Mason was educated at King's College Cambridge (1971–75) and took a degree in film-making at the Royal College of Art (1975–78). He did not turn to composition until his early 30s, but his first acknowledged work, Hinterstoisser Traverse (1986), attracted attention from the European new music scene (Toop 2001). His early works are decidedly postmodern in inclination, with considerable use of stylistic irony (some commentators[weasel words] have noted in these works a similarity to the music of Mauricio Kagel). Mason then developed an interest in polyrhythmic music, and in works such as his Double Concerto one can hear a strong stylistic affinity to the later works of György Ligeti (Toop 2001). More recent works have concentrated on the spatial dimension of music, such as in his Music for European Concert Halls series, and sometimes have come very close to installation art.
Mason has composed in many genres, and his soccer opera Playing Away, with a libretto by Howard Brenton, was commissioned by the Munich Biennale and premièred in 1994 by Opera North. However, little of his music has been recorded as yet, though recordings of the orchestral piece Lighthouses of England and Wales and a collection including the Double Concerto, First String Quartet and the song-cycle Self-Referential Songs and Realistic Virelais both attracted very positive critical attention