Fun Shorts

Little Etude Nº1: Atrial Fibrillation

Nº1 of seven Little Etudes for beginner and intermediate piano players based on different cardiac electrophysiology aberrations for the first day of WHRW2020: World Heart Rhythm Week (1-7 June 2020). Etude Nº1 is based on Atrial Fibrillation (AF), an irregular heart rhythm that increases the risk of catastrophic stroke. The simplest way to detect AF is through a simple pulse check, that can be confirmed by an ECG (electrocardiogram).

In ECG traces, AF is recognized by the absence of P waves and presence of fibrillatory waves, and irregular intervals between heartbeats. Here, musical trills represent the fibrillatory waves. The melody is taken from a Chopin nocturne (Op.62 No.1), which has many trills. The melody has been time-warped (in the notated score and in the performance) to match the irregular rhythms of an actual AF ECG.

Little Etudes for piano

Here is the original segment of the Chopin Nocturne Op.62 No.1 from which the little etude on atrial fibrillation is derived, as performed by Maria João Pires and by Aldo Ciccolini: