Williams Symphonic Winds and Opus Zero Band
Steven Dennis Bodner, director
While this concert was previously advertised to be in the ‘62 Center for Theater and Dance, with a new stage extension installed in Chapin, the ensembles are now moving back to their usual “home.”
In “Icons,” the Symphonic Winds and Opus Zero Band explore various manifestations of musical iconography, or how music can be thought to express referential (and non-referential) meanings. In De Staat (“The Republic”), Louis Andriessen engages this matter head-on, satirizing Plato’s contention that music’s “meaning” is so potent, it could affect society (for example, that musical innovation should be avoided since it could lead to parallel upheavals in the politics of the State). De Staat brought Andriessen to international attention in 1976; it has remained his best-known work, defining the sound of contemporary Dutch music, and for many, this is the single most significant work written in the final quarter of the 20th century, offering a unique path in how to combine the Apollonian aesthetic outlook of Stravinsky with the Dionysian exuberance of jazz.
Opus Zero is joined by percussionist Matthew Gold to present the American premiere of Klas Torstensson’s Self-Portrait with Percussion (2006). Torstensson writes: “As the composer Edgar Varèse stated already in 1930: “notre temps est percutant” (“our time is percussive”). For a composer who grew up in the 1950s and 60s, my childhood was indeed extremely percussive: The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Frank Zappa with his Mother of Inventions, later on Varèse, Xenakis… In Self-portrait with percussion I deal with percussion in many of its manifestations in my life.” Here, then, Torstensson not only creates a musical network of references (cowbells to refer to Mahler, which then extend the reference to a peasant Austria, etc.), but he presents an auto-biographical icon, offering his own musical growth through a unique and compelling juxtaposition of sounds, colors, genres, and musical styles.
Also on the program are Warren Benson’s The Leaves are Falling (1964) and Kathryn Salfelder’s Cathedrals (2008), each of which references “other” earlier musics—the chorale “Ein Feste Burg,” hints of the music of the Dutch Baroque composer Sweelinck, and Gabrieli’s Canon Primi Toni, respectively—to signify both musical and extra-musical meanings. The five pieces on the program reveal various ways that music can represent, signify, illustrate, and express meanings — or, in a word, how music can function as an icon.
The Williams Symphonic Winds is a 60-member ensemble dedicated to performing the most significant music written for large wind ensemble; the Opus Zero Band was formed four years ago (originally as Chamber Winds) to perform mostly new music for variable instrumentations, ranging from trios to chamber orchestra and everything in between. Now in his tenth year as Music Director, Steven Dennis Bodner has developed the ensembles’ identity as leading proponents of the performance of new music at Williams College. The ensembles have commissioned and premiered a number of works by contemporary composers, including Williams faculty and alumni. Recognized as one of the premier wind ensembles in New England, the Symphonic Winds performed at the 2006 College Band Directors National Association Eastern Division Conference; the Opus Zero Band will be performing at this spring’s conference in West Chester, PA. Recently, Opus Zero Band has collaborated with MASS MoCA to present acclaimed work-in-progress performances of David Neumann’s/Eve Beglarian’s feedforward and Philip Miller’s Hottentot Venus. The ensembles have been noted both for their adventurous and creative programming and for the quality of their performance, described as “astounding” by critic-composer Barton McLean and “amazingly good” by Louis Andriessen.
Matthew Gold is an instructor of percussion at Williams College where he directs the Williams Percussion Ensemble, co-directs I/O New Music, and serves as principal percussionist in the Berkshire Symphony. An advocate of new music, he has commissioned and premiered numerous new works and has performed frequently with the Da Capo Chamber Players, New York New Music Ensemble, Argento Chamber Ensemble, Washington Square Contemporary Music Society, ISCM Chamber Players, Ahn Trio, SEM Ensemble, New Juilliard Ensemble, and has been a member of the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble. He appears regularly with the Westchester Philharmonic, the Mark Morris Dance Group, the New York City Ballet, and was the percussionist for the Lincoln Center Theater production, The Light in the Piazza. Recent solo appearances include concerto performances with Sequitur and the Charlottesville Chamber Music Festival. Mr. Gold is also a member of the multi-media chamber group Sequitur, the Glass Farm Ensemble, the Orchestra of the League of Composers/ISCM, and a co-director of the TimeTable percussion trio.