Percussionist-Composer Alex Cline to Release OCEAN OF VOWS This March
Percussionist-composer Alex Cline's new double CD, Oceans of Vows (Cryptogramophone Records) is slated for release on March 10, 2017.
A deluxe box set of music drawing inspiration from four poems by Buddhist teacher Thic Nhat Hanh, together with excerpts from the Avatamsaka Sutra, it's performed by Cline and his all-star 14-piece Flower Garland Orchestra, featuring Nels Cline, Yuka C. Honda, Areni Agbabian, G.E. Stinson, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Jeff Gauthier and many other top names of the L.A. creative music community. Proceeds from the sale of the box set will be donated to the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation.
Made possible by a grant from the Shifting Foundation, the full-concert-length Ocean of Vows was composed and recorded over three quarters of 2015; it premiered at Cal State Northridge's Valley Performing Arts Center on October 11, 2015.
"I had wanted to set Thich Nhat Hanh's poetry to music for a long time," says Cline. "One of the things that prevented it before -- other than having a solid opportunity/excuse to do it -- was that I was rather daunted by many of the poems' length, something that is rather funny if one compares them with the length of the Avatamsaka Sutra -- they're microscopic by comparison!"
Consisting of two parts, each composed of five movements and each lasting close to one hour, the work is structured around textual and wordless vocal parts performed by vocalist Areni Agbabian. The intermittent appearance of a large temple bell introduces the work's 10 sections, which, calming to scorching to cloudy points in-between, expand and contract in subtle streams of disposition and aspiration.
Cline envisaged the piece as being performed by "a mirror-image electric ensemble where there are two of many things -- two guitars, two keyboards, two percussion, along with other added elements."
As conducted by Vicki Ray, there is a Takemitsu-ish greenness in Cline's orchestration of his and Brad Dutz's percussive maelstroms and brush-bys, Nels Cline and GE Stinson's exultant/watchful guitars, Chi Li's twining erhu, zhonghu, zheng and qin, Jeff Gauthier, Maggie Parkins and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson's strings, Will Salmon's wisping/serpentine flutes and Yuka C. Honda and Wayne Peet's sampled voices and spacious electric keyboards.
At 19 minutes-plus, the episodic, multisectional "A Flash of Lightning" is the lengthiest track among the album's time-stretching/condensing sections, and a particularly thrilling product of Cline's half-composed/half-spontaneous creative process, which extended to several movements requiring singer Agbabian to improvise textual vocal sections.