Easter Island
for fl, bcl, pno, 2vln, vla, vc (2008)
duration: 20’
GRT • 135

score available from
Australian Music Centre

program note
Easter Island (remotely located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean) is thought to have been settled by Polynesians around AD800. Its society rose and fell (without outside intervention) due to deforestation and the resultant strain on food supply. By the early 18th century the society was in a state of collapse and cannibalism, the population having dwindled to around 20% of its estimated peak. Giant stone statues still line the coast, elongated heads mostly facing inward and these too provide a fascinating artefact, adding to the intrigue of a unique society. Evolutionary biologist, Jared Diamond speculates that the collapse of Easter Island serves as a metaphor for Planet Earth and the probable result for our own environment if we follow the same path.

This piece is a meditation upon the story of Easter Island. Cast in one relatively continuous movement of around 20 minutes length, it is divided into the following sections:

prelude: uninhabited island
chapter 1: arrival
interlude 1: stone heads
chapter 2: expansion
interlude 2: premonition
interlude 3: stone heads (reprise)
chapter 3: collapse
postlude: ‘…to dust we shall return’

The piece was commissioned by the Australia Ensemble, resident at the University of New South Wales and is dedicated to my children Aksel and Hanna who I hope will inherit a peaceful and sustaining planet.

available on resources page

“Stuart Greenbaum’s Easter Island, receiving its premiere, was a thoughtful freshly-coloured piece, in what is often called an ambient style, although that word can imply simplistic harmony, whereas Greenbaum's ear revealed itself as more sophisticated. The theme of how the Easter Islanders destroyed their own environment through misplaced belief conjures up pristine purity and its opposite, and Greenbaum starts with a flute solo of disarming simplicity which achieved a sense of simple flow as the piano joined in. The simple but risky device of moving the flute offstage for the final close, was surprisingly effective: risky because in art one of the hardest decisions is to judge if a simple gesture will be touching or tiresome (here, the former).

The textures between narrated the toil by which the islanders created their destruction and were beautifully played, though Greenbaum exploited a small proportion of the tonal resources the mixed septet offered.”

Peter McCallum, Sydney Morning Herald, March 2008