Elliott Grabill’s music has been described as “post-romantic, full of angst, overflowing sentimentality, and polytonality– mixed with glittering electronics.” His satirical music explores the art of taking a familiar melody and turning it upside down as the piece develops. He also composes imaginative pastoral music, using electronics to take the listener to far distant lands. Though tonal, his style embraces maximalism, polyphony, and complex harmony.
Grabill teaches math in Baltimore City Public Schools, and the artistic curator at the Hargrove. He sings and plays the alto saxophone. Dark in the Song, the Civitasolis Quintet, Pique Collective, the Washington Men’s Camerata, and the Meridian Arts Ensemble are just a few groups brave enough to learn Grabill’s unconventional music.
Grabill is known for his concert length music. Heros and Villains (for reed quintet), Mountain Piques (for small ensemble and electronics), Pluto (for clarinet and electronics), and Pranayama (for fixed media) are all multi-movement works that last 25′ or longer. His current project is writing a second reed quintet for the Civitasolis Quintet, and releasing it as an album.
Grabill is also working on a mass in Pennsylvania Dutch, the language Amish people speak. Many of Grabill’s themes are derived from folk melodies from New England, the Midlands, and Greater Appalachia. He uses these familiar themes to take listeners on a journey into uncharted domains– rich in textures, complexity, and (most of all) emotion.
His experiences working with students of all walks of life nurture an artistic voice that’s both personal and relevant. His song cycle Teacher Tales, with self-authored lyrics, were hailed by Ron Beckett as doing “what great art has been able to do – raising awareness on issues society blindly accepts.” These songs received an honorable mention in the Arcady 2019 Emerging Artist Competition .
Elliott Grabill’s electronic music incorporates melody and expression into ambient sounds. His works Pranayama, Un Jardin, and After the Storms explore the layering of piano overtones combined with psychedelic visuals. He’s also written electronic music featuring flute, bassoon, alto saxophone, baritone saxophone, bass clarinet, synthesizer, and small ensemble. He won 3rd place in the Peabody Prix d’Eté for his etherial, looping, meditative electronic work Gravity for solo clarinet.
For over a decade he has written music for ensembles such as Pique Collective, Flowstick Ensemble, Dark in the Song, the Civitasolis Reed Quintet, Music&Friends Chamber Ensemble, the Washington Men’s Camerata, the Meridian Arts Ensemble, and Quartetto Apeiron, as well as collaborating with artists of other media like Danielle Madrid, Vin Grabill, and the Black Cherry Puppet Theatre. Soloists such as Lynn Hileman, Paula Van Goes, Peter Sheppard-Skaerved, Hila Zamir, Melissa Lander, Shawn Earle, Andrew Im, Tae Ho Hwang, Michele Jacot, and Andrea Cheeseman have also taken on his work. He received the Dark in the Song Prize for his bassoon quartet Escape. In the mid-Atlantic region his work has been performed or screened at the Rosebud Film Festival, the Kennedy Center, the Windup Space, Reverb, the Black Cherry Puppet Theatre, the Peabody Thursday Noon Concert Series, the UVA Technosonics Festival, the Temple University Conwell Dance Theatre, and American University. His work has also been featured at Electroacoustic Barndance, the Athens International Film and Video Festival, inner sOUndscapes, the International Computer Music Conference, the SEAMUS Conference, the New York City Electronic Music Festival, June in Buffalo, highSCORE, the National Student Electronic Music Event, and the Toronto International Electroacoustic Symposium.