Elliott Grabill

composer | educator

Category: Electronic music (page 1 of 2)

Mountain Piques

Mountain Piques was written for the Pique Collective, a Baltimore-based new music ensemble.  Split into four movements, this work uses electronics to create four nature-inspired scenes.  It was performed in October 2018 at the Black Cherry Puppet Theatre, who created and choreographed visuals to accompany the piece.

This piece uses SuperCollider to produce the electronic part.  A member of the quartet operates a laptop which activates prerecorded audio samples.  They use their laptop keyboard trackpad to change the pitch and volume of the samples.  This allowing them to, like an acoustic instrument, interact with ensemble and interpret it a little differently for each performance.  Graphic notation describes how the electronic musician should perform on the laptop.

Graphic notation

Two melodies played in counterpoint by a performer moving a computer cursor in different directions

 

 

Screen Shot 2019-01-31 at 2.56.45 PMThe ensemble writing is intricate and tightly woven, and takes a neoclassical approach to form.  I tried to give equal importance to rhythm, melody, sound, harmony, and gesture.  Though many parts sound tonal, the work was too chromatic for me to set to a specific key.  Much of the piece’s complexity is derived from heavy ornamentation.  The most rhythmic movement, Bursting at the Brim, features a twelve-tone polyrhythm juxtaposed with a tonal theme played by the guitar.

 

The piece’s entirety can be listened to here:

 

 

 

Ocean Mermaid

This short musical poem features an undulating piano riff and a long, extended coda that sounds like laughing on the seashore.

Alarm

Alarm, for flute and live electronics, puts demands on both the flute and electro-acoustic performer, who uses a MIDI pad to perform notated rhythmic phrases in addition to standard processing.  The flute part alternates between high pitched, sparse pointillism leading to climactic long notes in the lower register.  I also explore the dynamics between a cappella flute sections, and purely electroacoustic sections.  The processing includes looping, granulation and doppler shift.

https://soundcloud.com/elliott-grabill/alarm-for-flute-and-electronics-live

Urban Sunrise

“Urban Sunrise” is a humid, sultry aubade, much of whose audio material is generated from the sounds of nature.  Distorted sounds of birds attempt to bring an eerie feel, an undulating tempo, and the basis of the saxophone’s melodic material.  The saxophone ruminates throughout the piece, until the electronic element roots itself in a deep, harmonically driven climax, ending with the a choir of orioles singing at different rates using a supercollider patch.  It was inspired by the sight of the sun rising over Druid Hill Park in Baltimore one hot summer.

Enkidu

Enkidu, for baritone saxophone and live electronics, was written for Tae Ho Hwang, and premiered at the Electroacoustic Barndance in February, 2018.  My goal was to create a longer solo electroacoustic piece whose development is driven by motivic material.  The design of the electronics of this movement resembles a telescope, beginning with little except a bit of reverb, but incrementally expanding the palate to include delay, looping, pitch shift, and the flanger.

Enkidu is the companion of King Gilgamesh of Uruk in the ancient, four thousand year old Epic of Gilgamesh.  Enkidu and Gilgamesh become friends, and could be seen as two archetypes of humanity.  Gilgamesh represents the city, civilization, and humanity’s advancement; Enkidu represents the primative, nature, and human’s origin. 

The third movement of the piece mirrors the emotions explored in the second half of the epic, where Gilgamesh struggles to come to grip with his own mortality after Enkidu’s death.  The movement evokes scenes of him crossing the Waters of Death to visit Utnapishtim, the Babylonian Noah.  The piece ends with the return of the Enkidu theme, a breath of fresh air after the music’s intensity, symbolizing Gilgamesh’s coming to terms with his life’s purpose.

Darl

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.

Pluto

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:

I.  Serenity
II.  Cosmic Rant
III.  Planet Heart
IV.  The Sun’s Quiet Heat
V.  Gravity

Work on this piece began in July, 2015, around the time of NASA’s Pluto flyby.  By the end of the yeaBandanaBlackWhiter, 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.10574423_742070775834053_9156229990406236303_n

Below are recordings of Serenity, Planet Heart, and Gravity.

 

 

 

 

Sapa

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.

Acousmatica

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.

 

 

 

Snowy Shore

for stereo fixed media and narrator

 

“Snowy Shore” is a short, four movement electroaccoustic work featuring a narrator.  In this work, I explore combining poetry with music.  The text, which I wrote, describes the beach in the winter, culminating in a shamanistic journey through the icy ocean swell.  The electronics intensify the experience of the poem’s narrative and imagery.

The music includes recordings of nautical buoys, wind, waves, synthesizer, toy recorder, piano, and Inuit throat singing.   Additional techniques include panning, doppler, and frequency shifting to create microtones.

 

 

 

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