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Sound Maps of Baltimore

April 25, 2008

Last Saturday, Baltimore hosted a wonderfully unlikely event that meshed music, art, and a gorgeous view of the city at twilight. 387 Feet Above, part of the Festival of Maps mania that has swept the city, is an art exhibit curated by Gary Kachadourian and hosted at the Top of the World observation level at the World Trade Center. In a stroke of brilliant promotion, the opening reception featured a who’s who of local experimental musicians, curated by Geoff Grace, and including Nick Barna, Jay DiLisio, Eric Franklin, Grace, Twig Harper, Yutaka Houlette, Marc Miller, Jared Paolini, City Paper contributor Carly Ptak, Jason Urick, and Jason Willet. Expectedly, there was a great turnout.

The vibe was far removed from your typical concert. There was no stage and no sequential lineup: Instead, the musicians played all at once having set up some distance apart, each in front of (or on) one of the many benches that looked out onto the city. Attendees were free to linger at each station, chat with friends, peruse the art, or merely stare out the tall windows that enclosed the floor on all sides. The soft lighting, subdued chatter, and strange sounds imbued the evening with a mellow reverence.

And, of course, there was the knockout view, likely the main draw for many who would normally avoid the Inner Harbor. From way up there, though, detached from the coarse razzle-dazzle of Hooters and the Hard Rock Café, people clustered, transfixed, at the windows. There was no denying the glamour: the inky Chesapeake Bay, the winking lights, and the sky streaked peachy-orange by the sunset.

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