for clarinet and live electronics
“Darl” is named after the character from William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying.” A well spoken, soul searching character, Darl’s frustration over the way his family copes with his deceased mother leads him on a downward spiral, culminating with his confinement in a state mental institution. The piece features high pitched, jarring, accented sections indicative of his turmoil, coupled with a transcendental ending built off an electronic looping structure that spectrally shimmers with the aid of several flangers. In addition, the patch uses pitch shifting, noise, delay and ring modulation; the clarinet writing features microtones and trills that utilize alternate fingering.
for bassoon quartet (three bassoons, one contrabassoon)
Escape was written in December 2015 and January 2016. It was the 2016 recipient of the Dark in the Song Prize, was performed by the Dark in the Song bassoon collective in July of 2016. Publication of the work by TrevCo-Varner is expected in the near future.
for trumpet and bassoon
EP is a set of three duets for trumpet and bassoon, with a final movement Daddy for bassoon alone. This piece has been performed twice; I played the trumpet, and Melissa Birkhold on the bassoon. Its second performance took place at Highlandtown Elementary School in inner city Baltimore.
Below is a list of my best work. Every piece on this list has been performed at least once, except for pluto, whose full premiere is expected in 2016.
Kings Highway / Stillwell Ave., for piano, 8′
Katharos, for piano, 11′
Nantucket, for men’s chorus, 2′
Making the Year, for mixed chorus, 3′
Responses, for clarinet sextet, 3′
Rust Belt, for brass quintet, 12′
EP, for trumpet and bassoon, 7′
Hemp, for guitar quartet, 6′
Un Jardin, for fixed media, 15′
Pranayama, for fixed media, 25′
After the Storms / Sapa, for fixed media, 9′
Snowy Shore, for fixed media and narrator, 3′
Acousmatica, for fixed media, 12′
Pluto, for clarinet and laptop, 30′
for B flat clarinet and live electronics
Pluto is a thirty-five minute long chamber work for clarinet and live electronics. It has five movements:
II. Cosmic Rant
III. Planet Heart
IV. The Sun’s Quiet Heat
Work on this piece began in July, 2015, around the time of NASA’s Pluto flyby. By the end of the year, I had a performable draft. After winning third prize in Peabody’s Prix d’Eté, the final movement Gravity was programmed in the Peabody Thursday Noon Concert Series, with Melissa Lander on clarinet. The third movement, Planet Heart, was premiered in August 2016 by Michele Jacot at the Toronto International Electro-acoustic Symposium, and performed again by Chase Mitchusson at NSEME in March 2017. Clarinetist Shawn Earle also performed Gravity at the 2016 University of Virginia Technosonics Festival.
In February 2017 I teamed up with Andrew Im to perform the piece in its entirety. We did so at the Centre Street Performance Studio in Baltimore. We performed it again in at the Music City Festival in Orange, NJ, and perform it in Rutland, VT on August 13.
The piece is expansive both in length and in texture, with long undulating loops and delay that continue the clarinet’s sound like a piano’s sustain pedal. Noise and ring modulation provide contrast to the smoothness of the clarinet. The electronics allow for loud sections, harmonies, and sounds lower than the clarinet can play– all derived from a clarinet.
Below are recordings of Serenity, Planet Heart, and Gravity.
for stereo fixed media, with optional multimedia
This piece started out as music for a dance piece called Sapa, which was choreographed by Danielle Greene Madrid and performed at Temple University in 2011. The music later set to video by my father, who titled the film After the Storms.
for brass quintet
I wrote Rust Belt for the Meridian Arts Ensemble to perform at June in Buffalo in 2015. I was inspired to write the first movement, Waterfront from sitting by the harbor, listening to oil tankers and feeling the wind brush up against my face. In Trucks, I also explore the sounds of machinery, assigning each player a limited amount of pitch variation, but ask the players to create pulses at different tempi.
Men and Music have a contrasting feeling. Unlike the minimalism of the first and third movements, these selections are busy and densely polyphonic, with fast, chromatic runs, glissandi, and occasional tonal sections.
for four Bb clarinets, bass clarinet, and contrabass
In this tiny, three movement sextet, the players work to create a blended sound which, in turn produces braided, long arced phrases.
“Nivāhayati,” for flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon, two violins, viola, cello, and double bass.
“Nivāhayati” is a collage of notes, fragments, gestures, and phrases. Its structure explores buildup, growth, and decay, imitating both human form and nature.
The word “nivāhayati” is taken from Sanskrit and means “set to motion.” The piece is probably my most complex instrumental work, with ten solo parts interacting with one another. The work attempts to capture the experience of time as I interpret it, highlighting its dualities: activity versus pause; history versus present; linearity versus cycle; and cause versus effect.
The also piece focuses on my interest in human dynamics. While writing it, I sometimes pictured a party scene in which the musicians converse with one another, sometimes arguing, sometimes finishing each other’s sentences. I imitate vocal inflections using glissandi and blue notes. With the range of timbres available, I investigate the personalities of each instrument and imagine how, if each were a person, they would interact with one another.
I wrote this piece between August and November, 2014. The score can be viewed at issuu.com/elliottgrabill. If you are an ensemble interested in performing this work, please email me at email@example.com.
for stereo fixed media
Acousmatica is a dark, dystopic, post-apocalyptic leather romance with an element of danger. This piece offers a journey in five short movements, weaving between dense machinery, urban waste, passion, and intimacy.
“Breathing” is a wall of rusty tone color that moves to the rhythm of deep breaths. A more improvisatory “Spontaneity” then explores circular, undulating gesture. After “Horizon” depicts a futuristic sunrise, “Trip” continues the gestural motion that “Spontaneity” began, this time with a more abrasive texture. The piece ends with “I love you,” an electrically passionate conclusion transforming the tension built up in previous movements into sweeping melodic trajectories.