Elliott Grabill

composer | educator

Tag: literature

When I Have Fears

for baritone voice and orchestra

When I have fears that I may cease to be
   Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain,
Before high-pilèd books, in charactery,
   Hold like rich garners the full ripened grain;
When I behold, upon the night’s starred face,
   Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
   Their shadows with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
   That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
   Of unreflecting love—then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.

John Keats

When I Have Fears, ruminates on John Keats’ sonnet and the existential issues it presents. It features Keatsian imagery such as bird songs and slow, sarabande-like rhythms.

This recording features vocalist Rahzé Cheatham, with Nell Flanders conducting.  The orchestra is comprised of Peabody musicians.  The instrumentation is 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, a timpani, and strings.

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.

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

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

 

 

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

© 2018 Elliott Grabill

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