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:
II. Cosmic Rant
III. Planet Heart
IV. The Sun’s Quiet Heat
Work on this piece began in July, 2015, around the time of NASA’s Pluto flyby. By the end of the year, 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.
Below are recordings of Serenity, Planet Heart, and Gravity.
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.
for stereo fixed media with optional video
Pranayama is an acousmatic work in four movements. The title derives from the Sanskrit word meaning “breathing in life.” Like Indian music, each movement centers around a single note with a swirling timbre (much like an tambura), and an abundance of tiny ornaments. Like much Western classical music, the piece is structured around four movements, each with its own expressive arc.
I created this work from about one hundred recordings of piano chords. Some of these samples I recorded by striking the keys; in other cases, I silently depressed some keys, struck others, and recorded the vibrations from the resulting harmonics. For each sample, I edited out the initial strike of the key, and faded in the rest of the track so that it sounded more like a stringed instrument than a piano. I sequenced and layered these tracks to create the piece. In certain sections, I added recordings of my own voice, as well as synthesizer pads. One might also hear the pedal, as well as other ambient sounds.
Beyond fading in and out, adjusting the gain, panning, and adding synthesizer pads, I used no additional software (i.e. SoundHack or Max) to write this piece. One only hears the raw recordings of the piano, synthesizer, and voice. Optional visuals may accompany this work created by my father, Vin Grabill, a video artist at UMBC.
So far, the work has been presented three times in its entirety in Washington, DC. The third movement was also featured at the 2011 International Computer Music Conference in Huddersfield, England. This piece is meant to be listened to in its entirety. However, if time is limited, the third movement can serve as an adequate representation of the full composition.
Listen to a continuous playlist of all four movements here: