Grace Unbound is inspired by the performance of Amazing Grace by Aretha Franklin, recorded at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, California on January 13, 1972. The piece is in no way an attempt to recreate this historic moment, as it is unrepeatable. However, Grace Unbound was inspired by the cohesive tightness of the gospel choir and keyboardists, and their sensitive yet powerful interactions with Franklin. The ensemble was able to maintain this tight cohesion, while also performing with unbounded rhythmic freedom, simultaneously. Much of this 16 minute version of Amazing Grace was unmetered, with phrases and rhythmic pulses seamlessly emerging and fading, like waves.
In Grace Unbound, the melodic and rhythmic techniques often heard in the music of the Balkans and Northern Ghana are performed alongside the aspects of the rhythmic freedom found in the Amazing Grace recording. Grace Unbound includes asymmetrical meters and melodic ornamentation techniques commonly heard in music of the Balkans, while also including polyrhythmic grooves that can be felt in multiple meters, often found in the music of Northern Ghana. These elements emerge and fade into one another and are meant to convey a combined sense of tight cohesion and unbound rhythmic freedom, simultaneously. In a similar way to Franklin’s performance of Amazing Grace, Grace Unbound asks musicians to at times become unbound from a specific pulse, relying on the interactions between melodic lines to maintain cohesion, and at other times, transition together into joyful, polyrhythmic grooves.