by Anthony O'Toole (Grade 4, 4:20)
The Beltway Breakdown was commissioned by the Wakefield High School Wind Ensemble of Alexandria, VA; Mr. Brian Fischer, conductor. The commission was the result of a Wolf Trap Grant for the Arts which provides funding for educational groups to interact and collaborate with artists, and even be a part of creating new works.
The work’s title is a mildly-clever pun which plays off the Washington, DC “Beltway” (Interstate 495) and the double meaning of the word “Breakdown” which can refer to a motor vehicle or as a musical colloquialism. The piece uses a singular thematic idea but is varied and presented in different ways. The thematic material is contrasted with new musical lines, in canonic imitation (fugue/canon), alternate harmonizations, and ever-changing grooves. Incorporated in this piece are the harmonies of jazz, funk, and R&B harmonies in conjunction with rock, pop and EDM (electronic dance music) grooves.
The form of the work plays on the idea of the Rondo which is characterized by the repeated ‘A’ strain with contrasting interior sections sandwiched between them.