Music: up close and personal

by Annie Laurie Cisneros

Gosh, I was sitting NEXT to the composer! He was so --- well --- NORMAL and so --- well --- accessible (Now don't we usually envision composers as aloof, icy and very, very cerebral --- or maybe the angry young iconoclast --- or the delicate, sickly romantic). This composer sitting next to me was wearing what seems to be an LL Bean jacket and slightly wrinkled khaki pants and was pleasant, relaxed and seemed most healthy. The musicians playing were 10 feet away; I could almost reach out and touch them. We were IN the music. We were of the music and of the musicians.

What a unique and inspiring experience this, the Eighth Forum of Caribbean Composers and First Encounter of Caribbean Musicologists, hosted by Panama during the week of October 13- 16. The Caribbean countries participating were Cuba, Colombia, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Panama. There were conferences, master classes, reports, recitals and concerts presented at the University of Panama Curundu campus, Instituto Nacional de Musica in Albrook. These events were listed in the informative web bulletin Infoarte (a weekly calendar of cultural happenings in Panama).**

The music played by the Sinfonia Nacional and in the concerts and recitals were compositions of the participants. Also included were pieces by Gonzalo Brenes Candanedo (Panamanian 1907-1903) and Gonzalo de J. Núñez (Puerto Rican 1850-1915) and interpreted by Panamanian and visiting musicians. Two exhilarating concerts performed by the entire Sinfonia Nacional were composed especially for the Panamanian Centennial.

A feast for the senses this music! We were plunged into tropical jungles filled with the calls of exotic birds. Into the melee of battle with Bolívar. We walked with the Cuerpo de Bomberos at dawn on the Third of November to the cacophony of tambores and blaring cornets. We were taken on unsettling voyages of dissonant notes. And we were soothed by the tender pasillo.

It was a grand adventure of music, musicians and communication.

** To subscribe to Inforarte contact Lilia Rodríguez De León (Lizi), email: or .

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