Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Topical Music - Guitar and vocals: Freddy Harrington

Interview with Freddy Harrington

Songs: California, France, Lollipop Lover, Sweden, Ice Cream Lovers, New Mexico, Japan

Songs: St. Keats, Illinois, Spanish Love Song, Green Ice Cream, Long Island, "You Are So Beautiful", We Love Trevor, Ohio

Artist: Freddy Harrington
Medium: Small guitar and vocals
Location: Battery Park on Statue of Liberty ferry line

Dobre utra, jenouble, bonjour, bonjourno, buenoziwe, good morning. Freddy Harrington starts by saying hello in every language because he’s connecting with the world. “Too many people don’t understand that we are all the same under the sun so we limit ourselves by language.” For Mr. Harrington, though language is no barrier and he believes language shouldn’t be a barrier for anyone anymore because language is on the internet.

Freddy comes from Trinidad and Tobago and first came to the US on a track scholarship to Jackson State University. After graduating in 1987, he returned to the US in 1988 because he is fascinated by New York. “New York is unique because it gives you a chance to become…become whatever you want.”

When he first arrived in the city, Freddy recounts that his music was for survival. Now Mr. Harrington, a US citizen, does his music on the side and teaches high school science for a living. “It’s one of the most rewarding things I can do because I can take this experience from out here, and share it with students in school.” Most of the students, he explains, won’t be able to go to different countries anytime soon. Freddy, then, takes the experiences he has with people from all over the world while performing and brings that into the classroom. This allows them to “project their imaginations and see how big the world really is [but also] how really small it can be if you know anything about it.”

Freddy actually came up with his geographically based concept for songs when he was trying to teach his daughter geography. In his basement, he recalls, there is a map of the United States. To teach his daughter, he created an electronic game based on state nicknames and facts. He also finds inspiration in weather reports, stating that there is a lot of information about the world away in them and that it is very important to take information from everything around you.

Freddy’s father gave him his first guitar when was very small and he’s never stopped playing it. His current one is about 20 years old. Although he always enjoyed playing music he “didn’t realize that one day [he] was going to take this and make something out of it.” Indeed, Freddy does not play for the money and does not plan to make a career. Instead, he comes out for fun. He enjoys performing because he gets to meet all the people of the world. It’s about meeting people; “nothing serious.” Freddy is adamant that “this is not work.” He says it cannot be work because if it were work he would not enjoy it. “It’s not based on money it’s based on fun. If you are having fun you will be rewarded for having fun.”

Like what you hear? Need to teach your kid geography or science? Contact Freddy

 Subscribe in a reader

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Shred Violin: Michael Shulman

Michael playing

A short clip of Michael playing

A short clip of Michael playing

Michael discusses how he got into violin and shred

Michael discusses his work and his music

Artist: Michael Shulman
Medium: Electric Violin
Location: Union Square Station by the entrance to the downtown Q (playing), Herald Square park (interview)

Michael Shulman brings his unique shred violin to New York all the way from Moscow, Russia. He has come to New York in search of a career and the chance to play music. What kind of music, you may ask? “The good kind,” he would reply, the kind of music that people like to listen to but that “they can learn something from or enrich their life with – the kind of music that any artist would want to play.”

Although a fantastic violinist and composer now, Michael was not born that way. In fact, although he began studying violin at the age of six, he was not serious about it for many years. Instead, he played on and off without seriously practicing. It was only recently that he started playing regularly and treating his instrument “with the respect it needed.” Michael attributes this change to the progression of life. At one point a person just wants to play and have fun, eventually he may feel that it is time to assert himself and use his talents to attempt to make an impact – this is what Michael’s project is about.

Michael has always been into shred and neo-classical music, ever since his father brought home Yngwie J. Malmsteen’s Trilogy album when he was 12. Although shred/neo-classical can be dark and heavy, Michael believes that there is a version of any style that can appeal everyone. His goal is to bring shred to the masses and, in doing so, he’s not afraid to experiment. Michael believes that composers and artists should not be afraid of mixing styles, not be afraid of making something melodic or something that may sound like “pop.” Instead he feels that music should touch people and that if an artist is not deliberately trying to be esoteric, he/she can accomplish this while remaining true to their art. For instance, although he listens to the darkest, heaviest metal, Michael is still open to inspirations from other art forms, such as classical, pop and rock.

Michael has chosen neo-classical shred as his base because it is intelligent, technically the most challenging and impressive style and sounds beautiful. However, he admits, it’s a challenge to bring this style to the general public. He believes, though, that the style can be appreciated by all; the challenge is to create something “musically complicated and beautiful yet melodic and commercial enough for people to enjoy on a daily basis.”

Michael, of course, composes his own music. He says that each song has to do with something different and each is “very spiritual.” He is 100 percent connected to his music. Michael strives to put his art into a commercial shape so that people who aren’t academics in music can still understand it. “I like to play those notes that are worth it. I try to find those notes that are magical.”

Michael’s current project, Paganini XXI Century, is his opportunity to start from scratch. For the first time he is focusing on himself as a musician and composer instead of playing in other bands. He believes he can bring something new and exciting to the field of music and is “not trying just to create great music but great quality.” Michael is determined to take his time “make [his work] into something special, not just another shred album.” Michael is adamant about the fact that his work is about the music and he does not want the fact that he plays shred on a violin to be a “shtick” or gimmick, “that’s not the point.” Instead, Michael wants to be a great artist and composer, and great music transcends instruments.

Michael takes it one step at a time. His next step is to get financing to make his album properly; he will not release something of a lesser quality just because he has no choice. Michael wants to make a statement with the recording and, right now, needs a break and a certain amount of luck.

Finally, Michael would like to let everyone know to enjoy his music and that he’s very happy to be able to play it for them. He gives thanks to his family and close friends and says that it’s an exciting time in his life and while it is a tough battle he will never give up.

Like what you hear? Check out Michaels Influences
Composition: Bach, Tchaikovsky, Paginini
Guitar: Ritchie Blackmore, Ulric (Uli Jon) Roth, Michael Schenker
Modern neo-classical shred: Yngwie J. Malmsteen, Joseph Satriani, Jason Becker, Steve Vai, Mattias Eklundh, Guthrie Govan, Marty Friedman, Buckethead

Really like what you hear? Get in touch through

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Living Statue: Therisa Barber

Therisa standing still for 5 minutes (just so you know she can do it)

Therisa routine (watch what happens when you give her a dollar)

Interview with Therisa - How she got into miming and what it's like to stand still for hours at a time

Interview with Therisa - What it's like to performs on the streets of New York

Originally uploaded by concretebeat.

Therisa standing in Central Park

Distant Still
Originally uploaded by concretebeat.

A full shot of Therisa

href="" title="photo sharing">
Originally uploaded by concretebeat.

A group of people around Therisa

Originally uploaded by concretebeat.

Therisa taking a bow

Artist: Therisa Barber
Medium: Living statue
Location: Central Park Cedar Hill (Performance), Central Park near 59th St entrance (Interview)

Interestingly, mimes have a lot to say once you get them talking.

Therisa Barber is a ballet dancer from England which, depending on if you recognize a person on point, may or may not be apparent from the video. Therisa has lived in London and Kent but left it all for “the Great White Way” (Broadway to the uninitiated). Unfortunately, “that didn’t work out too well” but Therisa had fallen in love with New York at that point and decided to stay on. After seeing a living statue/mime in the subway she quit her waitressing job and went to go work for him at $7/hr. After about six weeks of understudying he said “why don’t you give it a try?” and a career was born.

Therisa resisted being a statue at first stating that the profession conflicted with her love of dance. After a little harassment from her mentor, though, Therisa came up with a compromise: a living statue on point (standing on its toes as ballerinas do).

Therisa's First day
Therisa set up at Times Square out side of Madame Tussaud's and people were not being to pleasant. After 2 hours she quit and went to Central Park so she could practice. Ironically, Therisa chose the oft-visited Cedar Hill and “all of a sudden, like magic, there were mothers and their children, and their fathers and the dollars were happening and I was like, this is like an absolute miracle…from having zero in my bank account at the end of my first week I had my rent paid.”

Therisa has been miming for 2.5 years and has done it at a variety of venues, including a play, private parties, expos and the New York street. Although a rigorous endeavor, Therisa is nonchalant about the physical stress of standing still for hours saying the first 20 minutes are the hardest but after that "you get into your rhythm." You just sort of stand there and let your thoughts go. You think about your next step in your career and how to improve yourself. She adds that as a performer there’s a certain pride that prevents you from giving up in the middle of a show. However, Therisa has had her share of difficulties including bees landing on her, cops yelling at her and even a fellow in the subway smacking her around with a newspaper.

Despite these hassles, Therisa likes performing on the street. First, she says, aside from a few obnoxious people, New York is an amazing city with a massive turnover of tourism, lots of options and a reputation. Therisa notes that while it’s a bit cliché “if you can please a New Yorker you know you’re a damn good entertainer.” And she knows she's a pleaser because she’s got her own fan base at Cedar Hill. Second, Therisa loves being her own boss and being in charge of every aspect of her own show. She also likes the fact that there’s no barrier between her and the audience except self-control.

Therisa got her start training in ballet at the age of 5 and although the discipline and skills she learned have served to make her a successful and unique living statue routine, she still wants to dance professionally and cites her passion for dance as her inspiration for everything she does. Therisa’s abilities have taken her in many directions, from cruise ships to the stage and 35 different countries. Given this experience Therisa comments that “New York, it’s tough but it’s rewarding…the world of an artist, if you don’t keep growing you get stale. [New York,] I think it makes you grow.” Clearly Therisa has no intention of leaving the city and although she wants to push her career, wants an agent, and wants to move into dancing more than miming she observes “there’s some kind of magic just taking it back to the streets. I think no matter how far I went I would always wanna do just once in a while for fun.”

Friday, April 6, 2007

Classical Electric Guitar: Matthew Nichols

Matthew playing

Interview with Matthew

Artist: Matthew Nichols
Medium: Electric Guitar
Location: 14th St. station on the uptown E platform

Matthew is from Chappaqua, Westchester (that’s upstate NY) and has been studying classical acoustic guitar since before college. He migrated to electric guitar, though, when his “neighbor was threatening to kill [him]” for making noise all night because he could play it with headphones.

Although he started in upstate New York and is now in the City, Matthew has moved around a million times in between and held a variety of jobs. Matthew attended grad school in Milwaukee for steel string guitar but dropped out (and clearly doesn’t need it), lived “in the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania” where he was a garbage man, lived in his car in San Francisco, spent time living in Las Vegas, and eventually returned to upstate NY where he had a “shit job” at a hardware store. It was at his latest stop in upstate NY that he found his true calling. Although Matthew’s friend had asked “why don’t you go play in the train station?” when he was in San Francisco, it wasn’t until he got sick of his job at the hardware store that he decided to give it a shot. So far he’s been giving it a shot for 3 years.

When asked if he likes playing on the street Matthew has this to say:

“when the money’s good I love it, when the money’s not good I hate it. But it’s not only the money. People may think, you know, well, only money makes you happy…but if there’s a crowd around you…and they’re saying you’re the best thing since sliced bread, you know, you feel the love.”

While Matthew enjoys playing for happy crowds in public, he also does gigs – in fact he’s got one coming up in June with Neil Mongrane, a Youtube legend. However, although he likes to play gigs, Matthew finds them a bit of a hassle because you have to get people to show up. Instead, Matthew uses them as more of a supplement to street performing by doing fewer gigs and making them into real events.

Aside from being a great place to perform, Matthew also loves New York because it is a great place to learn. He says he loves the city because there are a lot of great people with whom to study and collaborate as well as access to shows. Although Matthew’s friend avoids this aspect of New York in an attempt to keep his music original, Matthew is happy to take advantage of what New York culture offers and goes to shows all the time.

Like what you hear? Check out
Matthew’s influences - Michael Hedges, Bach, Neil Brauer, Erik Mongrain
His website -

Really like what you hear? Hire Matthew

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Acrylic Paint and Marker: Pesu

Artist: Pesu
Medium: Acrylic paint and marker
Location: Union Square in front of the statue near 14th street

Interview with Pesu

Pesu painting in real time

Pesu's painting sped up

A work in progress
Originally uploaded by concretebeat.

A painting in progress

Pesu with his painting
Originally uploaded by concretebeat.

Pesu with his piece (the tatoo reads "Life is Art")

Pesu is an ex-graffiti artist from Shizoka, Japan, which is near Mt. Fuji. Pesu has left his village and come to New York to gain a reputation as big as his hometown’s mountainous monument.

Pesu taught himself to paint and started working in graffiti after he was inspired by work he saw in Tokyo. Due to an eye injury and various operations, he was unable to pursue a normal education and decided to stick it out with art. Although a lover of graffiti, Pesu laments that now “graffiti sucks” because “the public has killed it.” To compensate, Pesu has moved on to a more legal, but no less inspired form of art.

Now, Pesu does freestyle acrylic painting. He says all of the designs are strictly from his own mind and all his work is completely original. However, Pesu is inspired by his home country and in the painting above has incorporated an homage to Japan in his use of a white background, a red point and stark black lines. Most recently, Pesu has decided to work outside in the street for stimulation/inspiration as well as exposure. This is Pesu’s second attempt at working in public and he says he likes it because he meets all sorts of people who are interested in painting and in his style.

Pesu carries a simple motto with him from Japan, literally. Tattooed on his arm is the phrase “Life is Art,” and he takes that message to people wherever he goes. To Pesu, art is a normal function of life - “painting, anyone can do it, if you can walk, if you can talk…life is art and art is life.”

Like what you see? Contact Pesu and get a painting or check out his website

Really like what you see?
Pesu does live painting sessions at clubs once or twice a month, contact him to find out where his next gig will be