Glasser’s Voice Reins Supreme

November 17th, 2010

Glasser – Music Hall of Williamsburg – November 16, 2010

At its most basic level, music is an arrangement of sounds. While instruments range in their capacity to express sound, they’re all equal in terms of functionality, namely to produce sound. Disparate in appearance and mechanics, a piano and the human voice nevertheless share in the same activity when it comes to creating music. Both, through the manipulation of sound waves, change our environment, bringing tone and melody into existence and earshot. This perspective on music is particularly valuable as electronic music continues to push the boundaries of sound and song. Although computerized bleeps feel different than live instrumentation does, it’s worth questioning why this is so given that both simply create sound waves.

For composer and performer Cameron Mesirow, the woman behind the recording alias Glasser, the range of possibility that technology allows for sound is an endless pool of inspiration. Even a cursory listen of Glasser’s debut album, Ring, makes clear that rhythm and melody may vary greatly in their source and means of expression. But the most striking element of Glasser’s music is the primacy of her voice over all other sounds. And on Tuesday night at Music Hall of Williamsburg, Mesirow, backed by three other musicians, showed that sounds, equal in functionality, differ greatly in their emotive capacity.

Dawning a red frock, in striking contrast to her bandmates’ army green jumpsuits, Mesirow announced her presence with a musical introduction. And once she positioned herself behind the glittery sequined microphone, the focus shifted from her outfit to her incredibly expressive voice. During Ring standout “Home,” Mesirow belted out verse and chorus with natural force and grace. Interestingly, her band plays conventional instruments—that is guitar, drums and keyboard, although in turn, the instruments express midi signals that trigger different sounds. Although this effect is jarring at first, it’s certainly better than watching someone bob up and down in front of a laptop. Ultimately, though, Mesirow’s voice transcends the songs she sings. In that sense, singing contributes a quality that electronic sounds will never equal. —Jared Levy