbers can occasionally provide context for ongoing conversations in classical music or highlight trends – such as how often music by female composers is performed – that might not have otherwise been noticed.

To explore those trends, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra gathered data on the 2014-15 seasons that have been programmed by 21 major American orchestras. The orchestras were selected based on size and operating budget.

We created a database with most concerts and pieces — excluding pops or family concerts — that these orchestras will play during the coming season. For those pieces performed, the data tracks the number of performances a given piece will receive, the composer, a piece’s composition date, soloists, the composer’s nationality, gender and whether the composer is living.

During the next few weeks, we will publish a series of stories and analysis revealing the trends we’ve spotted, including the most performed pieces of music and what the gender gap in female composers means.

Read more and explore the data