Price: full set $125; score $35
Commissioned By: Brian Casey & the Brazoswood High School Band (Clute, TX) In Honor of their 2013 Honor Band Performance at the Texas Music Educators Association Clinic & Convention in San Antonio, TX.
Duration: ca. 4:30
Grade Level: 6
Daniel Montoya, Jr.’s X is an essay in abstraction; though most of Mr. Montoya’s works have some sort of programmatic influence (a characteristic he describes himself as generating from a combination of his love for film scores and marching bands), this particular piece carries no story or overarching imagery. It is, from a fundamental perspective, absolute music, as opposed to the dramatic idée fixe of Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique.
This isn’t to say, however, that X is free from external influence (indeed, how can any piece of music be in a world as saturated in background music as the early twenty-first century?). The title, initially more of a placeholder than anything, began to take on symbolic meaning for its representation of an unknown, like an algebraic variable or the demarcation of hidden treasure on a pirate map. In his search for finding meaning to inspire the composition, he found the opposite: that his composition, in and of itself, created its own meaningful existence.
“At some point I realized that I just wanted to write a cool piece. A piece of music that people, hopefully, would enjoy without having a pre-conceived idea of what it’s supposed to be ‘about.”’
A secondary game plays out in the course of X. Freely exploring the notion of the influence of others’ music on his own, Mr. Montoya summons forth the voice of nine other composers besides himself (totaling ten, numerically represented by the Roman “X”) with hidden references woven into the tapestry of sound. The identities of these nine (in a literary twist) are left to the listener to discover – some are more obvious than others.
Although the same basic musical materials are explored throughout the piece, they fall into a series of virtuosic mutations through a flurry of mixed meters. The playful opening motif—shared by bassoon and bass clarinet—is metamorphosed into full-blown themes throughout the orchestration, allowing the composer to evoke the styles of other artists. There are three major sections to the work: a vivace opening that percolates with complicated rhythms and syncopations, a somber midpoint ushered in by a wistful euphonium solo, and a conclusion that weaves the two together (along with some extra fireworks). Each section is concluded by an explosive shout section that provides emphatic punctuation to the musical statement. In the end, X, despite representing an unknown quantity, is a playful and spirited romp, free of the limitations of a fixed label.
X is Montoya’s tenth work for symphonic winds and is dedicated to his parents, Dan & Maria.
Program note by Jake Wallace
Please credit Jake Wallace when reproducing or excerpting this program note