Moments of Falling
for string orchestra (1988/1997)
duration: 7’
GRT • 033

score available from
Australian Music Centre

program note
The piece is dedicated to Estonian-born composer, Arvo Pärt, and particularly in respect to his Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten which utilises many of the same techniques as my piece. The technical process of phasing can be attributed to Steve Reich. The title of this piece comes from a play, Atlanta (Joanna Murray-Smith), that I wrote music for. Atlanta, a woman in her late twenties, has ‘moments of falling’ where she imagines what it must be like to walk through glass and come out on the other side.

analytical note
Moments of Falling is a Minimalist piece constructed around a cascading, 16-note sequential motive in the Aeolian mode. This motive is 19 quavers in length but accented within an 18 quaver metrical structure (3 bars of 6/8). This metrical displacement means that it actually takes 19 bars (or 114 quavers) for the motive to once again begin at the start of a bar line.

The motive is introduced in the 1st violins and is transposed in the subsequent entries of lower parts and augmented (in mensuration canon) to the ratios 1:3 (2nd violins), 1:9 (violas) and 1:24 (cellos & basses). This also creates internal relations of 1:8 (between 2nd violins and cellos) and 3:8 (violas and cellos). On a surface level, the piece is extremely simple, transparently mono-thematic and highly repetitive but due to the complexity of the mensuration canon, no bar is identical (in rhythm or resulting vertical harmony) to any other bar. There is a slight alteration in the middle of the cello & bass cycle (bar 111) to take advantage of a dominant pedal for purely musical reasons.

At bar 71 the 1st violins split into two unison parts. The last note of the upper part motive is extended by an extra quaver, creating a gradual phase process within the overall process of mensuration canon. Due to this ‘stereo phasing technique’, it is suggested that the 1st violins A sit opposite the 1st violins B with the lower strings between in otherwise conventional semi-circular format). As each part comes to an end, the last note is held until a chord of B minor is completed. When this chord (double forte) is released, only the fading ring of pizzicato cellos is heard. The overall effect of the piece is that it gets thicker, louder as it goes on. While the strings are not required to play non-vibrato as such, I imagine that they start with only a little vibrato and end up molto vibrato by the end.

“In the hands of the ACO, Stuart Greenbaum's gorgeously lyrical composition
Moments Of Falling was a concert highlight, especially so since the composer was a member of the audience.”
Ingrid Piper, The Daily Telegraph, July 2011

“The luminously scored opening bars of Stuart Greenbaum’s Moments of Falling gave way to more opaque, and somewhat less interesting, canonic variations, redeeming itself in a closing passage of sombre beauty.”
David Vance, Sydney Morning Herald, July 2011

“Interesting piece”
David Gyger, North Shore Times, July 2011

“excellently written for strings.”
Anna McAlister, The Herald Sun, July 2011

“mildly obsessive”
Clive O’Connell, The Age, July 2011

“The first half was opened by Melbourne-based composer Stuart Greenbaum with Moments of Falling. It gave a lovely shape to proceedings.”
David Collins, Australian Arts Review, June 2017