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  • Trevor Grahl





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I'm a Canadio- Dutch composer living and working in Amsterdam and Den Haag (and sometimes Athens). Here you'll find what I've been up to lately.

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Trombone Concerto 

Working on a new concerto in collaboration with Het Klassiek Collectief and Concertgebouw trombonist Jörgen van Rijen
Concerts 30 September, 20:15, Geertenkerk, Utrecht, and 1 October, 17:00 in Amsterdam, NedPhO-Koepel.
Click here for tickets + more info.

New Work for Ricciotti

Concerts planned for 2018, with the Ricciotti Ensemble street orchestra!

YCM OPENER 2018

Very happy to have the honour of composing the opening work for the Young Composer's Meeting in Apeldoorn, 2018 edition for the Orchestra of the 21st Century. Premiere in February, 2018. Click here for a piece by composer Giuliano Bracci, written for the 2017 edition. 

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Orchestra
Large Ensemble
Small Ensemble
Solos & Duos
Music Theater
With Electronics
All Works
Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra (in progress)

written for Jörgen van Rijen and Het Klassiek Collectief

Screen Memories (2015) – 17’

written for Bas Wiegers and the Nederlands Studenten Orkest

Concerto for Percussion and Wind Orchestra (2008) – 23’

written for Gina Ryan and the McGill Wind Symphony, Alan Cazes, cond.

Urquitaqtuq (Sheltered, but with Gusts of Wind) (2007) – 15’

written for Alain Cazes and the McGill Wind Symphony

150TMBNS (2017) - 45’

for ca. 150 Trombones

...From Curious Lands and Places (2014) 18’

written for the International Ensemble Modern Academy, Elena Schwarz, Cond.

Levensliederen (2014) - 23’

written for Musica Vocale

Speelfiets (2011) - 8’

written for ‘Windysizer’ and the Nieuw Ensemble

Hussy (2010) – 7’

written for Orkest de Ereprijs

Metaxa (2010) – 11’

written for the Ives Ensemble

Palimpsestic Fancies (2010) - 9’30

written for the Ligeti Academy

Sockamagee!! (2009) – 5'

written for het orkest de ereprijs

Mechanical Miniatures (2006) - 11’30

written for the McGill Contemporary Music Ensemble

Pierement Parade (2013) – 15’

written for Continuum New Music

Trauermarsch Szenen (2012) – 12’

written for the Looptail sextet

Eleven Short Pieces for Icarus (2011) - 15’

written for the Icarus Ensemble

We are dreamers, but dreams are what we breathe...(2011) – 9’30

written for the ASKO | Schönberg 9x7 project

Sacred Emily (2008) - 25’

chamber opera for soprano, baritone, small ensemble, and electronics

De Sterrenkinderen (2011) - 50’

music theatre for children

Nice to Meet You (2010) - 7’

music theatre for soprano, tuba

The Road Not Taken (2007-8, rev. 2009-10) - 25’

opera for violin and soprano (plus offstage musicians)

The Road Not Taken (2007-8, rev. 2009-10) - 25’

opera for violin and soprano (plus offstage musicians)

Splattering Resonance (2009) - 14’

for 2 performers with ‘resobows’, percussion solo, electronics

Splattering Resonance (2009) - 14’

for 2 performers with ‘resobows’, percussion solo, electronics

Sacred Emily (2008) - 25’

chamber opera for soprano, baritone, small ensemble, and electronics

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Concerto for Percussion and Wind Orchestra (2008) – 23’

written for Gina Ryan and the McGill Wind Symphony, Alan Cazes, cond.

Listen

Gina and Alain approached me in 2007, after I had already worked with the McGill Wind Symphony in Urquitaqtuq. My foot was almost out the door, leaving to California, to study at UCSD, so time was limited. I set to work for most of the summer on the sketches and by early August, had already tried out some material with Gina. Something was sure, she was not afraid of many instruments, and anything was possible! I was allowed to indulge in a large setup, and also included an extended passage for castanets, an instrument on which Gina was a specialist. I had just become aquainted with Max/MSP and live signal processing, so I used this as my compositional basis. The sound of the orchestra is always derived from the sound of the soloist, expanding, contracting, exploding, going on its own way, etc. Gina and the orchestra provided a seriously rock-solid performance, and I’m indeed proud to have worked with her and the orchestra. Gina has since been busy with some videos about the piece. Watch some of the first rehearsals here, here, and a helpful setup video here.

Screen Memories (2015) – 17’

written for Bas Wiegers and the Nederlands Studenten Orkest

Listen

Watch

3(3=picc), 2+1, ebcl,3(3=bscl), 2+1 / 4,3,3,1 / timp, 5 perc, 2 hp, / strings

 

Bas approached me with the idea of writing for a student orchestra in 2014 for their national tour in 2016. I had worked with amateurs before, and the result was overwhelmingly positive, so I didn’t hesitate! What followed was indeed an intense period of writing, rehearsing and traveling. I was surprised at every moment at the dedication, energy, and committment these young musicians delivered, concert after concert, 15 in all! I’m truly in their debt, and we even made quite a nice video of the performance in Rotterdam. A programme note follows below. 

 

A deep, vivid, memory of something you have never experienced, yet, you’re certain of its legitimacy. Its content, often banal, intrudes on our thoughts during the the strangest and most unpredictable of times. A bowl of ice; a lamp burning out; the tail of a bird stuffed in your mouth; such memories, we can feel, are charged with…something.

And what about music? How often does a similar act of unintentional musical ‘graffiti’ occur in our own memories, and who is the perpetrator? Or are we ourselves the perpetrators, but its just that we remember incorrectly? Can we even ‘wrongly’ remember, or does our unconscious know better, veering toward something else that we can’t understand in the moment, leaving a trail of crumbs for us to follow, to somewhere?

The first moment that came to me when setting out on this journey, was a huge dominant thirteenth chord, screaming and shuddering, slamming its way like a train into a scherzo, but weighted down, almost drowning and oversaturated with Pollock-like splashes of colour, the orchestra gradually building into a frenzy, then relaxing, maybe taking a bath, trying to clean itself, with singing whales in the tub. I don’t know when, where, or why this particular moment was born, or even what it means, but certainly, by making it and those like it manifest, surely I can gain even a partial understanding of something that’s underneath.

The title also points to something else: a half-nod to the musically lush film soundscapes from the ‘50s and ‘60’s: undoubtedly subliminal sources of raw material containing moments which, though not explicitly perceived, bear an uncanny familiarity to something deeply felt.

Live recording from the Doelen, Rotterdam with the Dutch Student Orchestra. Bas Wiegers, conductor, Lena Lefringhausen, solo violin.

Nebelstreif (2014) - 12’

for organ solo

Listen

Organ Solo (Verscheuren, certain stops 'prepared' beforehand)

 

“Mein Sohn, was birgst du so bang dein Gesicht?” –
“Siehst, Vater, du den Erlkönig nicht?
Den Erlenkönig mit Kron und Schweif?” –
“Mein Sohn, es ist ein Nebelstreif.”
from Goethe, Der Erlkönig, 1782

The so-called ‘diminished seventh’ chord has long fascinated composers. In the Romantic era, this chord was particularly popular, with its ‘wild-card’ or ‘shape-shifting’ like behaviour, a symmetrical structure of perfect instability, with the ability to resolve to almost any chord. Also interesting was the particular extra-musical association this chord came to represent: fear, anger, grief, discomfort, heartbreak, pain, etc.

Nebelstreif adopts this chord as its main tonic. Rather like a soundscape of different sound-masses, the sole material used in the work consists of different permutations of the diminished seventh chord. The particular emotion(s) that we associate with this chord, however, remain bound to the structure. The piece becomes therefore not only an exploration of sound, but also an exploration of a particular affect.

The title comes from Goethe's poem Der Erlkönig where, in Schubert’s setting, an almost naked diminished seventh chord serves a particularly important dramatic function at the end of the piece.

Dirk Luijmes, Organ (Verschueren, 3 manual)
Felipe Mora, André Ferreira, assistants.

Recording date: November 13, 2014, Het Orgelpark, Amsterdam.

De Sterrenkinderen (2011) - 50’

music theatre for children

Listen

cl, pno, VC. ca. 50’

 

Text, lyrics, and direction by Annechien Koerselman; Music by Trevor Grahl

A music theatre piece staged and performed in a week during a week long summer workshop in “Het Beauforthuis” in Austerlitz, the Netherlands, summer of 2012.  

The libretto follows an adapted version of each particular Greek myth pertaining to each zodiac sign.  

Eridanus, the child that doesn’t really have the same history as his immortal brothers and sisters, is confronted as to his identity.  Is he a really a star-child?  His story isn’t quite like the others.  After watching a re-enactment of each of his brothers’ and sisters’ myths, and in an attempt to prove that he, too, is just like them, he takes to drive the Sun-Father’s chariot, and in doing so, crashes the entire heavens to earth, and causing the sun never to shine again.  All isn’t lost though, his brothers and sisters reconcile, and sing the sun back into the sky, before going to bed for another day.

Musicians: Trevor Grahl; piano, Anna Voor de Wind, Clarinet, Antonis Pratsinakis, Cello.

 

Splattering Resonance (2009) - 14’

for 2 performers with ‘resobows’, percussion solo, electronics

Listen

2 performers with ‘resobows’, perc. solo (1 player) electronics

 

The Resobow, engineered and designed by Cooper Baker, is a small, wearable object using a system of induction and resonance to emit a signal, causing metal resonating objects to resonate, without the aid of mallets, or a bow. Sort of like an EBow but then for instruments without strings. Working together in UCSD in 2008, Cooper came up with the idea, and we decided to run with it. I ended up writing a piece for percussionist Brian Archinal, and two extra performers playing resobows, with Cooper doing electronics. The piece is based on three different motives, all which are slightly different from each other. As in Music for Organ Solo, a compositional tool was to explore the idea of letting these musics modulate each other; producing child-variations based on a combination of dfferent parent themes, and so forth. 

Cooper’s patch took the constant ‘screeeeeech’ of the resobows and modulated this according to what Brian was playing, how loud, and how fast. Certain spatialization decisions in Cooper’s patch were also based on the ratios of the planets in orbit. 

Brian Archinal, percussion solo
Ian Power, Trevor Grahl, Resobows
Cooper Baker, Resobow conception and electronics 

Σκουληκομυρμη- γκότρυπα (worm-ant-hole) (2013) - 13’

Vibraphone and Marimba duo (with flexatones)

Written for Joint Venture Percussion Duo

This piece, with its clumsy name, explores the idea of long, worm-like material slithering its way gradually into a dark hole. In order to fit, the chordal material at the beginning has to ‘lose weight’ so to speak, and in its compression, becomes much longer. Dedicated to percussionists Xi Zang and Laurent Warnier, who gave the premiere in Luxembourg, 2014. 

Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra (in progress)

written for Jörgen van Rijen and Het Klassiek Collectief

Trombone concerto in three movements for Dutch trombonist Jörgen van Rijen en Het Klassiek Collectief. Although in progress at the moment, a number of things inspired me to begin work in this piece. I’ve always been a fan of blues trombone playing, and have often noticed that, (in my own strange way) while listening to the trombone parts in Mahler or Strauss, there’s a small point at which these two performance traditions, though literally miles apart, somehow blend into one. It’s this focus on the sound required by the player and how they proceed through the piece that served as the seeds for this work, to be performed in September and October 2017. Stay tuned for updates! 

Urquitaqtuq (Sheltered, but with Gusts of Wind) (2007) – 15’

written for Alain Cazes and the McGill Wind Symphony

Listen

For some reason, not just if you’re Canadian, (but it seems to help), we somehow get bitten by the ‘north’ bug. A sudden obsession or cogent curiousity to simply “go north”. Sometimes this is borne out of curiousity. The expanse making up about 70% of our landmass, yet only 20% of our population stretches hundreds, even thousands of kilometers, standing in stark comparison with the busy and replete cities that I've mostly inhabited during my short life. Life up there is so different than what I know, or what I've ever experienced. There is also a painful history there, one of coercion and conformity, of habituation and hardening. It's also something I've never experienced first hand, but have lived, in a way, through literature. This piece reflects my yearning to ‘go north’. It reflects something that is free, a system that has found its own way and can continue, and doesn’t resist when a new system is introduced, changing the very structure of it's identity. A return to the old isn’t possible, but could be garnered, surely, by looking forward as well as backward (this lovely Marshall McLuhan photo comes to mind). I was experimenting with aleatoric techniques I had discovered as a student from the scores of Lutosławski, and found that the application of these techniques for a large wind ensemble could adequately reflect my interest in huge shifting soundmasses, blizzards of cold icy sound, with heavy steely flakes of snow crashing about, or delicate diamond-ice textures, sparkling and gently shimmering.

...From Curious Lands and Places (2014) 18’

written for the International Ensemble Modern Academy, Elena Schwarz, Cond.

Listen

Watch

fl/picc, cl/bass cl, alto sax, horn in F, tpt/picc tpt, tmbn, perc (1) pno, vla, vc

 

With this work, I wanted to create a journey for the listener, similar to that of Saint-Exupéry in his novel Le Petit Prince. In this case, where the novel's little protagonist departs from his own home (the asteroid supposedly believed to be B-612) visiting other asteroids with their own beings and ways of life, so too does the listener witness such a journey from 'home' (the recurring Intermezzi, an imaginary environment perhaps filled with small singing creatures, floating and spinning in little clouds of sound) to witness glimpses of other musics.

Despite what adventures we witness, the ‘creatures’ of the Intermezzi always return, continuing perhaps forever, seemingly indifferent to anything else, except their own way of life. Such instances of unending and seemingly unaware life, like the Turritopsis Dohrnii, the so-called ‘immortal’ jellyfish, gently billowing for an eternity in the waters off the coast of Crete, I find truly terrifying.

The title comes from a reference to Schumann's Von fremden Ländern und Menschen - owing in part to the fact that I composed the piece almost entirely abroad - something very unusual for me.

Hussy (2010) – 7’

written for Orkest de Ereprijs

Listen

Watch

picc, fl, clar, sop. sax, bari. sax, tpt, hn, 2 tbn, tuba, elec. guit, bass guit, piano, perc (1)

 

Hussy is a free transcription of “Shipoopi”, a song and dance number from Meredith Wilson’s American musical comedy The Music Man from 1957. I had a close association with this musical since my childhood, and felt compelled to create this work not only out of an old love for the original music and dance, but also since I’ve recently been re-visiting various musical experiences of my youth in order to ponder possible connections to my musical language and interests today. The transcription incorporates various kinds of material from both Broadway and film versions: direct, unambiguous quotation drawn directly from the source material; material in which the source has been has been used as a basis for transformation into another type of material; and finally, freely composed material inspired by, but not necessarily related to the source. Through these different articulations of material, I wanted to create a dramaturgy which would capture and in some sense, pervert the glorious extravagance and excess gesture so abundant in this number.

I found my creativity remarkably stirred by encouragement from my teacher Richard Ayres, constantly urging students to undergo musical self-examinations and, put simply, to ‘do what they want’, without fuss. Additionally, early discussions about the idea of composition as transcription with Michael Finnissy proved extremely rich, leading to new possibilities affecting my musical thought and the way I perceive musical form. Finally, (and perhaps most importantly), I was intensely stimulated by the sharing of hilarious, albeit serious, observations with Matthew Ricketts on the nature of excess and extravagance inherent in the dramaturgy of Shipoopi. It is to him that I dedicate this work.

Metaxa (2010) – 11’

written for the Ives Ensemble

Listen

fl/picc, ob, clar/bs clar, 2 perc, 2 vlns, 2 vlas, 2 vc, bass, organ

 

Composed for a performance in the Noorderkerk in Amsterdam. Performers seat themselves spatially around audience and throughout the church, co-ordinated by stopwatches. The acoustic of the church, with its characteristic long reverb time, fuses the hyperactive lines into a texture. Check an article by Dutch journalist Berend Jan Bockting about the piece and its relationship to the space for which it was conceived here (page 100). 

 

 

Speelfiets (2011) - 8’

written for ‘Windysizer’ and the Nieuw Ensemble

Watch

fl, cl, ob / mandolin, guit, harp, pno, perc (1), ‘windysizer’ / vln, vla, v.c., bass

 

This piece was written in late August 2011 for the Eurekafoon! project at the request of the Nieuw Ensemble. I quickly became acquainted with the ‘windsyzer’ and its mode of operation, and the sounds it could produce. The pitches produced by this strange and wonderful instrument are a harmonic series of a slightly flat F. The more power with which one cycles, the higher up the harmonic series the instrument sounds. The eery whistling produced by the instrument carries on through the piece, as a sort of unchanging pedal, amongst all sorts of other events in the ensemble. Sometimes the musics touch, and other times, not. In the end, the visual imagery suggested by the operation of such a musical instrument turned out to be just as important as any of the elements suggested by its pitch: I could imagine someone cycling madly to the finish line in a race (yet going nowhere!) and the instrument as a strange, mechanical music box figure, somehow elegant, but ultimately with a grotesque charm!

Palimpsestic Fancies (2010) - 9’30

written for the Ligeti Academy

Listen

picc, fl, ob, cl, bs. cl, sop sax, hn, perc (1), pno, hp, 2vlns, vla

 

Upon initial viewing of Rembrandt's famous, albeit, wonderfully corny “De Nachwacht”, most visitors are curiously surprised to learn that the painting's peculiar shape owes to the fact that a considerable amount has been cut away from the original, so as to "properly fit" in its environment, when it was hung a few centuries ago. Even more surprising, numerous people have tried (and succeeded!) to attack the work with various acids, knives, etc., though no lasting damage was incurred. But what if it were, or what if more of the work were simply “cut away” to better accommodate a new location? People who don't know the original seem to spend time pondering in front of the massive work trying to figure out how much of the painting is missing, and what they can't see. It's this “cutting away” or “obscuring”, in a sense, that interests me here. These issues of damage, alteration, eradication, obscuration, and of course, creation, were among those that seemed to recur to me as I wrote this piece. Since, to destroy the painting requires that the painting first exist, we have a balance: the act of destruction depends on creation, which, interestingly, is very much the operating principle of a palimpsest. This piece is akin to my own musical palimpsest, perhaps, but not only because I changed my mind so many times while writing it. 

Sockamagee!! (2009) – 5'

written for het orkest de ereprijs

fl/picc, fl/alt fl, cl, bari sax/sop, sop sax/alto, tpt, hn, 2 tbn, tba, elec guit, bass guit, pno, perc (1)

 

“Sockamagee!!” is the frequent exclamation of young Robby Reed, a main character in DC Comics’ “Dial H for Hero” series. The work has nothing to do with the comic other than the title; however, the onomatopoeia and subsequent vivid and dynamic illustrations of strange invented words that comic books usually employ to give the impressions of vigorous action were direct inspirations for the vocal writing of this work, the material, and the dramaturgy, among other things.

Strange Desires (2014) - 30’

written for 7090

Listen

For speaking trio (vln, tmbn, pno)

 

Strange Desires is an interpretation of John Ashbery’s poem Girls on the Run (1999) which itself is a poetic interpretation of the works of Henry Darger, a Chicago-based so-called “outsider artist” best known for his exhaustive illustrations of girls engaged in various bizarre activities and rituals. Here, the trio acts as a group of minstrels, telling stories, acting scenes, and playing music, and games, with text taken from various parts of the poem. This bizarre quasi-cabaret isn’t ritual or narrative per say, but an attempt to give a glimpse into the strange world of Darger via Ashbery (and subsequently via myself and the trio). Under the different layers of distorted reality which emerge, one can (hopefully) catch a glimpse of something very real.

 

Text excerpts taken from from John Ashbery’s poem Girls on the Run, copyright © 1999 by John Ashbery. All rights reserved. Used by arrangement with Georges Borchardt, Inc. for the author.

Levensliederen (2014) - 23’

written for Musica Vocale

Listen

SATB choir (large enough for a division into 12), offstage soprano, harmonium (with celesta attatchment), speaking pianist

“Levensliederen” is a Dutch term meaning literally “song about life”, and is often referred to as a genre of sentimental popular music. Here, I took four texts by Dutch poet Micha Hamel, all having something to do with dying or death, and assembled them into a cycle, a sort of mini-requiem as it were, to be a companion piece in a concert featuring Reger’s requiem, and also Schubert’s Erlkönig. Micha suggested this title not in an ironic sense, but in the sense that perhaps, songs about dying could also be seen as songs about living. Below follows a short programme note about each of the four movements. 

Codicil takes the idea of the belief in the sanctity of the human body, and the violation of this sanctity as its central conflict. Does one believe that the body is a temple, and therefore, must not be altered in anyway? Would this belief then necessarily prevent one from sharing all or some of his body in order to sustain another? The music reflects this in that it is a re-assemblage of various ‘sewn-together’ fragments (organs!) from other pieces, and styles. Thus, for me, the conflict here is transposed to an attitude toward (musical) creation in general.

Levenslied begins as an esoteric dialogue and slowly devolves into a banal argument.

Zo Laat, a contemporary re-telling of the Goethe poem Der Erlkönig is my own take on the angst-ridden sound environment of Schubert’s setting. Just as the horror of the poetry comes from the father’s casual parental dismissal of the child’s fears, the horror here comes from the immensely and grossly over-characterized nature of this setting. Certain elements of the 19th century have been exploded, others imploded, to create a sort of parodic cartoon-like version of the piece.

Meer is a piece about leaving, but also about arriving. As in Zo Laat, we hear the choir here as a unit, but also as a collection of individual persons and lives. A soft voice in the distance invites the music forward, slowly disappearing, and ‘kissing’, as it were, the music to sleep.

Pierement Parade (2013) – 15’

written for Continuum New Music

Listen

Watch

fl/picc, cl/bscl, pno, perc (1), vln, vc

 

Mechanical musical instruments have always fascinated me, especially mechanical organs with their vast repertoire of marches, gallops, foxtrots, cake-walks, waltzes, overtures, love songs, and even newly-commissioned pieces. My piece, Pierement Parade (Dutch: Barrel Organ or Mechanical Organ Parade) is a tribute to such instruments, and their idiosyncrasies: their characteristic registrations (organ “orchestrations”), harmonic progressions, and of course, repertoire, with particular attention to the idea of the musical march in this case. The sound-world of the piece is designed to reflect the clunky, the raw, and the hooting-fluty-reedy-shuddering voice with which these instruments so beautifully sing - a fact I found ironic during the process of composition as I strove to make a band of real instruments sound like their mimetic air-driven counterparts: an imitated imitation. Watch the video here.

This piece is meant to be the first in a diptych of pieces dealing with marches. The second, Trauermarsch Szenen (link below) should immediately follow Pierement Parade.

 

Continuum Contemporary MusicBrian Current, Conductor 

Trauermarsch Szenen (2012) – 12’

written for the Looptail sextet

Listen

Watch

fl/picc, cl/bscl, pno, perc, vln, vc

 

The idea of writing a processional, funeral march-like piece had always appealed to me, and it was only until this past winter that the piece sprung to life, amid poor health and a seemingly endless winter. I had intended it to be a large piece for orchestra, but had only a sextet to work with, and found it a rather interesting challenge to make the sextet sound as large and grand as an orchestra. The music unravels as a slow and fantastic procession through funereal-like images and scenes, some recognizable, and some obscured, all the while pulled along by the march idiom of the timpani, omnipresent, constant, and inescapable. In the end, we arrive in a special place, a place not without sadness, but of calmness, and of pensive stillness. Sometimes, but not always, one must just accept the way things are, and be at peace. Trauermarsche Szenen is meant to be the second movement in a diptych about marches, the first movement being Pierement Parade.

Looptail Sextet  

Eleven Short Pieces for Icarus (2011) - 15’

written for the Icarus Ensemble

Listen

fl/picc, cl/bscl, pno, sampler, elec. guit, bass guit, perc (1)

 

I have often been interested in the dramaturgical and narrative possibilities of musical forms: for me, the establishing and manipulation of a ‘situation’ in whatever form it takes, is one of the most meaningful things to me as a composer and a listener. In the last few years, I’ve been experimenting with trying to create musical identities, characters, and situations, sort of like musical ‘mise-en-scènes’ and the subsequent tensions and dramaturgical stages through which I strive to make them pass. With this piece, I turned my attention to how I could suggest a narrative structure over the course of eleven distinct miniatures, a form which I seldom use. Some elements recur over the course of the work, and some elements are specific only to one small movement. I realized that piece took the form of what was rather like a variety or cabaret show with a few recurring sideshow acts: the performative ‘showing-off’ of certain skills, strange mini-rituals, mimesis (the idea of a ‘cover’ in the pop music world), and even malfunction were all things that emerged in the piece.

In hindsight, after having finished, I realized that I was heavily influenced throughout the composition process by a performance of Michael Finnissy’s cabaret-trio “Bas & Koen & Nora” I had seen last spring. The curious and refreshing mix of musics, the theatricality of the performers and the musical and dramatic possibilities suggested by these elements sat, tucked away within me and appear to have emerged in their own way in this composition. Thus, it is to Michael Finnissy that I dedicate this work in much gratitude.

Icarus Ensemble

We are dreamers, but dreams are what we breathe...(2011) – 9’30

written for the ASKO | Schönberg 9x7 project

Listen

ob, cl/ebcl, tpt, pno, perc (1) vla, vc

 

This piece was largely inspired by a poem that had been pinned to my wall for a little over a year. A friend wrote it during a week-long workshop in Apeldoorn in 2010. Searching for words, he shared the poem with me during the final stages of its composition, and together, on the last day of our workshop, we completed it. Though I often saw the poem from my desk, pinned to the wall on a scrap piece of paper on which it was originally written, I had never before taken the opportunity to deeply read and reflect on its meanings. It was something that I would come to do in the following weeks.

The idea of a sudden profound change, that of an old world suddenly and unexpectedly giving way to a new, and the resultant nostalgia and sentimentality that often accompanies such changes were constantly on my mind during composition. Several such events seemed to pervade my personal life during this period, along with the tragedy of the earthquake in Japan – an old world suddenly dying with a society struggling to give birth to a new. But as people strive to go forward, sometimes, ironically, it is the act of looking back that sometimes propels us. But what do we see when we look back? Often times, and as time itself passes, we see not what was really there, but rather what we would have dreamed. This piece is my personal musical reflection on the ideas of sudden change, sentimentality, nostalgia, loss, and of course, love.

ASKO|Schönberg Ensemble, Bas Wiegers, cond. 

 

Mechanical Miniatures (2006) - 11’30

written for the McGill Contemporary Music Ensemble

Listen

fl/picc, ob, 2cl(2=bscl+cl), bsn, hn, tpt, tmbn, perc, pno/cel, 2vln, vla, vc, bass

 

An early student piece, I was interested in drawing musical material from cartoons and developing it in my own way. At the same time, I was also fascinated by mechnical musical instruments, and processes. These five pieces were a first foray into something that would keep me occupied for a few years. Below follows a programme note, for every piece. 

 

I. Asinine Assembly Line (Music for Music Box Dancer) - Imagine that we place the initial theme on a conveyor belt that runs its way through a series of transformation boxes. As it passes through each box, the theme alters accordingly. For example, the first box would seem to contain some sort of mirroring device, the second seems to magnify certain parts of the theme, melody and contour becoming ‘turned off’ in the third by means of rhythm and an increase in resonance. However, many more boxes follow. Every so often the theme resurfaces in its original form, although after passing through so many transformative boxes, it just can't seem to find its original form... .

II – Orchestrion (Rhumba?!)

“The disposition of this Orchestrion allows us to imitate all the different Orchestral instruments in full compass, as used in the original Orchestral compositions, as in Wagner’s “Tannhauser” and Rossini’s “William Tell” Overtures. This enables us to give the original compositions of the great masters, as composed for Grand Orchestra, with perfect correctness”.

These machines originated in Germany in the late 1800s and quickly became popular during the turn-of-the-century in dance halls and wealthy homes all across America. The outer appearance of the orchestrion looked similar to a pipe organ façade; however, the inside of the instrument could contain organ pipes (which it usually did), percussion, violin, saxophone, or most any other popular musical instrument. It worked using a principle similar to the player piano in which a perforated roll of paper fed through the machine allowed air to pass through the mechanism and trigger certain sounds from the organ pipes, violin, saxophone, percussion, or other musical instruments that these machines could ‘play’. The initial rolls punched contained only a narrow stylistic corpus of music, but later, when the instrument was more popular, rolls containing more eclectic styles emerged including arrangements of ‘foreign’ music from other countries. The makers of the above orchestrion claim reproduction with “perfect correctness”, still, the early machines were irregular and clunky, nevertheless giving rise to an impression of tidy sloppiness.

III – Nickelodeon - Similar to the orchestrion, the nickelodeon could also be found in the dance hall, but more often in the saloon. Simply a coin operated player piano, the nickelodeon served as an ancestor to the shellac playing juke-box. We hear both in the piece.

IV – Anémocorde - As far as I know, only one of these mechanical musical instruments have ever existed. Built in France ca. 1780 by a German inventor named Johann Schnell, this instrument contained a keyboard and a set of strings very similar to a piano (one, two or three strings per note) and via bellows pumped by the feet, a steady stream of compressed air blew onto the strings of the piano setting them into vibration. The instrument contained several buttons or levers that modified the intensity and direction of the sound. A quotation from Jean-Georges Kastner’s Traité Général D’Instrumentation (1837) can somewhat elucidate the effect produced:

The instrument has a rare sweetness of sound and the pianissimo sounds light and airy, and as though it is arriving from some far-off place. This instrument is only appropriate for pieces in slow tempos, such as adagios, andantes, and the like. It also makes a very good effect when accompanying song.

Interestingly, there also existed a small switch that, when depressed, enabled the instrument to produce dry percussive sounds, appropriate for faster tempos.

V. Homage to R. Goldberg – “How to pick up the pieces of a broken chord” - Rube Goldberg (1883 - 1970) was a prolific cartoonist famous for his “Rube Goldberg Machines”, exceedingly complex devices that perform extremely simple tasks in a very indirect and convoluted way. His cartoons of these machines often provided solutions to various irritating daily problems. My particular ‘machine’ offers a solution to picking up the pieces of a broken chord. The chord must first be reassembled and moved to an appropriate register before it can be easily removed. A true Rube Goldberg Machine contains at least ten steps. Can you hear all of them?

Nice to Meet You (2010) - 7’

music theatre for soprano, tuba

Listen

sop, tuba

 

Short music theatre piece for soprano and tuba, exploring the ideas of the true meaning of social pleasantries and conventions, connections with ‘strangers’ and relaxing into one’s own identity. The piece was crafted in a workshop setting taking an interview with Dutch singer Wim Jan van Deuveren as the creative starting point. Click on the link above for a sound impression of the piece. 

Rosemary Carlton-Willis, mezzo
John Banther, Tuba
Sanne Nouws, director

The Road Not Taken (2007-8, rev. 2009-10) - 25’

opera for violin and soprano (plus offstage musicians)

Listen

sop, vln, offstage piano, offstage singer 

 

This piece was inspired by a Warner Brothers cartoon I watched in my youth (Looney Tunes Duck Amuck, 1953) which remains this day a potent source of inspiration. Wikipedia’s summary of the cartoon is best:

It stars Daffy Duck, who is tormented by a sadistic, unseen animator who constantly changes Daffy’s location, clothing, voice, physical appearance, and even shape. Pandemonium reigns throughout the cartoon as Daffy attempts to steer the action back to some kind of normality, only for the animator to either ignore him or, more frequently, to over-literally interpret his increasingly frantic demands.

In the case of this piece, we have three ‘characters’ – the soprano, rather akin to Daffy’s role in the cartoon, who simply wants to sing Robert Frost’s poetry in some kind of traditional manner; the composer, analogous to the role of the “sadistic unseen animator” who constantly frustrates her efforts, and the violinist who acts as a sort of ‘go-between’ carrying out the wishes of either the composer, singer, or sometimes, both.

As in the cartoon, the piece commences routinely, though as both the composer and violinist interfere with both the process and the soprano, the work spirals out of control – it becomes a tug of war between the three characters, all vying for power.

My thoughts at the time were greatly focused the whole idea of setting a text to music, the how and the why, thoughts which I still frequently experience (when going to a new opera, for example). The piece ends with a solo recitation of the poem from the violinist who, without any ‘artful’ singing, brings the piece to a close in a clear expression of the poetry, perhaps rendering the efforts of the soprano (and the composer, somehow) all in vain. While certain aspects of the piece worked very well, I found others didn’t work at all, and thus the piece is a long-term work in progress.

Stephanie Aston, Soprano
Mark Menzies, Violin

Music for Organ Solo (2008) - 8’

Listen

Written in 2008 for my friend and colleague Alexandra Fol, this work was an investigation in using the organ as a vehicle to explore aspects of writing music in a large space, for a large instrument. In the filter of such a large acoustic, the rapid interchanging figurations (especially the pulsations!), all blur into a non-discrete, yet identifiable soundmass. Given the fact that organs are very much spatial instruments, like an orchestra, with groups of pipes grouped together by timbre, and further, by pitch (organs are frequently separated into two halves, each having 6 whole-tone pitches), the piece also becomes an exploration of illuminating a space with sound.

The form of the piece was inspired by a film which I had just seen at the time: Synecdoche, New York, (hence the graphic). 
One motive meets another, and they together form a new one, which in turn meets another and creates something new, and so on. The ideas of this piece were further explored in Metaxa, from 2010.

Jan Hage, organ
Recording: April 17, 2015, het Orgelpark.
Sauer Organ (1922), with 3-manual digital console, equipped with a MIDI-driven setzer system.
Registrants Felipe Mora and Maarten Havinga

The Road Not Taken (2007-8, rev. 2009-10) - 25’

opera for violin and soprano (plus offstage musicians)

Listen

sop, vln, offstage piano, offstage singer 

 

This piece was inspired by a Warner Brothers cartoon I watched in my youth (Looney Tunes Duck Amuck, 1953) which remains this day a potent source of inspiration. Wikipedia’s summary of the cartoon is best:

It stars Daffy Duck, who is tormented by a sadistic, unseen animator who constantly changes Daffy's location, clothing, voice, physical appearance, and even shape. Pandemonium reigns throughout the cartoon as Daffy attempts to steer the action back to some kind of normality, only for the animator to either ignore him or, more frequently, to over-literally interpret his increasingly frantic demands.

In the case of this piece, we have three ‘characters’ – the soprano, rather akin to Daffy’s role in the cartoon, who simply wants to sing Robert Frost’s poetry in some kind of traditional manner; the composer, analogous to the role of the “sadistic unseen animator” who constantly frustrates her efforts, and the violinist who acts as a sort of ‘go-between’ carrying out the wishes of either the composer, singer, or sometimes, both.

As in the cartoon, the piece commences routinely, though as both the composer and violinist ‘interfere’ with both the process and the soprano, the work spirals out of control – it becomes a tug of war between the three characters, all vying for power.

My thoughts at the time were greatly focused the whole idea of setting a text to music, the how and the why, thoughts which I still frequently experience (when going to a new opera, for example). The piece ends with a solo recitation of the poem from the violinist who, without any 'artful' singing, brings the piece to a close in a clear expression of the poetry, perhaps rendering the efforts of the soprano (and the composer, somehow) all in vain. While certain aspects of the piece worked very well, I found others didn't work at all, and thus the piece is a long-term work in progress.

Stephanie Aston, Soprano
Mark Menzies, Violin

Sacred Emily (2008) - 25’

chamber opera for soprano, baritone, small ensemble, and electronics

Listen

fl/picc, cl/bs cl, trombone, pno/celesta, perc. (1), vln, vc, sop, baritone, 6-chan electr. 

 

Always curious about the difficulties I encounter while setting text to music, I decided to explore the poetry of Gertrude Stein, in particular one piece from 1913, Sacred Emily, the most well-known line from the poem being “Rose is a rose is a rose”. I had wanted to explore the challenge of writing a simple chamber opera, something with bare minimum staging, no, scenery, no probs, almost a ‘dressed up’ concert experience, and let the music do the talking, as it were.

Stein’s essentially anti-narrative poetry was really to me a celebration of the knitting together of sounds, shapes, and images and meanings present in the English language, a sort of sound-poem, a forebearer to the work of Dutch artist Jaap Blonk or Canadian author Christian Bök.

Unlike other pieces I had studied as models at the time for electronics, singers, and ensemble, I chose to process the voices, instead of the instruments, giving me a huge range of interpretive possibilities while setting the text. Sometimes I used the electronics as a magnifying glass, a series of filters bringing out a certain vowel or consonant that Stein would settle on in the text. Other times I used a range of processing to totally obscure the text, transforming simple words into long threads of drawn-out sound.

For me, the piece was a huge exploration about the understanding of a text, the sound of a text, and an interpreting of that text through sound. 

Performers from UCSD, La Jolla, California.
​Rand Steiger, conductor.  

Sacred Emily (2008) - 25’

chamber opera for soprano, baritone, small ensemble, and electronics

Listen

fl/picc, cl/bs cl, trombone, pno/celesta, perc. (1), vln, vc, sop, baritone, 6-chan electr. 

 

Always curious about the difficulties I encounter while setting text to music, I decided to explore the poetry of Gertrude Stein, in particular one piece from 1913, Sacred Emily, the most well-known line from the poem being “Rose is a rose is a rose”. I had wanted to explore the challenge of writing a simple chamber opera, something with bare minimum staging, no, scenery, no probs, almost a ‘dressed up’ concert experience, and let the music do the talking, as it were.

Stein’s essentially anti-narrative poetry was really to me a celebration of the knitting together of sounds, shapes, and images and meanings present in the English language, a sort of sound-poem, a forebearer to the work of Dutch artist Jaap Blonk or Canadian author Christian Bök.

Unlike other pieces I had studied as models at the time for electronics, singers, and ensemble, I chose to process the voices, instead of the instruments, giving me a huge range of interpretive possibilities while setting the text. Sometimes I used the electronics as a magnifying glass, a series of filters bringing out a certain vowel or consonant that Stein would settle on in the text. Other times I used a range of processing to totally obscure the text, transforming simple words into long threads of drawn-out sound.

For me, the piece was a huge exploration about the understanding of a text, the sound of a text, and an interpreting of that text through sound. 

Performers from UCSD, La Jolla, California.
​Rand Steiger, conductor.  

Splattering Resonance (2009) - 14’

for 2 performers with ‘resobows’, percussion solo, electronics

Listen

2 performers with ‘resobows’, perc. solo (1 player) electronics

 

The Resobow, engineered and designed by Cooper Baker, is a small, wearable object using a system of induction and resonance to emit a signal, causing metal resonating objects to resonate, without the aid of mallets, or a bow. Sort of like an EBow but then for instruments without strings. Working together in UCSD in 2008, Cooper came up with the idea, and we decided to run with it. I ended up writing a piece for percussionist Brian Archinal, and two extra performers playing resobows, with Cooper doing electronics. The piece is based on three different motives, all which are slightly different from each other. As in Music for Organ Solo, a compositional tool was to explore the idea of letting these musics modulate each other; producing child-variations based on a combination of dfferent parent themes, and so forth. 

Cooper’s patch took the constant ‘screeeeeech’ of the resobows and modulated this according to what Brian was playing, how loud, and how fast. Certain spatialization decisions in Cooper’s patch were also based on the ratios of the planets in orbit. 

Brian Archinal, percussion solo
Ian Power, Trevor Grahl, Resobows
Cooper Baker, Resobow conception and electronics 

150TMBNS (2017) - 45’

for ca. 150 Trombones

150TMNS is a piece written for closing concert of the Slide Factory 2017 an international festival for trombone enthousiasts worldwide. Workshops, masterclasses, concerts, and even a ‘trombone market’ are all part of the four-day festival, providing trombonists of all sorts the chance to connect, inspire each other, and share their passion for this interesting instrument. 

 This piece, as the grand finale, is therefore intended to give everyone, no matter age, skill, or ability, the chance to make music as a group, with top professionals of the trombone world alongside children just making contact with the instrument for the first time. Truly a unique project, what was deeply challenging was trying to give interesting material to each group, while slightly pushing their boundaries at the same time. In the end, I found myself ‘trombonifying’ everything from new material to James Brown to Queen to Susato to Ives, to Bach etc., etc., in order to make a unique and challenging experience for the performers, as well as the audience.  

e.

info[at]trevorgrahl[dot]ca

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+31 615 662 716

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Solebaystraat 56-2

1055 ZT Amsterdam

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Portrait: © Co Broerse, 2015

Design: Hugo Herrera Tobón

Programming: Jonathan Sachse Mikkelsen

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Born in 1984, Trevor Grahl hails from the small town of Rankin, Ontario. His first musical studies began at nine years with music lessons from a local teacher, and, experimenting on his own, his first compositions followed soon after. Perhaps because of the local interest in the arts, and the tight-knit nature of the community, Trevor had the invaluable opportunity to have his works performed in local concerts even from a young age. Formal training began at McGill University, where he studied composition with John Rea, Brian Cherney, and Jean Lesage, electronic music with Sean Ferguson, and piano with Tom Plaunt. After having obtained his Bachelor degrees in Composition and Theory, master studies commenced at the University of California at San Diego, on a full scholarship where he studied composition with Rodger Reynolds, Philippe Manoury, Chinary Ung, and Rand Steiger. On a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts, he undertook additional master studies at the Conservatory of Amsterdam, working with Richard Ayres. Trevor’s music is characterized by referential layers, and often, the music of ‘other musics’ is an integral structural factor in his compositions. His works have been performed by many groups across North America, Europe, and China including the Ives Ensemble, Asko|Schönberg, the Nieuw Ensemble, Philip Thomas and Continuum Contemporary Music, Oliver Latry, 7090, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Joint Venture Percussion Duo, Brian Archinal, The International Ensemble Modern Academy, Jan Hage, the Nederlands Studenten Orkest, and the Brno Contemporary Orchestra. In addition to several SOCAN Foundation awards, in 2007, Trevor’s work for wind orchestra Urquitaqtuq was selected for the the first ever John Weinzweig award. In 2008 he was featured as the emerging composer of the Winnipeg New Music festival and his work Sockamagee! for the Orkest de Ereprijs was selected as the winning composition of the Young Composers’ Meeting in Apeldoorn in 2010. Trevor’s music has appeared in many festivals including the Amsterdam Composers’ Festival, Huddersfield New Music Festival, and Gaudeamus Muziekweek and Gaudeamus Montreal, where 7090 performed a composition with texts from John Ashberry’s Girls on the run. In 2013 Dutch Radio4 broadcast his song cycle Levensliederen based on texts by Micha Hamel. As a performer, Trevor has performed and collaborated with composers Giuliano Bracci, Thanasis Deligiannis, and students of the Rietveld Academy among others, and performed as a Timpanist with the Nederlands Jeugd Strijkorkest. In 2005 he held the post of auxiliary Organist at Saint Patrick’s Bascilia in Montréal, and continues to look to improvisation as an important source for musical material. Trevor currently lives in Amsterdam and teaches orchestration and composition at the Koninklijke Conservatorium in Den Haag, and works as the Floor Manager in het Orgelpark, a concert venue dedicated to the organ.

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“Als je muziek van dit kaliber schrijft hoef je niet te zoeken naar nieuwe presenteer- wijzen of luister- houdingen.”

-Fritz van de Waa

Volkskrant

01-07-2017

150TMBNS

...Prior to this year’s Slide Factory, Mark Boonstra and his team delivered a series of workshops to young Dutch children across Rotterdam – many of these then joined the festival culminating in a world premiere performance of Trevor Grahl’s 150TBNS incorporating these youngsters with the New Trombone Collective and everyone in between – truly an inspirational weekend for all involved.

01-08-2016

New Work for Trombone and Orchestra

Happy to announce the beginnings of a new work for Trombone and Orchestra, with Jörgen van Rijen and Het Klassiek Collectief
Concerts scheduled in September and October, 2017.

01-09-2016

Now teaching at Royal Conservatory in The Hague.

Very happy to join the team of fantastic teachers at the Royal Conservatory in Den Haag, teaching composition, instrumentation, and also, an analysis class for sonology students. 

30-04-2016

Strange Loops

Amsterdam-based Sextet Looptail's new CD, I am strange loop is out! Featuring my own work Trauermarsch Szenen.

15-02-2016

Uitzending Gemist? Screen Memories on Dutch Radio4

Live from the Doelen in Rotterdam, the Nederlands Studenten Orkest gives a performance of Screen Memories, under the fantastic direction of conductor Bas Wiegers.

“Trevor Grahl’s Mechanical Miniatures, inspired by Saturday morning cartoons...had the musicians scaling the heights before plummeting into muted depths, as a delightful, dizzying ode to Looney Tunes”

- Holly Harris, Winnipeg Free Press

24-10-2015

Big music in a small room: the Besední Dům

New York-based acoustic and architechtural designer Willem Boning gives an acoustic analsyis of the Brno's Besední Dům, in a special review in one of the Brno Contemporary Orchestra's concerts.

28-04-2014

“Strange Desires by Trevor Grahl, a “bizarre quasi-cabaret” well suited the personae of the three 7090 players, and made an interesting companion piece to the two extracts from bas&koen &nora we had heard from the same players the night before.” ​

Tim Rutherford-Johnson

- The Rambler

01-03-2017

“Eurekafoon!”

Curious about the bicycle piece? Winnifred Jelier gives us a heads up in the Volkskrant (in Dutch).

“Unexpected Percussion Discussion Bang-on!”

Review of my percussion concerto, by Gwenda Nemerofsky, from the Winnipeg Free Press

04-11-2014

ARCAM interview goes digital

Berend Jan Bockting's interview about Metaxa, a spatial piece for the Ives Ensemble, goes online. Read the entire edition here.

10-06-2011

Woorden uit AHK

An interview from the website of the Amsterdam School of the Arts. Also featuring colleague and friend Thierry Tidrow.