June 2014

June 2014


Billy Friebele translates the bustle of the U Street corridor into abstract images and sound in U Street Chromatic (for Duke) with an opening reception on Saturday, June 28 from 7-9 pm. 

In U Street Chromatic (for Duke), Billy Friebele pays homage to Duke Ellington's Soda Fountain Rag, an improvisational piano composition inspired by the mechanical motions of a soda fountain machine. First played at the Poodle Dog Cafe on the 2000 block of Georgia Avenue, Soda Fountain Rag carried traces of what would become defining characteristics of Ellington's musical style: spontaneity, improvisation and the ability to translate impressions into sound.

On the 100th anniversary of the creation of Soda Fountain Rag, Friebele honors the jazz great with an interactive drawing and sound-making machine. Planted in locations along the U Street Corridor that were important to Duke Ellington's artistic evolution, Friebele's playful machine translates the motion of passers by into sound and abstract images using sonar sensors. The result is a 21st century interpretation of Ellington's DC roots in Friebele's hallmark style.

Billy Friebele is a multi-media artist working in the DC metro region.  A former musician, Friebele's artwork has been exhibited nationally and internationally in locations including the Space and Flow Conference in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Open Source Gallery in Brooklyn, NY, the Orlando Museum of Art in Orlando, FL and Art Currents Institute in Chelsea, NY.

Billy Friebele | Artist Statement
I was born in this city; I have watched it change continuously over the course of my life. As transformations occur, new histories are created, and the past is covered over by time. We try to memorialize the important figures with murals and statues, but these frozen monuments do not tell the rich history of this place.

I often try to imagine what it would be like to walk this neighborhood before the riots, when it was affectionately called “Black Broadway.” Reading about Duke Ellington’s experience of the segregated city, the pool halls, the theaters, and the music made me think of the stories that exist under all of these new buildings. Time has a way of washing all of this away.

Duke Ellington has always been an inspirational figure for me. I was a musician before I became an artist, and I have always been interested in the way his compositions capture a fleeting impression of the people and spaces he experienced.

The work in this show was created using sonar sensors to absorb the current rhythms of U Street, translating them into mechanical beats and digital drawings. These rhythms are abstract, chance compositions that echo the rhythms of the street. I chose to honor Duke by creating ephemeral, time-based interactions not to hold onto the past, but to focus on the relentless passage of time and the transient nature of our city.


click here to download a copy of the press release



June 28 – August 2, 2014  

Opening Reception:
Saturday, June 28
7-9 pm

Artist Talk:
Tuesday, July 8
7 pm

Hamiltonian Artists:
Billy Friebele