Elliott Grabill

composer | educator

Category: Short pieces

Ocean Mermaid

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

EP

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.

 

https://soundcloud.com/elliott-grabill/viva-la-resistance

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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

 

 

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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