Elliott Grabill

composer | educator

Tag: romantic

Mountain Piques

Mountain Piques was written for the Pique Collective, a Baltimore-based new music ensemble.  Split into four movements, this work uses electronics to create four nature-inspired scenes.  It was performed in October 2018 at the Black Cherry Puppet Theatre, who created and choreographed visuals to accompany the piece.

This piece uses SuperCollider to produce the electronic part.  A member of the quartet operates a laptop which activates prerecorded audio samples.  They use their laptop keyboard trackpad to change the pitch and volume of the samples.  This allowing them to, like an acoustic instrument, interact with ensemble and interpret it a little differently for each performance.  Graphic notation describes how the electronic musician should perform on the laptop.

Graphic notation

Two melodies played in counterpoint by a performer moving a computer cursor in different directions

 

 

Screen Shot 2019-01-31 at 2.56.45 PMThe ensemble writing is intricate and tightly woven, and takes a neoclassical approach to form.  I tried to give equal importance to rhythm, melody, sound, harmony, and gesture.  Though many parts sound tonal, the work was too chromatic for me to set to a specific key.  Much of the piece’s complexity is derived from heavy ornamentation.  The most rhythmic movement, Bursting at the Brim, features a twelve-tone polyrhythm juxtaposed with a tonal theme played by the guitar.

 

The piece’s entirety can be listened to here:

 

 

 

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.

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.

© 2019 Elliott Grabill

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