Elliott Grabill

composer | educator

Category: Solo

Written on the Train

I feel a certain closeness to the music when I’m putting pencil to paper.  I carry around my sketches wherever I go, and use highlighters and colored pencils to cross out passages I don’t like and write new ones over it.

When I witnessed composers like Michael Hersch and Kirk Nurock present performers with handwritten scores, I also noticed a collaborative rapport.  It was almost like they were delivering something very personalized to a good friend.

Normally I use Finale to engrave my final product– especially if I don’t know the musicians’ preferences.  But once in a while I’ll find a musician like Peter Sheppard-Skaerved, who embraces handwritten music.

About half of this piece was written on a train from New Orleans to Baltimore.  I also wrote part of Lake Pontchartrain on this ride.

http://www.peter-sheppard-skaerved.com/2017/10/elliott-grabil/

 

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

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

© 2018 Elliott Grabill

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