To continue the theme of innovation versus truth and beauty, I present to you, The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs. This new opera by Mason Bates had its world premiere at Santa Fe Opera on Saturday, July 22.
Mason Bates Violin Concerto
With Anne Aikiko Meyers
Yes, an opera about Steve Jobs. However, the title couldn’t just be “Steve Jobs” they had to give us that “artistic” play on words (R)evolution. I hate it already. How good can it possibly be with a title such as that?
Bill Burr destroys Steve Jobs
On Night of Too Many Stars, 2012
There are no clips of the music available but having listened to several other pieces by Mason Bates I have an idea of what to expect. If you like sound effects then you will like what Mason Bates does.
"Check out this cool sound. Now check out this cool sound. Here's another one. Have I blown your mind or what?"
I can say that his violin concerto shows promise but is in a constant state of distraction. Can someone please write something that is "on the beat" half the time? It's all monotonously off the beat. After a while one can only scream, "What's the point?"
This constant rhythmic masturbation is my main hang-up with modern music. There is no flow. Perhaps that is an accurate reflection of our current age of distraction which has been brought about primarily by the iPhone.
In one way, Bates is doing what Jobs did. Bates combines an orchestra with electronica and uses this to fuel his invention. Jobs took existing idioms and had them combined in order to create invention.
While we’re on the topic, let’s be clear that Jobs is in the same vein as Thomas Edison not Nikola Tesla. Edison did not invent the lightbulb, the movie projector, or several other technologies such as the battery.
This quote from Inventions Edison did not make sums it up perfectly. “Thomas Edison himself did not invent major breakthroughs. He often took credit for the ideas and inventions of others and most of his patents were little more than improvements on already existing products. He was an astute businessman, and as such, had greater impact on innovating existing products than inventing new ones.”
The same can be said of Steve Jobs. If we take away his perceived creative genius, is Jobs worthy of an opera? He was incredible at executing ideas or rather keeping an entire company focused on the central idea but his leadership style was less than inspiring.
From what I've read of the reviews from Santa Fe, the story is non-linear and takes place over the course of 18 vignettes in the space of 85 minutes. The show reportedly gives us no further insights into the man or the milieu in which he existed.
The 85 minutes is the perfect length for an iPhone toting audience but feels short given the scope of the narrative which covers the entirety of Jobs' life. If we look to operas which have remained in play over the years, there are no biographies.
An opera completely dedicated to the struggle between the ideologies of Jobs and Wozniak in their early years could have been quite compelling. Woz is the Tesla to Jobs' Edison.
My response here is strangely negative for a show I've never seen. I’ve been long-winded about my disappointment in most contemporary musical efforts and it feels as though I’m looking for faults. I am looking for something of true stature.
San Francisco Opera will be producing it during their 2019-2020 season. The Santa Fe shows have been sold out and additional performances are being considered. Given the religious stature of Jobs in the Bay Area, tickets to the San Francisco Opera will be hard to come by.
I'm guessing by that point there will be an iPhone-augmented reality app to go with the production.