Songs of the Buddha
Michael Barry and Laughing Buddha Records make music that makes a difference
6 March 2007
Michael Barry has been making significant contributions to
the NYC music scene for years. A performer proficient on
electric, acoustic, and classical guitars, he's also the
owner of the International Studio of Music, President of
the NYC Classical Guitar Society, and founder of Laughing
Buddha Records. His latest CD on the label is titled Night
Wheel, a CD of international lullabies. It's not just good
music — since proceeds from the album sales go to
Tibet Aid's Precious Seeds Fund, it also does good.
Urban Guitar: Can you tell me how this album came about?
Michael Barry: My executive producer, Rex Niswander, and
I had been talking about it for over a year. We both felt
there was some rich material to arrange, and it seemed
there were few albums that appealed to adults as well
as children. It always was put on the back burner until
we met up with the folks at Tibet Aid. Then the wheels
started turning, and the idea of the charity tie-in was
born. As soon as that was set, things moved quickly.
Urban Guitar: What interested you in working on an album such as this?
Michael Barry: Well, first of all the material. I'm a
big fan of world music, and I'm always on the lookout
for music with imagery and a soulful quality. These are
beautiful pieces of music. A far cry from "Rock-a-bye baby"
Secondly, arranging music for the excellent players I work
with is always a thrill. There's nothing like that first
run through when you hear your work played back to you.
Last and definitely not least, the idea of doing music that
had a direct effect on needy children was compelling.
I had been toying with the idea of recasting the label,
Laughing Buddha Records, in a new light whereby music can
contribute directly to the needs of our world, and here
was the perfect way to start.
Urban Guitar: What are some of the problems that children in Tibet face?
Michael Barry: Tibetan kids are faced with a multitude
of problems. They are often orphans resulting from the
occupation and all the violence that came with it.
In hopes of giving them a better life, parents frequently
give their children away to other Tibetans who escape to
India and eventually to other parts of the world. These
children are sometimes alone or in orphanages, and they
are separated from their culture and families. They need
all the basics: food, clothing, shelter, education and
hope for a better life.
Urban Guitar: Can you tell me about the Precious Seeds Fund?
Michael Barry: The fund, which is a program of Tibet Aid,
supplies orphaned or impoverished children with basic
necessities of food, clothing and education. It also helps
to keep their Tibetan culture alive in their hearts through
keeping them involved in learning and activities that are
Urban Guitar: How did you choose the repertoire for the album?
Michael Barry: There was so much to choose from once
I started looking. The hardest part was choosing what
was not going to make it on to the album. I searched
both contemporary and traditional recordings and sheet
music. My main criteria was that it had to have a feeling
of what I call "Global Soul" and/or a sense of place or
atmosphere. Plus it had to be relaxing for the children and
something that Mom and Dad would like to listen to as well,
and the album as a whole needed a certain flow.
Urban Guitar: Your arrangements are really nice- how did you choose the instrumentation and structure for these pieces?
Michael Barry: Arranging for me is just a matter of
listening to what's in my mind and then getting it down
on paper. If there is a slide guitar echoing around in my
head, then that's what goes down on the page. I really
try to believe in what I hear and try to refocus it and
listen deeper. Although I'm an educated musician, I never
break out the arranging books to check on my ideas. If it
sounds right, it is right. The combination of my classical
training and my years spent playing world music seems to
work for me. I like to keep it simple, and I still use
pencil and staff paper for everything.
Urban Guitar: There are a few surprises as well, such
as Goodnight by Lennon/McCartney — why did you choose
to include it on this album?
Michael Barry: I always try to include a nod to my heroes
on all my albums. This was such a pretty tune. I hope Sir
Urban Guitar: Your composition, "Night Wheel," is beautiful.
Michael Barry: Night Wheel was an attempt to capture a
feeling of cosmic peace that I used to feel when I was a
child. I was blessed with an idyllic childhood, and I spent
all my summers out on the north shore of Long Island. I
used to lie on the beach at night and fall asleep while
watching the stars turn overhead. The night sky seemed like
a big wheel, and it produced a hypnotic state, much like
a lullaby. Night Wheel was written with that image in mind.
Urban Guitar: Is there a piece on the album that you
are particularly proud of?
Michael Barry: I'm proud of the concept more than anything,
although I really love the Celtic stuff, especially Garten
Urban Guitar: Will Laughing Buddha records continue
to do albums such as this one that benefit the greater
Michael Barry: Absolutely. We have a new artist coming
to the label — Haley Ackerman, a harpist from New
Mexico. I'm working on my next CD already, and we're
looking for additional artistes as we go along. For
me, I think I've found what the Buddhists call "right
Urban Guitar: Anything else you'd like to add?
Michael Barry: If you are true to your music and focus your
dreams where they will do the most good, you can't miss!
Contact Michael at