String Quartet No.1
Time’s Arrow (1991)
[also for string orchestra]
duration: 13’
GRT • 014

score available from
Australian Music Centre

program note
String Quartet No.1 (Time's Arrow) was commissioned by the A.N.A. Friendly Society and premiered in November of 1991. The subtitle, Time's Arrow, is taken from a novel of the same name by Martin Amis and was added after the work had been completed. The novel represents the story of a life told backwards (from death to birth), a similarity I found in the structure of my quartet.

The work is in 4 short movements and based around two themes. The first movement opens with a theme that represents experience or memory. The movement concludes with a second theme (in natural harmonics) which represents innocence. This second theme is coincidentally quite similar to the nursery rhyme,
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

The inner movements further develop the first theme and represent the external journey and then the floating timelessness of emotional involvement. The final movement returns to the idea of the journey but in a rapid, compressed state - like a life flashing before one's eyes - culminating in a reprise of the second theme.

"Whether or not one can find links between Stuart Greenbaum's Quartet No. 1 and Martin Amis' novel Time's Arrow (which, we're told, influenced this work), it can certainly be listened to as a satisfying exercise in music abstraction. The writing is extraordinarily skilled in it’s imaginative exploration of mood and timbre, not least a first movement presented with unwavering intensity. There's a graceful obeisance to Janacek in a second movement brimming with arresting detail - and a rapidly stated, buzzing-toned finale that swept all before it despite attenuation of tone from an indifferent acoustic."
Neville Cohn, The West Australian, March 2005