The Final Hour

for studio orchestra, narrator and electronics (2013–2018)
ob, sop sax, solo vln, pro, 4 synth, 4 elec gtr, elec bass, kbd, ac bass, dkit, 7 per, strings, narration, natural sounds
duration: 60’
GRT • 166


(section 6, City Towers)

Six years in the making, drawing on the sublime talents of 16 of Australia’s finest jazz and classical musicians, Stuart Greenbaum’s concept album, The Final Hour, arrives. It is Greenbaum’s 8th solo album, recorded in high definition at 96k/24b and mastered at 96/32.

Co-produced with Melbourne composer–pianist Luke Howard, The Final Hour combines the western classical tradition with jazz, pop, electronica, sonic arts and minimalism to create a contemporary commentary on life and how we value time.

In the tradition of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, Jean-Michel Jarre’s Oxygene and Pat Metheny Group’s The Way Up, Greenbaum’s The Final Hour is a work for the ages.

This studio album has been crafted around an original text by Ross Baglin, with narration by John Stanton. Greenbaum writes: “I wanted to create a commentary about the perception of the passing of time in our modern new-millennial lives. Of how we value it. An hour of time (not just the final hour) and by extension, the duration of a life.”

The Final Hour, as its title suggests, is precisely 60 minutes long (to the nanosecond). Oboe, saxophone and strings merge with analogue and digital synthesizers, keyboards, guitars, bass, drums and percussion. Poetry, trains and office soundscapes weave in and out of a mesmerizing, soulful musical narrative constructed in arch form around the Fibonacci series.

Stuart Greenbaum holds a position at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music (The University of Melbourne) as Professor and Head of Composition. He is the author of over 230 works including 24 sonatas, 5 piano trios, 7 string quartets, 5 concertos, 5 symphonies and 2 operas.

The Final Hour is an album for our times, if ever there was one. Each piece is metronomically timed in such a way that the Fibonacci series is duplicated on each side, like mirrored images of a nautilus shell. The total running time is, of course, a precise hour. There’s something unique about this album – as though all that has come before was designed to arrive here in the musical interaction between those involved in it.

Fate’ is a perfect partnership between text and music, where one never overshadows the other, where the text becomes music and the music, text. There is space in this piece because there is time, thirteen minutes of it, and thus room to explore, grow and meander. The most evocative aspects of the music are the simplest. The use of solo instruments prominently placed in front of sound walls features effectively throughout. This is most perfectly illustrated in the gorgeous ‘Thistle Seed’.

The music in ‘
Atmosphere’ is of hope, enduring hope with its cyclic glockenspiel and effervescent rhythm. That has always been music’s charter, so obvious also, at this actual moment in time. In this brief finale we are brought full circle, with greater musical warmth and an emphatic major tonal resolution. It ultimately demonstrates Greenbaum’s optimistic view from all the times and places he explores.

As one who loves a great interplay between the connotation of words with both complementary and contradictory musical meanings, this album is utterly immersive. And throughout, one can hear the dedication to this project in all the performances. It really is a wonderful work.”
Mandy Stefanakis, Music Trust E-Zine, March 2020 

“What would you do in your final hour? If you had but one hour left, how would you express yourself? Through words, music, art? Stuart Greenbaum posits this question with his latest album, a musing on a concept of the passing of time. He talks in the notes about how the idea of a ‘concept album’ has always drawn his interest, from Pink Floyd to Pat Metheny. I think this one should join those lofty halls of fame, as this is a fascinating meld of all that is good from classical, jazz, contemporary music and more.

Melbourne musicians, including fellow composer Barry Cockcroft on Saxophone, join with the Australian National Academy of Music Strings showing that Australian musicians can create some of the most precise and brilliant contemporary music around. The words were created by a long-time collaborator of Greenbaum’s, Ross Baglin. This poetry is expressively murmured by Australian actor John Stanton, which creates a triangle between the words, music and rhythm section.

Clearly a labour of love, this album is beautiful, evocative, interesting and the perfect accompaniment to an hour of meditating on the meaning of life, music and everything. I am looking forward to my second, third and fourth times listening to and absorbing this album.”
Kate Rockstrom, Readings, January 2020

“Stuart Greenbaum is Professor and Head of Composition at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music. He has written works in genres ranging from sonata to opera, but with The Final Hour he has engaged with the idea of the concept album beloved by ‘progressive rock’ musicians of the 1970s. The concept in Greenbaum’s composition is an examination of the ‘perception of the passing of time’, and how we value it, in our hectic 21st century lives. It is communicated through a combination of words and music, and a structure which is determined by the Fibonacci series on both macro and micro levels.

The text is a 500-word poem by Greenbaum’s long-time collaborator Ross Baglin and is narrated by John Stanton: it doesn’t reveal its concerns readily, being deliberately segmented and fragmented, but the narrator’s voice is pleasingly resonant and elegiac. The music sythesizes classical and popular instruments, both acoustic and electric, and both played and programmed. Of particular note are the nostalgic moods evoked by oboe and violin, and a lengthy fretless electric bass solo described by the composer as ‘an oasis in the middle of a barren or frozen landscape’.

The work incorporates a range of sound effects in a manner reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s
Dark Side of the Moon, with operating theatre blips, typewriters, cars and trains and more all contributing to the sense of time passing. The CD includes a copy of the text, and Greenbaum’s website includes and illuminating article by him on the genesis and the structure of The Final Hour.”
Paul Cooke, Fine Music Magazine, March 2020


Barry Cockcroft soprano saxophone
Celia Craig oboe
Daniel Farrugia drum kit
Leonard Grigoryan guitars
Luke Howard piano and keyboards
Craig Newman fretless electric bass
Alex Pertout percussion
Ben Robertson acoustic bass
Marianne Rothschild solo violin
Amy Valent Curlis vibraphone

Zoe Freisberg violin
Mana Ohashi violin
Matthew Laing viola
Anna Pokorny cello
Matthew Hoy cello
Ben Hanlon double bass

Track list:
1 prelude 1’
2 pulse and presence 3’
3 memory jar 5’
4 speeding car and broken signal 8’
5 fate is where lost chances go 13’
6 city towers 13’
7 thistle seed 8’
8 stationary trains 5’
9 the atmosphere 3’
10 coda 1’

Total Playing Time 60’

Pulse. Presence. This alone,
And then another.
Grafting darkness
Into resonance,
Then sense and period,
Fracturing to rhythm -
This. Then nothing. And another
And though the radial clock that struck
This final hour of your concealment’s span
Has moulded worlds from circling hands
And long forgotten what the written sands
Inked into rock before your time began
It stops a moment now to twist the strands
Of pulse and presence into time’s command

Take out the glass you planted once
Below a sapling tree
And turn the lid – a lock
Of child’s hair, (brown, your own) …
A desiccated chrysalis …
One Summer’s ghost of thistledown …
A picture of your mother
Dancing with a man
You thought to be your father
Until their last proprieties
Broke open like the glass
Under the tall, memorial leaves
One morning like this
(Then nothing
Then another).

The hour holds what happened, how you walked
Into the camera’s eye at 2 am, still unafraid
For what the hour ahead might hold
Was not yet what had happened next :
The liquid circles of the citric lights
Lit links of raindrops like electric jewels
Upon the windscreen as you turned the key ;
The car rode softly into rolls of light
And the odometer quickened over lines
Toward the signal flash, and then a speeding car
Flew like a bolt of colour through the rain -
And shop-lights
Diced to biscuit glass,
Were dancing on the tar,
Bright particles of circumstance.

Fate is where
Lost chances go
Outside my window,
Snow is shaped
To the mask of the wind
That blows its cold forgetfulness
Over all that lies below

Night falls as logos crystallise
On city towers, whose abstracted lights
Cut vacant desk, and empty screen
That trafficked rumour through the day
Like streetlights spelling lost commands
To silent intersections, in the dead of night.
And yours is the last desk, there, to the right :
Your photos, and mug-ring, some property deeds,
And here, where the final hours are filed
The minutes of meetings in margins of power :

“How heavy the wind treads over the reeds,
How numb the clock, alone with its hours;
Lord, float me like a thistle seed
And find my place to flower”

Somewhere in the final hour –
The square, illuminated faces,
Singing in the base of a glass,
Constructing half-remembered songs
From long-cremated years,
I saw the fear start in your eye
And twist like water to a drain ;
That hope and promise would not come again,
And dawn was knocking
Like a bailiff at a broken door.
Then, when the final hour had struck,
You turned and raised the window blind and saw
A thistle’s armour, rusting on a moor
Of stationary trains
A moon the colour of winter rain.

And now the final hour is opening out
Like backward music, slow cadenza
Of the mitochondrion ; the teeming stars
Are ghosted on the dust and racing
Into realms of light, burning, dying
In the cauldron of the blast,
As we hurry, and rummage
On the outskirts of a mortal star
Make love in the midst of myriad dislocations,
And feel the orchestra of cells dissolve
At last to impersonal dissonance ;
The sun treads atoms into flame,
A lifetime shapes about your name,
And far above the atmosphere
Is vaulted with cold tomorrows
As the memory jar opens, the chrysalis flies
The thistledown seed escapes into flower,
And a spiral unwinds and twirls into light
And wakes in the pulse of a final hour.

text © Ross Baglin, August 2013/2018