Gregg Kowalsky: Tendrils in Vigne

In the Mills College Contemporary Performance Ensemble, Gregg Kowalsky certainly found a sympathetic set of interpretive voices to realize the orchestrated transcription of his electronic piece (and graduate thesis project) Tendrils In Vigne. Under the directorship of Fred Frith, the ensemble is a twenty-five member group that includes Shakuhachi, synthesizer, and guitar players in addition to the expected string, brass, and woodwind instruments. In this April 2, 2005 performance, ascending and descending patterns of flutes and voices interlock in intricate, dream-like counterpoint while horns and vibraphone punctuate the mellifluous mass, jolting it awake. Halfway through, cymbal splashes briefly boost the intensity before the whole settles once again into its slow-motion sway. A final surprise is the muted Milesian flourish that brings the twelve-minute piece to a close. A shame, though, that the album (available in a 300-copy run) includes nothing on its reverse side. Despite the fact that the electronic version of the piece has been shelved, how interesting it would have been to compare Kowalsky's original laptop rendition with the orchestrated one.

March 2008