Mason Bates - Anthology of Fantastic Zoology – Sprite; A Bao A Qu

Lemn Sissay explores Mason Bates' music using facts, insight and animation.

American DJ and composer Mason Bates premiered his compelling 30-minute orchestral symphony Anthology of Fantastic Zoology in 2015.

Each of its eleven distinctive movements conjures up a different mythical creature from Jorge Luis Borges' Book of Imaginary Beings, including the mischievous Sprite and the tower-dwelling beast, A Bao A Qu.

The two movements show how music can conjure up creative ideas and powerful pictures in our imaginations.

Listen out for: The middle of A Bao A Qu, when the music starts winding itself back to the start. The piece is a musical palindrome, and just like a palindrome word is spelt the same forwards as it is backwards, the music sounds the same when played forwards or backwards!

A Bao A Qu from Anthology of Fantastic Zoology by Mason Bates: The full performance.

Mason Bates

BORN: 1977 / NATIONALITY: American

‘Mason’s music has moved the orchestra into the digital age and dissolved the boundaries of classical music’ - businesswoman and philanthropist Teresa Heinz awarding Bates the Heinz medal. Mason Bates is an American composer who often writes for a combination of orchestral players and electronics. He was recently named the most-performed composer of his generation! He was born in Virginia and studied at the University of California until 2008. He has written highly acclaimed pieces for several major orchestras and is currently the first ever composer-in-residence for the Kennedy Centre of Performing Arts in Washington DC.

He is known for mixing the harmonies of jazz and rhythms of techno with novel orchestral writing. He works also as a DJ (his stage name is 'DJ Masonic') and a curator, passionate about bringing new music to new spaces. World famous conductors such as Leonard Slatkin and Michael Tilson Thomas have championed his work and he is now amongst the first composers to receive widespread acclaim for combining symphonic sounds with electronic sounds. In 2016 he wrote his first film score.

MP3s: Listen to or download the music

Download the A Bao A Qu MP3

Download the Sprite MP3

To save to your computer: PC - right-click and save, Mac - ctrl-click and save.

Mason Bates

Lesson Plans

Six weeks of learning and activities Download lesson plans for six weeks of learning and activities for Mason Bate's music, as PowerPoint presentations or PDFs. These lesson plans are ideal for music lessons, but you can of course use the Ten Pieces in many other subjects and activities. Take a look at our video masterclasses for inspiration.

To enable all images to work in the PowerPoint files please save the file to your computer. To save to your computer: PC - right-click and save, Mac - ctrl-click and save.

Primary lesson plans:

Suitable for:

  • Key Stage 2 in England and Wales
  • Second Level, P5-P7 in Scotland
  • Key Stage 1/Key Stage 2 in Northern Ireland

Secondary lesson plans:

Secondary lesson plan for A Bao A Qu (PowerPoint)

Secondary lesson plan for A Bao A Qu (PDF)

Suitable for:
Key Stage 3 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Third and Fourth Level, S1-S3 in Scotland

Written by Rachel Leach.

Arrangements: Play the piece with simplified parts

Please note that due to the difficulty level of the music, arrangements are only available for Sprite, which has been arranged at intermediate/Grade 1-3 and Grade 4-5 ability levels.

All parts have been designed to work together to enable mixed-ability groups to perform together. See more information about the parts below.

Notes from the arranger

By Iain Farrington

All parts have been designed to work together to enable mixed-ability groups to perform together. A certain amount of simplification has been required to adapt the pieces for mixed-ability. Some pieces have been cut to allow a 3-5 minute general duration and to remove especially difficult passages of music. A successful rendering of each piece would require the essential melodic material and bass line which are often in the Grades 4/5 parts, especially in the piano.

There are scores for each difficulty level plus three other scores for each piece:

  • Grouped according to ability
  • Grouped according to instrument type
  • 'Short score' in C, grouped according to ability

There are three ability levels – beginner, intermediate (Grades 1-3) and Grades 4-5.

  • Flute parts can be played by the violins
  • Oboe parts can be played by the flutes and violins
  • Trumpet parts (in B♭) can be played by the clarinets.
  • Violin parts can be played by the flutes (except when in the lowest register)
  • The 'percussion' part is a beginner part and can be played on any drum. It adds a simple rhythm layer to each piece. Timpani and full percussion parts are for intermediate or Grades 4/5

Please note:

Sprite: This arrangement is for intermediate and Grade 4/5 only, owing to the complexity of the piece. There is a cut from bar 37 to bar 65 in the original.