Elliott Grabill

composer | songwriter | teacher

Category: Ensemble

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:

 

 

 

Endurance

for flute, bass clarinet, violin, cello, and piano

Like a marathon runner, Endurance maintains the same, steady metronome marking throughout, though its gestures alternate between careful, steady movement, and unpredictable rage.  The syncopation of the opening notes provides a foreboding backbeat, returning throughout the piece in various registers and instruments. Like some of his other pieces, the music’s emotional content is inspired by grief and soul searching, alluding to what humanity must endure in today’s turbulent times.  The work draws from jazz and microtonality, among other influences. 

https://soundcloud.com/elliott-grabill/endurance

Lake Pontchartrain

for string sextet (two violins, two violas, two cellos)

Water is emotion, and every body of water I visit makes me feel a different way.  Lake Pontchartrain is a shallow estuary in Louisiana just wide enough that one cannot see the other side.  To get to New Orleans, one must travel across its waters on a freeway or train elevated just above the surface.  On a cloudy, rainy day, the gray waters of Lake Pontchartrain evokes feelings of sadness, serenity, intimacy, and longing.  The piece begins and ends like the lake’s gentle, unending waves: instruments play long single notes at different times, creating a chord progression that sways between dissonant clusters and tonal harmonies.  The quiet middle sections are inspired by nature: wind rustling, birds chirping, and stillness.  It features sparse triadic gestures, microtones, and cellos bowing on the bridge.

Escape

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.

 

Rust Belt

for brass quintet

 

Rust Belt is about an region of the United States and its culture.   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.

 

 

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