Paul Dresher and Joel Davel (Take Five)

When I read the description for Joel Dresher's performance, it said something about "handmade instruments." Is it bad that I immediately thought he was going to play tissue-box guitars and paper-towel roll flutes?

I'm quite glad that I was dead wrong.

The stage was bursting with three 14-foot mechanical and scientific contraptions. The audience and I could've been on the set of "Star Trek," about to be transported, demolecularized or something else unfathomable. Moreover, from the place I was sitting, I had no clue what I was looking at.

Judging from the demographics, my three friends and I were among the youngest in the crowd. And after the performance, I'm not sure how much the older viewers enjoyed what they heard. You'll understand why soon.

The two performers, Dresher and Joel Davel, had three instruments to use between them; all of which had names that were combined with other words, like "Quadrachord," "Hurdy-Grande" and something else I honestly can't spell but sounded like "Maroon Aluminum." The sounds it produced made even less sense than the name.

I think the Quadrachord proved itself to be the most dynamic instrument in the way it could literally sound like a guitar, a cello or a drum set. This was surprising, considering that it looked like the neck of a guitar multiplied by 10. That's only a small part of the magic that this contraption provides.

The Sounds. Goodness, the sounds that these instruments made were utterly otherworldly. However, what made it crazy was that they didn't sound so abstract that you couldn't hear the music. They created just a true atmosphere in the auditorium. The sounds transported my friends and I into imagining a journey with thunder and lightning, trials and tribulations.

The setting (or perhaps my close seats) made this a very intimate performance. Maybe not just the setting, but the depth of the music gave me such an all-encompassing experience that I felt like I was the star of my own movie in which I was followed around with the appropriate sound effects and music track.

The music was very electronically inclined, so that when I wasn't thinking about my harrowing journey to a volcano (or something like that), I felt like I was guest-starring on the Twilight Zone. Or Star Trek, depending on the pace of the music. That just shows the range of these instruments; they can sound so man made, and then so esoteric and natural. It makes you think: while conventional instruments and Dresher's instruments made very different sounds, they're very similar because science is the reason we can produce both.

This led me to think about the show in a new way. The manner of how these sounds were created, no matter their origin, is what excited and intrigued me. I wanted to learn the science of sound.

At first, it was easy. I could apply what I know about stringed instruments and bows to why the Qudrachord made one sound. But it gradually got harder when I learned how Davel's instrument could affect the sound of that of Dresher's. How does that work? I was just mind-boggled.

In ancient times, scientists and magicians were often grouped into the same category. My inner child came out soon enough and I stopped wondering and just let myself be amazed.

When I think about the performance again, I'm shocked at the diversity of noises I could hear from instruments as complex as computers. I heard a didgeridoo, something like the "Law & Order" theme, an Asian melody, a police siren and a squealing pig. Where on earth does this come from?! It comes from not placing boundaries on your musical expression.

My mind started to wander during the performance and Dresher and Davel kind of transformed in my eyes. If I wanted to give them a contemporary and commonly known equivalent, I would say Dresher was like Eric Clapton for his work on the stringed instrument and Davel was like Phil Collins on his drum-synth machine.

That's a pretty apt description of the groove and rhythm that each performer possessed while they played. They transcended the boundary that would make you think that getting into playing man made instruments isn't pure, but in reality, it is.

I was astonished at how in sync both of them sounded. Their professionalism in teaching themselves how to make these instruments and then teaching themselves how to play them, no less, led me to be very impressed the whole show. They memorized and played three 30-minute songs and even had the capacity to solo a few times.

That just blew my mind.

I must apologize that I can't exactly describe any of what I listened to you. It's simply not possible. So much was going on that I can't easily tell you that this movement caused this sound, or even who, of Davel and Dresher, played which part of the song.

You just had to be there.