WILL MASON is a drummer, composer, and music scholar from Maine, now living in New York City.
His main performance project is the Will Mason Ensemble, a chamber ensemble of voice, oboe, alto sax, two guitars, bass, and drums. The ensemble’s debut album, Beams of the Huge Night, will be released on New Amsterdam Records on August 28, 2015. Mason wrote most of the music for the album in a cabin in the woods of northern Maine, away from electricity, the internet, running water, and phone service. He is fascinated by how it feels to be isolated in nature — how everything feels simultaneously beautiful and threatening, and how the elemental and oppressive hugeness of nature can inspire awe or unease. “Beams of the Huge night” is an attempt at capturing those sensations musically.
In addition to writing new music for the ensemble, Mason’s other main project is “Happy Place,” a noise-metal band of two guitars and two drummers inspired by ethnomusicological work on the physical extremes that induce trancing. He also is working on a suite of electroacoustic works for a quartet of tenor saxophone, voice, viola, and percussion, and he works as a sideman with a number of musicians in New York City and elsewhere.
Mason is currently pursuing a PhD in music theory at Columbia University, with primary research in contemporary electroacoustic music and music cognition. His dissertation advances a framework for considering affective experience of music as a principally embodied phenomenon, a phenomenon which is mediated by the various technologies at work in the production of music. This framework is brought to bear on the music and thought of the French spectral school, suggesting a deeper engagement with technology and the body than has previously been ascribed to later-20th century modernist music.
Mason is also deeply devoted to pedagogy, and has received a Lead Teaching Fellowship from Columbia’s teaching center. He also founded the graduate student music theory pedagogy group at Columbia, and is a guest lecturer in jazz for the music humanities program. Prior to attending Columbia, he received a BMus in music performance and a BA in political science, both from Oberlin College.