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A World Of Live Music, Captured With Pen And Paper

While photographers click and shoot their way through live concerts, capturing the best moments in fractions of seconds, illustrator Michael Arthur prefers to preserve the highlights at what some might consider glacial speed, using pen and ink.

  • The Wu-Force (Soundcheck): "This is a warm-up drawing about warming up. I've known the visionary banjo player, singer-songwriter Abigail Washburn for a good while, having first met her at Joe's Pub where I draw a lot of performers, so it felt right to start the day with her and her current collaborators." --Illustrator Michael Arthur
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    The Wu-Force (Soundcheck): "This is a warm-up drawing about warming up. I've known the visionary banjo player, singer-songwriter Abigail Washburn for a good while, having first met her at Joe's Pub where I draw a lot of performers, so it felt right to start the day with her and her current collaborators." --Illustrator Michael Arthur
    Michael Arthur for NPR
  • Hassan Hakmoun (Soundcheck): "Wandering around the venue, I ran into Sayeed Damir, a friend of the musician Hassan Hakmoun, who was sound-checking. Damir's rapt attention struck me as interesting. Turns out he was just there to enjoy the night, like me, and got a little extra time in with the music before the show started." --Illustrator Michael Arthur
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    Hassan Hakmoun (Soundcheck): "Wandering around the venue, I ran into Sayeed Damir, a friend of the musician Hassan Hakmoun, who was sound-checking. Damir's rapt attention struck me as interesting. Turns out he was just there to enjoy the night, like me, and got a little extra time in with the music before the show started." --Illustrator Michael Arthur
    Michael Arthur
  • Tshepho Pietersz (Soundcheck): "A little while before doors opened for the night, I found myself in the Marlin Room across from Tshepho, a drummer from the Caribbean band Kuenta i Tambu (KiT). Biding his time before the show, he idly warmed up his wrist, hitting his thigh with his drum stick while browsing his phone." --Illustrator Michael Arthur
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    Tshepho Pietersz (Soundcheck): "A little while before doors opened for the night, I found myself in the Marlin Room across from Tshepho, a drummer from the Caribbean band Kuenta i Tambu (KiT). Biding his time before the show, he idly warmed up his wrist, hitting his thigh with his drum stick while browsing his phone." --Illustrator Michael Arthur
    Michael Arthur
  • Como Mamas: "During their soundcheck, Como Mamas just walked out onto the stage and started singing. Usually, soundchecks are meticulous run-throughs of every microphone and every instrument, but they simply stood there and started harmonizing. I enjoyed getting lost in that slightly discordant — and completely uplifting — sound." --Illustrator Michael Arthur
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    Como Mamas: "During their soundcheck, Como Mamas just walked out onto the stage and started singing. Usually, soundchecks are meticulous run-throughs of every microphone and every instrument, but they simply stood there and started harmonizing. I enjoyed getting lost in that slightly discordant — and completely uplifting — sound." --Illustrator Michael Arthur
    Michael Arthur
  • Brushy One-String: "Brushy One-String was both the toughest drawing for me and probably the roughest ride of the evening for a performer. Early in his set, Brushy One-String's one string broke and he had to resort to a six-string guitar which took some frantic scrambling. He was frustrated and apologetic." --Illustrator Michael Arthur
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    Brushy One-String: "Brushy One-String was both the toughest drawing for me and probably the roughest ride of the evening for a performer. Early in his set, Brushy One-String's one string broke and he had to resort to a six-string guitar which took some frantic scrambling. He was frustrated and apologetic." --Illustrator Michael Arthur
    Michael Arthur
  • The Bombay Royale: "When I started this sketch, I was watching the way the saxophonist had his arm outstretched. I built the drawing around that gesture. I should add that musicians wearing great costumes make my work a lot more fun." --Illustrator Michael Arthur
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    The Bombay Royale: "When I started this sketch, I was watching the way the saxophonist had his arm outstretched. I built the drawing around that gesture. I should add that musicians wearing great costumes make my work a lot more fun." --Illustrator Michael Arthur
    Michael Arthur
  • The Wu-Force: "After The Bombay Royale, I returned to the Marlin Room to catch The Wu-Force's set. I ended up positioned behind Abigail Washburn and sort of got lost in her lit-up hair. I love looking past a musician at an audience. It's a unique perspective, and I'm grateful that I get to experience it as often as I do." --Illustrator Michael Arthur
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    The Wu-Force: "After The Bombay Royale, I returned to the Marlin Room to catch The Wu-Force's set. I ended up positioned behind Abigail Washburn and sort of got lost in her lit-up hair. I love looking past a musician at an audience. It's a unique perspective, and I'm grateful that I get to experience it as often as I do." --Illustrator Michael Arthur
    Michael Arthur
  • Hassan Hakmoun: "I could barely get in the Studio door for Hassan Hakmoun's set. The tight space of the Studio room gets hot, steamy and packed at globalFEST, so I made my way along the back wall and drew the only thing I could see over the crowd, which, luckily enough, happened to be Hakmoun." --Illustrator Michael Arthur
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    Hassan Hakmoun: "I could barely get in the Studio door for Hassan Hakmoun's set. The tight space of the Studio room gets hot, steamy and packed at globalFEST, so I made my way along the back wall and drew the only thing I could see over the crowd, which, luckily enough, happened to be Hakmoun." --Illustrator Michael Arthur
    Michael Arthur
  • DakhaBrakha: "I was struck by the cello player nearest me at stage left (and the amazing Cossack-like hats they all wore) and gave myself the challenge of capturing her face and the relationship she had to her instrument. This is a drawing that, for me, really flowed from the music." --Illustrator Michael Arthur
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    DakhaBrakha: "I was struck by the cello player nearest me at stage left (and the amazing Cossack-like hats they all wore) and gave myself the challenge of capturing her face and the relationship she had to her instrument. This is a drawing that, for me, really flowed from the music." --Illustrator Michael Arthur
    Michael Arthur
  • Noura Mint Seymali: "I really loved the way that the Ardine and the electric guitar blended together in Noura Mint Seymali's set. It was the perfect inspiration as I played with the colorful folds and patterns of Seymali's robes." --Illustrator Michael Arthur
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    Noura Mint Seymali: "I really loved the way that the Ardine and the electric guitar blended together in Noura Mint Seymali's set. It was the perfect inspiration as I played with the colorful folds and patterns of Seymali's robes." --Illustrator Michael Arthur
    Michael Arthur
  • KiT: "This drawing ended up being almost caricature-like, which I was initially worried about. This speaks to my process: I got lost and danced a little, lost control a bit and it all worked out okay." --Illustrator Michael Arthur
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    KiT: "This drawing ended up being almost caricature-like, which I was initially worried about. This speaks to my process: I got lost and danced a little, lost control a bit and it all worked out okay." --Illustrator Michael Arthur
    Michael Arthur
  • Fanfare Ciocarlia: "I wanted to draw a larger scene that showed a bigger story. It helped that the musicians were all wearing black and red. For some reason, I fixated on a trumpet player at the stage front and sketched my way back and around from him." --Illustrator Michael Arthur
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    Fanfare Ciocarlia: "I wanted to draw a larger scene that showed a bigger story. It helped that the musicians were all wearing black and red. For some reason, I fixated on a trumpet player at the stage front and sketched my way back and around from him." --Illustrator Michael Arthur
    Michael Arthur
  • Yasmine Hamdan: "Hamdan's music was more seductive than what I had been enjoying in the last couple of sets. I ended up on the side of the stage, watching the contrast of Hamdan's dark black hair and outfit and the small bits of color and light I could see in the room." --Illustrator Michael Arthur
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    Yasmine Hamdan: "Hamdan's music was more seductive than what I had been enjoying in the last couple of sets. I ended up on the side of the stage, watching the contrast of Hamdan's dark black hair and outfit and the small bits of color and light I could see in the room." --Illustrator Michael Arthur
    Michael Arthur
  • Baloji: "This drawing began with the image of Baloji down on his knees. But when he rose and kicked his leg towards the horn section, I wanted to do more, so I embraced the challenge of trying to catch a few more of his moves in the drawing. When Baloji raised his hand and had the crowd do the same, it felt like the natural way to end the drawing." - Illustrator Michael Arthur
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    Baloji: "This drawing began with the image of Baloji down on his knees. But when he rose and kicked his leg towards the horn section, I wanted to do more, so I embraced the challenge of trying to catch a few more of his moves in the drawing. When Baloji raised his hand and had the crowd do the same, it felt like the natural way to end the drawing." - Illustrator Michael Arthur
    Michael Arthur
  • Sergio Mendoza y la Orkesta: "I loved the frills of featured vocalist Salvador Duran's sleeves — they were too perfect not to draw. I finished this one just in time to enjoy the band's cover of Fleetwood Mac's "'Tusk.' It was a perfect way to end a night of unexpected surprises, both visual and musical." --Illustrator Michael Arthur
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    Sergio Mendoza y la Orkesta: "I loved the frills of featured vocalist Salvador Duran's sleeves — they were too perfect not to draw. I finished this one just in time to enjoy the band's cover of Fleetwood Mac's "'Tusk.' It was a perfect way to end a night of unexpected surprises, both visual and musical." --Illustrator Michael Arthur
    Michael Arthur

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Of course, Arthur's methods aren't slow at all. In fact, he has to move pretty quickly to get a moment down before it passes. If you attended last weekend's GlobalFEST gathering in New York, you might have seen him off to the side, furiously drawing and preserving the most inspiring moments from the dozen-plus bands that played the festival.

We'll feature some of our favorite discoveries from GlobalFEST 2014 on this week's of All Songs Considered. We've also got full concerts and samples to hear from most of the bands that performed. But in the meantime, check out the gallery above, featuring Michael Arthur's work.

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