Puente Sonoro Celebrates Latin American culture

As a professor, musician and conductor within the College’s music department, Steven Bodner brought to fruition a plethora of projects that enriched Williamstown’s musical landscape: He directed both Symphonic Winds and the Opus Zero Band, co-directed I/O New Music, conducted the local New Opera and founded a vocal ensemble, Roomful of Teeth, to name but a few. Puente Sonoro, a festival celebrating contemporary Latin American music, was one of his more recent ventures, and he toiled to bring an exciting program to campus for all to enjoy. As a result of Bodner’s recent passing, the students and faculty involved in the organization worked even harder to ensure that his efforts were not in vain and dedicated the entire festival to his memory.
The three-part event began with an issue of THE BOX-music by living composers, this time featuring the Momenta Quartet, an American ensemble which focuses on music by contemporary composers. In performing Friday on the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance’s CenterStage, the group showcased the second half of Brazilian-American avant-garde composer Arthur Kampela’s Uma Faca Só Lámina for the first part of the show. After a short talk by Kampela, the quartet performed pieces by Venezuelan-American composer Manena Contreras and Bolivian composers Cergio Prudencio and Agustín Fernández, all of which were written expressively for Momenta.
The second installment in the series was dedicated to chamber music: At 6 p.m. in Brooks-Rogers, Williams Chamber Players members Ronald Feldman, Doris Stevenson and Joana Genova performed selected movements of the Piazzola trio Four Seasons. In addition, violist Noah Fields ’11, guests Martha Mooke and Duo Iberoamerica, cellist Ana Ruth Bermudez and pianist Antonio Fermin played a number of works by Modesta Bor, Alberto Ginastera, Aldemaro Romero, Tania León, Marcos Balter, Astor PIazzolla and Associate Professor of Music Ileana Perez Velazquez.
After this cozier, more delicate recital in Brooks-Rogers, we enjoyed some Latin American cuisine to put us in the mood, courtesy of Spring Street’s Spice Root, and moved into the more spacious and grandiose Chapin Hall to enjoy the third and final portion of the festival, performed by the College’s student ensembles. This show, the true apogee of the festivities, showcased the talents of students as they played more works of great contemporary Latin American composers.
The Brass Ensemble opened by playing Argentinean Alberto Ginaster’s Fanfare. This brief piece alternated frantic sections of short notes that often overlapped in complex ways and subsequently joined them together in a powerful unison. The result was a composition which at times sounded like a traditional, bombastic fanfare, but whose phrases of more complex rhythms rendered it more subtle and appealing.
SymphWinds, directed by Jacob Walls ’11 and Woo Chan Lee ’11, played guest composer Tania Leòn’s piece Cumba Cumbakin as well as Fanfares by Puerto-Rican Armando Bayolo. This was a particularly moving moment: Bodner came to the College to direct SymphWinds, and the students he taught and directed rose gracefully to the task by producing beautiful music. The energetic beat tied in to some sensual, melodious sounds that worked together well to yield a jazzy, sometimes downright funky tone.
Next up was Andy Jaffe, directing the Jazz Ensemble in an introduction of his piece, Fear of the Dark (Loathing Arizona). A response against the Arizona immigration profiling laws, this highly-charged piece nonetheless let out a captivating groove, during which improvised dialogues between some of the instruments added to the sizzle of the performance.
Afterwards, the Opus Zero Band and Percussion Ensemble both produced very intricate, unusual works by Ailem-Carvajal and Alexandre Lunsqui that pushed against the extremes of contemporary music and relied on an eclectic assemblage of instruments and even heteroclite objects. These pieces were perhaps darker and more introspective, truly questioning the boundaries of their genre.
Capping off the evening, the Zambezi Marimba Band concluded things in style with a jubilant, up-tempo finish that left the audience buzzing. The band’s piece was a wonderful end to a fascinating festival, which not only introduced the spectators to some new, exciting music, but also reminded everyone of Bodner’s wonderful work and the legacy he leaves in his wake.

Additional reporting by Oliva Uhlman, staff writer.