800 Million Heartbeats
for piano trio (2007)
duration: 8’
GRT • 133


CD available
800 Million Heartbeats

ABC Classics

score available from
Australian Music Centre

program note
Many living creatures lives apparently last for around 800 million heartbeats. Birds like the hummingbird have a very rapid wing motion - so fast that it becomes a blur. It also has a correspondingly fast heart rate and lives a shorter (and arguably more intense) life. By contrast, the sloth has a very slow heart rate, is given to much sleep and has a relatively long life. If humans had only 800 million heartbeats in a life, we would die young (probably in our twenties). But the actual figure is only nominal. It becomes a heightened metaphor for a life, measured in heartbeats, and the journeys that fill its course. This piece was originally composed in 2000 for the Southbank Contemporary Music Ensemble, then as a quintet for Brisbane quintet, Topology, and this adaptation was made especially for The Yarra Trio to premiere in 2008.

“Greenbaum's music regularly appears on Yarra Trio's programs, and two of his recent works were presented on this occasion. Both pieces are characterised by simple tuneful ideas that slowly unfurl against a backdrop of pulsing ostinatos. This initial simplicity turns out to be deceptive, as juxtapositions and developments create a multifaceted web of ingenious thematic and structural relationships.

800 Million Heartbeats was the more straightforward piece, with its well judged proportions and obvious build towards a climactic theme statement at just the right moment. There is little angst in Greenbaum's music, but this melody sung with passionate intensity before ebbing away to a conclusion. This produced one of the trio's best moments, the richly expressive string playing both supported and driven by the keyboard dynamic.
Mark Viggiani, Resonate, September 2009

“SCIENCE and geography form a compatible union in this music by Australian composer Stuart Greenbaum performed by New Zealand musicians Justine Cormack (violin), Ashley Brown (cello) and Sarah Watkins (piano). The title track sets the scene as NZTrio make a gentle passage through rhythmical patterns representing various life pulses, including the estimated 800,000 heartbeats in the lifespan of a hummingbird. Humans need many more for a long life, Greenbaum notes. This is an ingenious exercise linking musical form with cosmic realities...These mystical heartbeats are mesmerising.”
Patricia Kelly, Brisbane Courier Mail, 7 September 2013