Composed & Performed by Grabois
For Fire Names, Grabois wanted to create a tape track using electronics that would accompany a natural, unprocessed horn sound. He also wanted a recital-length piece – one piece that he could perform alone, with his computer, a small mixing board, and some speakers. …and since he had just released Air Names, he wanted to call the new piece Fire Names.
Grabois began by writing the “tape” track (using quotes around “tape,” since the entire tape track is digital). The instruments he used most were the Continuum Fingerboard and the Minimoog Voyager. Both are synthesizers and both offer a wealth of truly beautiful presets. He also used a variety of MIDI sounds, mostly controlled with a keyboard, and a few notes on the EWI (electronic wind instrument). He played all the percussion sounds on a MIDI keyboard. As he began putting the tape track together, he had no idea how it would develop, but the sounds from the synthesizers – especially the extremely expressive Continuum – created their own story, much as a novelist’s characters tell their creator what to write.
The horn and the tape are equal partners in Fire Names, and the tape, with its panoply of sounds, transforms throughout the piece. There are occasional references to music styles from around the globe, but these references are united by the continued recurrence of the opening material, as well as by the sound of the French horn.
The horn part is through-composed, meaning there is no improvisation in the piece.
The track markers on this CD are not intended to indicate different “movements” of the piece. But each new track begins at a musically logical spot in the flow of Fire Names, usually at the beginning of a new section. The track markers provide a shortcut to begin listening at different moments within the work.
Daniel Grabois is Associate Professor of Horn at the Mead Witter School of Music, University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he performs in the Wisconsin Brass Quintet and serves as the Curator of SoundWaves, a series he created that combines science lectures with music performances. Grabois is also the hornist in the Meridian Arts Ensemble, a New York City-based brass quintet founded in 1987.