Greg Haines - Until the Point of Hushed Support [Sonic Pieces - 2010]
Greg Haines’ second album, ‘Until the Point of Hushed Support’, was developed over the past three years that saw the young composer relocate from England to Berlin. It is his first score-based composition, having previously worked as both a solo recording artist on his first album, Slumber Tides, and a live performer in many collaborative improvised projects.
The score was played by a small group of musicians in Berlin’s Grünewald Church, a place introduced to Haines by Nils Frahm (who plays the church’s piano on the album) due to its superior acoustic properties endowing the album with a consistently bright, natural reverb. The place of worship also underwrites a dramatic narrative that seems less a requiem for the dead than a mass to heal those left dealing with loss.
The first and shortest movement, “Industry vs. Inferiority”, casts off the gentlest of piano notes very gradually, one at a time, into a subdued air that highlights their tender trails, laying a fragile and shy yet reverential opening to the second movement, “Marc’s Descent”. Here, violin and cello continue the devout delivery, but with a new taught boldness, accompanied by the intoning of a deep contrabass, and spare, ritualistic percussion that combine in a slow, majestic procession. The tone pool left behind flows into the third movement, “In the Event of a Sudden Loss”, joined by eddies of crystallophonics swirling together with sympathetic strings. Percussive bell-like notes then form a melodic passage like light raindrops falling from the sky onto branch, then leaf, and ultimately to earth as the violin stabs and darts angrily in between, before settling into long sad tonal layers that eventually dissolve into the ether. The final movement, “Until the Point of Least Resistance”, seems to provide the morning to “…Sudden Loss”’s intense night. Starting with a wheezing echo of what could be air through cracks in an old building, a solo female voice rises soothingly, radiating across a fervent layer of overtones from a warm church organ. The string quintet returns, but this time healed of any violence, to describe a new day, optimistic and fertile, while respectfully enshrining the past in its memory.
A solemn balance between celestial and mortal is struck across the four movements, which strongly recall the untouchable heights of Arvo Pärt’s holy minimalism, one of Haines’ major influences. Through a subtle blending of orchestral instrumentation with pre-recorded processed sounds, Greg Haines has formed a moving, site-specific symphony that sees him emerge triumphantly as a confident voice in modern classical composition.Russell Cuzner