Light the Fuse

Written: 2014

Price: full set $145; score $40

Commissioned By: The educators of the Ohio Music Education Association District 3 and dedicated to the students of the 2014 Honor Band.

Duration: ca. 6:30

Grade Level: 5

Just reading the title of Daniel Montoya, Jr.’s Light the Fuse alone imparts an immediate response in the mind of the listener: explosions. In this area, the piece never disappoints. It is an incendiary overture for winds and percussion that seems to be a never-ending string of fireworks that flash, sizzle, and sparkle throughout. The result is an entertaining romp across seven minutes of dazzling colors and bursts of percussive effects.

The piece is a nod to the improvised bombs of old spy movies, where a quickly rigged gadget could thwart the diabolical schemes of the antagonist at the last possible second. Montoya selected the title by watching a newer homage to a part of the classic genre:

“The line comes from Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. In the opening of the film, Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt character executes a plot to break out of a prison. At the end of the scene as he makes his escape, he gives the instruction to ‘light the fuse,’ which introduces the title cards to the movie. I just always thought that would be a cool title.”

The musical content has small moments of tribute as well, with fervid woodwind trills and a repetitive diatonic pentachord making reference back to the introduction of Lalo Schifrin’s famous theme to the original Mission: Impossible television show. These motives interlace through the introduction to the work, giving the impression of flickering flames rising upward. This introduces the first of three main sections (the exterior portions are similar—quick and energetic—while the middle section contrasts with a flowing nature). A punchy, syncopated motive appears first in trombones before being absorbed by other instruments while the frenetic rhythms underneath are only interrupted by the occasional pop from an imposing cadre of percussion (written into eight distinct parts). The opening section reaches its midpoint with a virtuosic soli for the woodwinds, accompanied by searing harmonies in muted trumpet and sparkles of keyboard percussion, and closes with hard-driving chords from low brass and woodwinds as the energy spills over completely.

The middle of the work contrasts the opening in stunning and remarkable ways. The texture becomes ethereal in nature, with suspended harmonies floating past as tenor saxophone and bassoon present a longing melody. The texture thickens with an interplay between euphonium and trumpet before evaporating back into clouds of soft woodwind tremolos. An oboe harkens back to the earlier melody, but this time with the syncopated energy of clarinets underneath driving to a climactic moment of full-throated dissonance that once more sets the “fuse” in motion with the incessant hissing of hi-hat cymbal. From there, it’s a race to the finish as fragmented motives layer atop each other, congealing into one final nitroglycerin surge: a ringing of ferocious bell-tones that bursts with volatile force.

Light the Fuse is Montoya’s twelfth work for symphonic winds and is dedicated to the educators of the Ohio Music Education Association District 3 and the students of the 2014 Honor Band.

 

Program note by Jake Wallace
Please credit Jake Wallace when reproducing or excerpting this program note