While listening to the first two tracks of Andrew Greenwald’s “A Thing Made Whole” (KAIROS Records), I tried to keep track of and locate the parameters of the “thing”. Noticing how the elements of harmonics, tapping, and space weaved together and fluctuated. Attempting to keep a tally of how the components came together, dispersed, and moved. In theory, the album is composed out of consistent and condensed compositional materials – it should be straightforward to gradiate the differences and similarities on a scale from Thing I-VII. And there are discernable shifts that I can, and will, point to. But as the album progresses it becomes clear that the journey is not a surface level trajectory from left to right, it’s a cyclical journey inward. The further you get into the “hole”, the “whole” continues to appear and congeal.
With the current thinking of music analysis in Western conservatories primarily being centered around a left to right analysis and linear narrative, thinking top down in regards to large-scale form is a big shift. The first track, timing in at just over 13 minutes, is the thinnest texture and is beautifully brought to life by JACK Quartet violinist Austin Wulliman. Like a process of alchemization or gradual descending from sky to earth, the material presented in the first track becomes more solid in its various forms, with wonderfully porous moments along the way, throughout the course of the 71-minute album. This effect of grounding is the result of the movement from more transparent harmonic textures and muted instrumental effects to fuller instrumental timbres and lush harmonies that emerge in the later part of the album.
Each track transitions seamlessly into another, which is a downright feat considering the range of instrumentation and broad cohort of exceptional musicians featured on the album – experimental experts Austin Wulliman, Wild Up, Ensemble Pamplemousse (of which Greenwald is a founding member), and Contemporary Insights. All performers with distinctive sounds. Yet the world Greenwald paints in this album is so specific that, even in moments of structured improvisation across tracks and various subsets, there is an unshakable cohesion.
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