New Roads, Old Destinations
for solo piano (1996)
duration: 6’
GRT • 031


recordings available
Satellite Mapping
Complete works for solo piano (1989–2014)
Amir Farid
Move Records, MD3402, 2016

Tunes for Mademoiselle
John Martin, piano

Giants in the Land
Ian Holtham, piano
Move Digital

score available from
Australian Music Centre

program note
This piece is inspired by M. C. Escher’s famous 1960 lithograph, Ascending and Descending, showing stairs which descend impossibly back to an upper starting point. This illusion can also be found in music. One of the most famous examples is Monteverdi’s Non Morir Seneca chorus from The Coronation of Poppea where chromatically rising lines are dovetailed to give the impression that the music is constantly getting higher and higher, when in fact it is merely treading a metaphoric waterwheel. More recently, Wim Mertens’ solo piano piece Alef from the recording Jeremiades combines a descending sequence with gradual phrase augmentation to induce a sense of uncertainty on the part of the listener as to whether the music has returned to the ‘top’ or whether it has progressed elsewhere.

Ambiguity is also at the heart of this piece. In
New Roads, Old Destinations, each time the phrases descend further (new roads) and yet still arrive back at the same cadential motive (old destinations). In between the ‘new roads’ are refrains based on the same sequential motive but these never expand beyond 4 bars and also wind up at ‘old destinations’. This ambiguity is reinforced by chromatic descent into a harmonic labyrinth of symmetrical relationships that appear to have tonal centres, but prove elusive.

"All the tracks are great, but I’m particularly enamoured of Stuart Greenbaum’s New Roads, Old Destinations."
Greg Borrowman, Australian Hi-Fi, February 2005

“New Roads, Old Destinations attempts to illustrate an Escher drawing, one of those trade-mark building designs where stairs ascend and descend simultaneously.  Chords follow a downward path round a central ostinato, either inside the harmonic progression that forms the piece’s material, or below it. The structure plays neatly with the concept of nothing changing except superficially; as in the Escher drawing, the actual lines remain the same, no matter how you perceive them.”
Clive O’Connell, O’Connell the Music, August, 2016

New Roads, Old Destinations is a fascinating piece inspired by Escher’s 1960 lithograph ‘Ascending and Descending’ showing stairs which descend impossibly back to an upper starting point. This is what Greenbaum has managed to depict in music by the use of repetitive figures and descending phrases which return to the top and descend again. The constant downward movement creates a somewhat sombre or melancholic effect. It is enigmatic, like other works of Escher which inspired the composer.”
Gwen Bennett, Music Trust E–Zine, September 2016