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You probably know about those Corinthian columns from the old Capitol building that are now on display in a rather surreal manner at the National Arboretum. You probably didn’t know that other large chunks of stonework from the renovations of the Capitol were dumped, in a mysteriously arranged square, near the Nature Center in Rock Creek Park. Yesterday, D.C. improviser and Lighthouse curator Layne Garrett, and maybe 60 or so of his collaborators, turned this site—no less surreal a place than the Capitol columns—into a public art space and an engaging, interactive sound installation.

More after the jump.

Each person showed up with a tape player and a cassette containing 30 seconds of recorded… something. Some tapes contained unidentifiable noise; some contained snippets of ghostly melody; at least one contained what sounded like completely stoned-out rambling. These cassettes were looped and their players placed wherever their owners felt like was appropriate for the sound. Soon after 4pm, there were tape players lying on rocks, in crevasses, on the ground, and one hanging from a tree. One particularly inspired combination of tape and location was a tape containing deep, subterranean rumblings, blasting from a boombox placed at the bottom of what looked like a 10-foot-deep dry well (above).

The result of all this was a mysterious place made even stranger and more alluring. The pieces of the old Capitol building became an ever-shifting sound collage that changed with every step the listener took. There were many people wandering around with recording devices, and I hope to hear some of the results, as everyone’s recording will be completely different depending on the direction of their amblings.

Of course, not everyone was affected. A woman walking by with her kids asked what was going on. When told that various musicians had gotten together to create a kind of sound installation at this unique site, the somewhat bewildered response was, “To do what?”

Full set of photos here.