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Sonata for Bassoon and Piano : Deep Time

by Stuart Greenbaum (2019)

Sonata for Bassoon and Piano


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Score & Part

Sonata for Bassoon and Piano : 'Deep Time' / Stuart Greenbaum.

Library shelf no. 788.58183/GRE 1 [Available for loan]

Work Overview

While viewing a strata unconformity at Siccar Point in 1788, when geology was first emerging as a science, John Playfair wrote: "The mind seemed to grow giddy by looking so far into the abyss of time."

In 1981, John McPhee coined the phrase 'deep time': "Numbers do not seem to work well with regard to deep time. Any number above a couple of thousand years-fifty thousand, fifty million-will with nearly equal effect awe the imagination to the point of paralysis."

In 2019, Robert McFarland commented on both in his book, Underland: "McPhee and Playfair's phrases both evoke a temporal vertigo. For deep time is measured in units that humble the human instant: millennia, epochs and aeons, instead of minutes, months and years. Deep time is kept by rock, ice, stalactites, seabed sediments and the drift of tectonic plates. Seen in deep time, things come alive that seemed inert. New responsibilities declare themselves. Ice breathes. Rock has tides. Mountains rise and fall. We live on a restless Earth." Walking through the limestone Akiyoshido Caves (the largest in Japan) provided a timely perspective at the time of writing.

A few years earlier in 2016, David Farrier theorized: "Deep time is not an abstract, distant prospect, but a spectral presence in the everyday. The irony of the Anthropocene is that we are conjuring ourselves as ghosts that will haunt the very deep future."

This sonata in 3 movements is subtitled 'Deep Time' and responds to these ideas in music. The 17th in a series of sonatas written in the new millennium, it was written intensely over 3 days in September 2019, while in residence at the Akiyoshidai International Art Village in Japan.

Work Details

Year: 2019

Instrumentation: Bassoon, piano.

Duration: 20 min.

Difficulty: Advanced

Contents note: I. The Abyss of Time -- II. Deep time -- III. Ghosts of the Anthropocene.

Dedication note: Written for Lyndon Watts composed while in residency at the Akiyoshidai International Art Village, Japan

Written for: Lyndon Watts

Composer's no. GRT 214.


Performances of this work

6 Aug 2020: at Hiroshima: Greenbaum Sonata Project (Japan) (Live streaming event (online only)). Featuring Lyndon Watts, Stefan Cassomenos.

11 Feb 20: Ian Potter Southbank Centre, MCM, University of Melbourne. Featuring Lyndon Watts, Leigh Harrold.

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