Elliott Grabill

composer | educator

Category: My music (page 1 of 2)

List of works

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.

 

Instrumental

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′

 

Electronic

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′

 

 

 

 

Rust Belt

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.

 

 

Responses

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Katharos

for one or two pianos

This piano piece is composed of twelve sections, which could be played as specified in the score, or in an order of the performer’s choosing.   The piece may also be performed by two performers, each playing separate sections simultaneously, as seen in this video featuring Mila Roushakes and myself at the piano.

Katharos has six main themes spread out over twelve sections.  Thus, one could view the piece as grouped into six pairs of sections– the first of each pair exposing the listener to the theme, and a corresponding section occurring later in the piece to further develop the motive.  When performed with four hands, themes weave together and sometimes create new musical gestures when two parts overlap.  The result is a vast assortment of weird, abstract fragments, sometimes unresolved, sometimes overdone, and often combined to create a dreamlike state.

I originally named this piece “SAVE Room,” the place in New York City public schools where students serve in school suspension to “think about what they’ve done.”

 

The score of Katharos may be viewed here.

 

Making the Year

for small mixed choir  

I asked Nova Scotia poet Bauke Kamstra to write me a poem for this project for a couple reasons.  I knew that Bauke could create a text more profound than I could ever imagine about the seasons.  I also knew that since I was writing for chamber choir, I wanted a sound more intimate than most choral music.  Bauke’s subtle, haiku-like poetry milks meaning from every word, and Making the Year offered me plenty of opportunities to make this text musically come to life.

I explored a multitude of musical settings, styles, and textures before deciding on the sketches that would become the piece.  The themes of growth and decay in the poem compelled me to compose music that sometimes flows from key to key, while at other times remaining harmonically static.  The sections are further differentiated with tiny tempo changes, subtle enough to the listener as the a small shift in the wind’s current or the water’s flow. I also vary the meter.  Sometimes flowing and regular, the last page has several measures in 5/4 time to add emphasis and pause to the words.

This work has yet to be performed.  Click below to hear a demo recording featuring me singing tenor and bass, and Jillian Delos Reyes singing soprano and alto.  The score can be viewed here.

 

 

 

As the filtered end

of the year comes closer

 

the sky grey

the rain wetter than other water

 

then the land

after a brief moment of brilliance

becoming grey too

and a little brown

the colors leaching out

 

preparing the long night

and the white

a clean slate

on which to paint

a new year.

 

-Bauke Kamstra

 

 

Kings Highway / Stillwell Ave, Brooklyn

for piano

I have composed several pieces “about” specific places, using sounds from these environments as a means to evoke the experiences, both aural and emotional, that one might have there.  In Kings Highway / Stillwell Ave.,  I string together a series of gestures to create a musical autobiography of my one year living in New York City.  I derived these gestures from sounds of the city and my apartment.  Since I didn’t have an audio recorder, I “painted” them onto paper and made them playable on the piano instead.  Like Van Gogh, who altered the realism of his paintings and added elements to express his own thoughts and feelings about his landscapes, my alteration from musique concrete to piano allowed me to stamp my own emotions onto my soundscape.

The audio comes from my introduction of an earlier version of the work to the audience.  In addition to adding the audio element, I worked with Vin Grabill created a film version of Kings Highway using photographs I took of New York– in addition to the footage of me performing the piece at the Church of the Holy City in Washington, DC.  The film was selected for the Rosebud Film Festival in 2012.

Crnogorska

for stereo fixed media

“Crnogorska” was featured at the Savamala Soundwalk in Belgrade, sponsored by improvE and Belgrade Sound Map.

A soundwalk is a different way of experiencing music. On 15. August, 2014, participants downloaded “Crnogorska” to their phones and listened to the piece while taking a soundwalk around the Savamala neighborhood of Belgrade.

I was assigned a section of the route which included Crnogorska St. The piece only employs sound samples from my route. The improvE collective gave me 4′ 34″ of sound, about the amount of time it takes to walk the route. I was asked to compose a soundscape of the exact same length, so that the work’s duration would last the same amount of time it would take listeners to walk the route.

 

 

Nantucket

for men’s chorus

Nantucket is set to the William Carlos Williams poem bearing the same name.

To view a score of this piece, click here.

This recording is a performance by the Washington Men’s Camerata from 2009 at the Kennedy Center in DC, conducted by Frank Albinder.

 

Nantucket

by William Carlos Williams

Flowers through the window
lavender and yellow

changed by white curtains –
Smell of cleanliness –

Sunshine of late afternoon –
On the glass tray

a glass pitcher, the tumbler
turned down, by which

a key is lying — And the
immaculate white bed

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