Houston-based performer-composer SARAH-GRACE GRAVES explores sound through movement and movement through sound, playing with dispersed versus collective sound and listeners' experience of sound as it moves. Through her music, she seeks to reclaim and recontextualize intimacy as something powerful, and power as something intimate. Her most recent collaboration, Aeolia, a theatrical work for five sopranos, was written as a companion piece to Josiah McElheny’s installation Island Universe and premiered by the composer with Sarah Bauer, Sophie Leung-Wolf, Ally Smither, and Olivia Spencer inside McElheny’s installation at Moody Center for the Arts. Other ongoing projects include Here Comes the Moon, a video installation that explores how darkness can obscure familiar sensations and blur them into each other; Sybillance, a piece to be performed in total darkness with four voices and flashlights; Mass, a piece written for many friends; and Card Piece, for two players and audience.
Her one-act theatrical work Aquì: Flesh and Nail, created with guitarist Edoardo Draetta and poet and fellow composer Matthew Toffoletto, visually and aurally depicts a dialogue of influences: bodies become aware of each other, and by correlation or causation, begin to interact, resulting in a widening of each body’s expressive capabilities and the adoption of sounds from one another's sonic vocabulary.
Among her performance credits are the premieres of Angelbert Metoyer’s and Saul Williams’ performance piece Sisyphus Rising, Kurt Stallmann’s interactive dance and vocal piece Vespertine Awakenings, Matthew Toffoletto’s experimental one-act opera The Cypress and Lovecraftian mass Misa Cthónica, and Molly Turner’s song cycle Three Songs for Soprano; a solo vocal recital featuring her work Genesis; the premiere of Lucky Dragons’ Neglected Treaty for voices and multimedia at Fotofest Biennial 2016; and Apogee, a companion piece to sculptor and experimental musician Katie Grinnan’s Astrology Orchestra, composed and performed with Molly Turner.
Her works have been performed at New Music on the Point, Atlantic, and Fresh Inc festivals; read by Kenari Quartet and Deviant Septet; and performed by Giancarlo Latta, Ally Smither, Sarah Bauer, Olivia Spencer, Olivia Lerwick, Georgia Belmont, Sophie Leung-Wolf, Abigail Fischer, Norman Fischer, and Rice’s contemporary music group Hear and Now. Other honors include a commission from the Shepherd School of Music to write the fanfare for the 2018 Rice Undergraduate Convocation, first prize in the Mary Bussman Emerging Female Composer Contest and a commission from HGOco. She has studied composition with Kurt Stallmann, Anthony Brandt, Shih-Hui Chen, Richard Lavenda, Stas Omelchenko, Janet Peachey, and Jennifer Jenkins Quinones. She has studied voice with Sarah Bauer, Jack Beetle, Lisa Harris, and Karol Bennett.
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Here Comes the Moon (2018), for 3-channel video with 5.1 surround sound, adapted here to single-channel stereo. Premiered at the Moody Center for the Arts, April 26, 2018.
Mass (2018), for many players
Sybillance (2018), for four voices and lights
Aeolia (2018), for five voices in Josiah McElheny's Island Universe
Aquí: Flesh and Nail (2017), for voice and guitar
Text by Matthew Toffoletto
This year, Edoardo introduced me to the simplicity, clarity, and depth of sound of the classical guitar, and for months we played with the idea of creating a piece for the two of us to perform together. As I came to know and love the guitar, I found that drastically different sounds can come from the same hand shapes, depending on the player activates the string. These sounds tell a story: bodies of flesh, nail, wood, and metal tap into their potential to resonate by exploring a multitude of positions, in a quest to free their sounds to inhabit the entire space. When relating these ideas and sketches to Matthew, he proposed that he write a text specifically for my music that adds another dimension to the structure and concepts I’m exploring. The result is immersive, it’s absurd, and it’s incredibly fun to play. Our hope is that in shattering some of the separation that often exists between classical musicians, we can create a space where we’re all engaged in exploring the potential of what it means to be right here, right now.
Premiered by the composer with guitarist Edoardo Draetta in November 2017, Houston, TX.
Hydra (2017), for Pierrot ensemble
Premiered by the Atlantic Music Festival Contemporary Ensemble
July 2017, Waterville, ME
Above the Edge of Things, for five sopranos.
Written for Tony Arnold, Anna Elder, Laurel Irene, Noelle McMurtry, and Sarah Grace Graves at New Music on the Point. Premiered June 16, 2017 in Salisbury, VT.
Text: William Carlos Williams, Dawn, from Al Que Qiere (1917).
Yttrium, for saxophone quartet.
Yttrium is an exploration of harmony, timbre, and texture. It unfolds slowly and austerely, taking its time to settle into harmonies that reinforce the multiphonics played in each instrument. The name comes from the element yttrium, a stable but rare element that is never found in nature in its pure form. I find parallels between yttrium and the multiphonics in the piece. Stable but rare, these multiphonics generate harmonies whose pitch components cannot be perfectly extracted. They exist as a wall of sound, the pitches fused together in silvery splendor.
Written for Kenari Quartet (Bob Eason, Kyle Baldwin, Corey Dundee, Stephen Banks). Read by Kenari on April 27, 2017.
4-Tiger, for clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, percussion, violin, and double bass.
4-Tiger abruptly switches between contrasting—but harmonically and texturally related—material: a bubbling, chromatically and rhythmically saturated section made up of similar figures, all out-of-sync with one another; short, contrasting episodes that gradually distort the material from the beginning; and a simple, soaring melody that finally brings together the chaotic, unsynchronized figures into something calm, focused and intense. The title refers to the Aztec creation myth in which the world is created, devoured by ocelots, and then reborn.
Written for Deviant Septet. Premiered by Hear and Now (Jake Hale, clarinet; Naho Zhu, bassoon; Matthew Ross, trumpet; John Church, trombone; Keith Hammer, percussion; Giancarlo Latta, violin; Chad Wesselkamper, double bass, Molly Turner, conducting) on January 22, 2017.
Genesis, for soprano and piano.
Genesis explores the concept of breath as origin.
Before I breathe
I feel my feet embrace the ground
My eyes, my limbs, my core prickle
At electric air.
Everything begins and ends with breath,
That circle of life,
Fractals of breath as our lives, our worlds
Pour it out for music's sake,
My body's invitation to my soul,
"Come sing with my voice!
Bow the strings of my core!"
Music, lyrics, and premiere by Sarah Grace Graves. Premiered on October 12, 2016 with composer/pianist D'Aria Tennikova-Šatral.
Portrait, for violin and piano.
Portrait is a fantasy on two popular themes. The themes are overlaid, one in each instrument. The beginning of Portrait uses only fragments of each theme, but as the energy grows, the themes expand and solidify. The themes and the harmony come together in a chaotic middle section, only to unravel and blur together as this [not-so-short] piece comes to a close.
Written for Giancarlo Latta and Wesley Ducote. Premiered April 2016 at the Shepherd School of Music.
Spring, for mezzo-soprano and cello.
Written for Abigail Fischer and Norman Fischer. Text from the 13th-century English round "Sumer is Icumen In."
Sumer is icumen in
Ewe bleteth after lamb
Lhouth after calve cu
Lhude sing cucku
Summer is coming
Ewe bleats after lamb
Cow lows after calf
Loudly sing cuckoo
Premiered April 2016 at the Shepherd School of Music.
The Book of Ages, for string quartet.
"Not only are selves conditional but they die. Each day, we wake slightly altered, and the person we were yesterday is dead. So why, one could say, be afraid of death, when death comes all the time?”
- John Updike, Self Consciousness: Memoirs
Order of movements:
First five movements premiered in April 2016 by Keanu Mitanga, Jacqueline Audas, Austin Simmons, and Kathy Audas at the Shepherd School of Music. Total duration c. 15'.
chiaroscuro, for SSAA choir and narration. Winner of the 2015 Mary Bussman Emerging Female Composer Contest, the song set text adapted from Tilda Swinton's speech at the Rothko Chapel's Visionary Gala in May 2014. Premiered at the Twin Cities Women's Choir Illuminations concert in November 2015.
And How Should This Cease, for voice and accordion. Written in June 2015 and premiered by the composer during 2015 Fresh Inc Festival in Kenosha, WI, this piece is the first of an unfinished cycle of songs inspired by the text of D. H. Lawrence's The Rainbow.
Beets, for clarinet and percussion. Written for the 2015 Fresh Inc Festival, Beets was premiered by Just Duet (Cynthia Goosby, clarinet, and Scott Charvet, percussion) in June 2015 at Constellation Chicago.
Change Came Into Our Houses, for mezzo soprano, bass clarinet, and cello. Commissioned as part of HGOco's project Civil Rights: Then and Now, the piece was premiered by Teresa Procter, mezzo-soprano, Josef Lamell, bass clarinet, and Clare Monfredo, cello in Houston in April 2015.
Artifacts: Souvenirs of Time Travel, for 2 percussionists. Written for percussionists Lucas Sanchez and Keith Hammer III, Artifacts premiered in March 2015 at Rice University's Shepherd School of Music.
The piece is comprised of a set of miniatures, with titles and positions as follows:
1 The Journey (0:00)
2 Comb of St. Lupus (0:50)
3 Navajo Mountain (1:57)
4 Duck!!! (3:06)
5 Round Trip (4:08)
6 Amphora (5:38)
7 The Newest Apple (6:58)
8 The Journey, Part II (8:30)
silent night, for SATB choir (mezzo-soprano solo) and piano. Original text. Unrelated to the traditional Christmas Carol, this Christmas piece, neither sacred nor secular, tells of a fall from grace. Duration c. 5'.
To God and to the Lamb, for viola and cello, premiered in June 2014 by Savion Washington, viola, and Britt Marin, cello, in Tampa, FL.
The Hum and Ding of the Old Tire Swing, for cello and double bass, premiered in December 2012 by Kimia Arsani, cello, and Margaret Pittman, bass, at Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, DC. Winner of the 2013 Washington Music Teachers' Association Young Composers Competition.
The Self-Same Song, for soprano, oboe, piano, violin, viola, cello, and double bass. Text by Thomas Hardy. Premiered in July 2012 by Bridget Conway, Meg Markwith, Adrienne Hudencial, Shelby Mass, Evan Anderson, Elliot Leung, and Sean Van Hentenryck.
The Giant Duck, for tuba and piano, premiered in July 2012 by Zachary O'Neill, tuba, and Mikal Mancini, piano, at Eastman Music Horizons Festival in Rochester, NY. This recording: Gregory Urban, tuba, and Jennifer Quinones, piano.
Opus for the Young, for piano duet and clarinet, premiered in May 2012 by Sarah-Grace, Charles Sciascia (piano), and Sarah Carruthers (clarinet) in Tampa, FL. This is a collection of shorter works on childlike themes. Order of movements:
1 - Prelude (piano solo, clarinet)
2 - March (piano duet)
3 - Scherzo (piano solo)
4 - The Clock (piano solo)
5 - Cradle Song (piano 3 hands)
Total duration c. 9'.
Though I Walk Through the Valley, for SATB choir (female solo) and piano. Text adapted from Psalm 23. Premiered in April 2012 by the Blake High School vocal group North Boulevard in Tampa, FL. The piece begins dark and stormy but later opens into bittersweet tranquility. Duration c. 3'.
Feel free to reach out if you're interested in collaborating.
Verses Upon Waking Up and Falling Asleep (2016), for female voice, cello, and piano, by Webster Gadbois
Text: Buddhist prayers
Performed with Matthew Gustafson and Rūta Kuzmickas
January 2018, Houston, TX
The Cypress (2017), for violin and narrator, by Matthew Toffoletto
Text: “The Cypress” by Audrey Griffin
Premiered with Giancarlo Latta
November 2017, Houston, TX
Aquí: Flesh and Nail (2017), for voice and guitar, original composition
Above the Edge of Things (2017), for five sopranos, original composition
Missa Cthònica (2017), dark mass, by Matthew Toffoletto
Text by Matthew Toffoletto
Premiered with Madeleine Lyon and Sophie Leung-Wolf, sopranos; Michael Chen, trumpet; the Subterranean Players
Molly Turner conducts
April 2017, Houston, TX
Vespertine Awakenings (2017), for voices, dancers, and electronics, by Kurt Stallmann
Site-specific work for performance at James Turrell's Twilight Epiphany skyspace
Premiered with Jihyun Kim, voice and Dušan Tynek Dance Theater
February 2017, Houston, TX
Three Songs for Soprano (2017), for soprano and piano, by Molly Turner
Premiered with D’Aria Tennikova-Šátral
November 2016, Houston, TX
Genesis (2016), for soprano and piano, original composition
Neglected Treaty (2016), for five voices and electronics, by Luke Fischbeck
Text by Sara Rara
Premiered with Sarah Bauer, Lisa Harris, Olivia Spencer, and Brice Todd at Fotofest Biennial
March 2016, Houston, TX
Apogee (2015), for voice and Grinnan instruments
Instruments created by sculptor Katie Grinnan
Composed with Molly Turner for performance at James Turrell's Twilight Epiphany skyspace
Premiered with Molly Turner and Jennifer Lenardic
November 2015, Houston, TX