Elliott Grabill

composer | educator

Tag: nature

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.

Sapa

for stereo fixed media, with optional multimedia

This piece started out as music for a dance piece called Sapa, which was choreographed by Danielle Greene Madrid and performed at Temple University in 2011.  The music later set to video by my father, who titled the film After the Storms.

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

 

 

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