Sunday, February 24, 2008

Spinning a Webb with 14-strings On Something Fretless

Michelle Webb & Susan Alcorn/John Berndt & Melisa Putz @ The Red Room, Baltimore, MD
Saturday, February 23, 2008

John Berndt: saxophones, electronics
Melisa Putz: movement

Michelle Webb: guitars, effects
Susan Alcorn: pedal steel guitar

At her MySpace page, Michelle Webb answers the "sounds like" column with a Sonny Sharrock quote that describes her sound beautifully:
Remember that your improvisation must have feeling. It must swing and it must have beauty, be it the fragile beauty of a snowflake or the terrible beauty of an erupting volcano. Beauty--no matter how disturbing or how still--is always true. Don't be afraid to let go of the things you know. Defy your weaker, safer self. Create. Make music.
At the Red Room, Webb's improvisation was hot lava, a liquid of sound that filled every corner of the room that threatened to overwhelm and envelope every ear along with Susan Alcorn's pedal steel guitar. Fed through an impressive chain of effects pedals, even the electric signal of unplugging one guitar in favor of another became a stark oceanic texture of delays and signal modulation.

For her part, Susan Alcorn was the more reserved contributor to the long-form improvisation that unfolded in waves. Adeptly finding pockets of space to place her sound, the sliding microtones of the pedal steel added to the harmonic richness hanging in the air. Over the span of the set, the drive to "create" and "make music" was passionately and abundantly clear with a sound one could gleefully become lost within.

The opening set featured the cross-disciplinary interchange of sound and movement. The physical and kinetic presence of Melisa Putz often working in counterpoint to the staccato textures formed by John Berndt's electronics and saxophone. At times the relationship of accompaniment and foreground felt reversed as the sounds were supported by and responsive to the dance. The deliberate, confident performance from each collaborator maintained a taut expressiveness throughout the two short, unpredictable pieces that made up the first set.

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