Heart Rhythms

violin, bass clarinet and cello

duration: 6 minutes

Piano Trio commissioned by the Farrehi Family Foundation for the occasion of the inauguration of the Cyrus and Jane Farrehi Professorship in Cardiovascular Research. It was premiered by Jacqueline Nutting, violin. Lisa Raschiatore, bass clarinet, and Emma Quackenbush, cello, in Ann Arbor, MI, on May 28, 2008.


Program Notes:

Heart Rhythms was commissioned by the Farrehi Family Foundation for the Inauguration of the Cyrus and Jane Farrehi Professorship in Cardiovascular Research at the University of Michigan. Dr. Farrehi wanted a piece that used the rhythms of the heart, both normal and abnormal, as a structural backbone, but also captured a feeling of the ebb and flow of life, like so much of the great chamber music of the past. Through talking with Dr. Farrehi and by listening to a series of instructional CDs, “Listening for Sounds of Heart Failure,” I was able to get a detailed sense of the various sounds of the heart at rest and with various abnormalities, such as aortic stenosis and the added third and fourth heart sounds. I knew that I wanted to weave the heart rhythms into the fabric of the music rather than simply use the heart sounds as an accompaniment over which I would write melodies. I think this corresponds to the way most of us relate to our hearts throughout our lives: the heart beat is a constant foundation but we only notice is clearly at certain times. There are moments, especially at the beginning of the piece, in which heart sounds are heard quite literally, but at other times the rhythms work their way into the texture of the music, still very present but not obvious. In many places the textures of the music are made of several heart beats, moving at different speeds and interlocking. I tried to stay fairly accurate to the rhythm and tempo of actually heart beats but I freely manipulated the pitch of the sounds so that I could better integrate them into the flow of the music. The piece begins with a type of a fanfare which returns in many different guises throughout the piece. The heart beat is heard first in the pizzicato (plucked) cello. As the music settles the cellist switches from plucking to using her bow – the heart rhythm is maintained but gradually becomes more melodic and singing. The music continues through moments of rest and excitement before one last climax and a quiet settling at the end. The piece is a little over six minutes long.