Shodekeh | Image by City Paper Digi-Cam™

The

has always been a place to see weird, creative stuff, but last Saturday, it was also a place to hear some pretty interesting things as well--the "Music & The Brain Salon," a free all-day event of performances, panel discussions, and interactive activities. Still, the announced itinerary for the day looked strangely lopsided, with several attractions overlapping during some time slots, while there were a couple periods when nothing at all appeared to be scheduled for an hour or two. We decided to go check out "Music & The Brain" in mid-afternoon when the most seemed to be going on, and see and hear as much as we could.

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Entering the building, we were immediately confronted by a performance by "one-man concert band" Steve Brewer near the doorway. Brewer, a local often seen performing around town with his complex rig of multiple instruments he plays all at once, has a typical cover band repertoire of classic rock staples like Pink Floyd's "Time." But the simple fact that he can replicate the sound of a full band all by himself, primarily aided by an array of foot pedal-triggered drum sounds that would put Def Leppard to shame, makes his performances a fascinating display.

Moving on to the second floor, the "vegetable instrument workshop" looked pretty interesting, and the children in particular appeared to be having a lot of fun with the activity, learning how to carve small percussion and woodwind instruments out of carrots and potatoes. But rather than get our hands dirty with that, we moved across the hall for a lecture on the art of beatboxing by Baltimore's premiere practitioner of the form,

. For a guy who has pretty much explored the absolute limits of the sounds a human mouth can make, Shodekeh was remarkably patient with his classroom full of amateurs and beatbox virgins. After going around the room and having each person beatbox a couple bars to the best of his or her ability, often to entertainingly awkward results, he singled out volunteers for specific exercises, emphasizing how much work goes into conditioning your breathing to keep a consistent rhythm.

Up on the third floor, the "instrument petting zoo" was mildly disappointing. It was exactly what it was billed as, with real live musical instruments available for anyone who wanted to play with them. But there was nothing exotic or unusual up for grabs, just a piano and a selection of brass and woodwind instruments with which anyone who ever played in school band has probably come into contact, and while folks appeared to be having fun playfully tooting around, there was no threat of a jam session breaking out. And, honestly, though it was nice to be able to jump in and participate, we didn't really get that much entertainment or education out of confirming our suspicion that we have utterly no idea how to get sound out of a flute. Since the next scheduled attraction was more than two hours away, it didn't seem worthwhile to keep the parking meter running to see what else "Music & The Brain" had in store.

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