For decades, music fans have obsessed over Pink Floyd's 1973 masterpiece, "Dark Side of the Moon." It's used as an unofficial soundtrack for "The Wizard of Oz" and performed by countless cover bands. There's a reggae version and even an 8-bit version that would be at home on a Nintendo game.
Now, "Dark Side of the Moon" is getting the Baltimore treatment.
To celebrate next year's 40th anniversary of the landmark album, Baltimore musicians ellen cherry and Sandy Asirvatham have teamed up to create Mobtown Moon, a new interpretation featuring performances from dozens of local players. They've finished about half of the album and are giving a sneak preview Saturday at the Creative Alliance.
"People have said, 'This is music that's been done before and has been covered really well,'" cherry said. "But the purpose is not to make a cover album — the purpose is to reinterpret the music through a different vision and to highlight the lyrics and melody, which are incredibly still relevant today."
The idea for the project came to Asirvatham in 2009, when she listened to "Dark Side of the Moon" while training for the Iron Girl Triathlon.
"I'm the world's slowest runner," she said. "I don't need hip-hop or really fast music to pump me up for the gym. I actually need something that's not going to make me feel too bad for how slow I'm running."
"Dark Side of the Moon," with its plodding grooves and layered instruments, fit the bill. The more Asirvatham, a longtime jazz singer and pianist, listened to it, the more she wanted to toy with the arrangements. She approached cherry, an accomplished indie singer-songwriter she met at a house concert in Howard County, and the two began to hash out the idea.
Mobtown Moon, they decided, would have musicians from all corners of Baltimore's scene. They enlisted Cris Jacobs and Mike Gambone from the roots rock band the Bridge, gospel and blues singer Lea Gilmore, acclaimed classical percussionist Barry Dove and bassoonist Bryan Young, among many.
Asirvatham was particularly keen on bringing classical musicians into the fold.
"A lot of times, the classical folks, you tell them about this project and they're like, 'Pink who?' " she said.
"It's been fun to bring people in who wouldn't have an opportunity to play this music. ... When we cut 'Breathe,' I'm almost certain that's one of the [few] times we've had Peabody, Towson and Morgan State personnel on one music project. There isn't enough interaction that way."
"Dark Side of the Moon" can sit side by side with the classics, though, cherry said.
"Just as if you would listen to Mozart, Beethoven or Bach, you would want to listen to Pink Floyd to educate you about great music — great melodic music," cherry said.
Mobtown Moon has been funded by a Kickstarter campaign and grant money. Asirvatham and cherry are still getting the word out about the project and are pushing for more support in the months leading up to the album's release. They haven't reached out to the surviving members of Pink Floyd yet, but plan to when the project is finished.
"We would like the CD done, we want to have paid for all the licenses — that's key — and then approach them, Asirvatham said. "I've heard Roger Waters is a fan of new takes on his work. It helps line his pocket, so that's part of it. But I think he's genuinely interested."
In the meantime, cherry and Asirvatham are working on this weekend's preview show, as well as a larger concert planned for next year with all of the musicians involved.
They're exploring how to bring artists and other creative Baltimoreans into the fold, and, of course, finishing the album.
"It seemed like something that would be fun to participate in — a nice side project to do," cherry said. "Now my own music has become my side project."
Asirvatham and cherry hope to make their version of "Dark Side of the Moon" different yet familiar.
"I'm fascinated by the people who will hear 'Breathe' or 'Us and Them' and will say, 'I didn't realize that these were the words,' and that inspires them to go back and listen to the original thing," cherry said.
If you go
The Mobtown Moon preview show is Saturday at the Creative Alliance, 3134 Eastern Ave. in Baltimore. Doors open at 8 p.m. and the show starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $18; $13 for members. Call 410-276-1651 or go to creativealliance.org.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun