Edward Szala might be one of the biggest mysteries of the New York subway. People know him almost ubiquitously:
“Oh, at Union Square? Yeah, him. The guy with the fiddle.”
Despite his constant presence, or perhaps because of it, their knowledge of him is almost always stained by his…
After a brief hiatus, the next Soundtrack Subterranea is up! I bet y’all recognize Edward Szala and his, ahem, distinguished sound from Union Square.
Soundtrack Subterranea #8: The Masked Man
Cory Hoover approaches his perch in the Metropolitan Ave. G station like any other busker, first setting down an acoustic guitar and putting out an upturned hat, making sure to lay down some seed cash.
To commuters who have yet to snake their way from the Lorimer L platform to where Cory performs he is just another busker, a folksy singer making his way through the scraps of bohemian New York. That is, until he comes into full view — until they see his golden mask and leopard print kaftan.
“I don’t want to live in the shadow of the beats or anything. I have this image of this art piece. It’s a flame, an eternal flame, it’s constantly burning, and it’s a pile of Jack Kerouac books.”
VIDEO: Evan Van Kouwenberg sings the Beatles’ “With a Little Help from My Friends” in the subway after being accosted by a man on painkillers (probably).
Soundtrack Subterranea #7: Echo
The time edges past 10 PM, and Jay still croons to a silent subway station. Above, Canal Street is just as still, the occasional traveler slinking quietly through the NQR station’s labyrinthine passageways trying to make sense of the elaborate station design. Tonight, Jay makes his stage in the hallway that splits the N and Q trains between their uptown and downtown lines.
From anywhere outside this hallway, Jay’s acoustic guitar is barely audible, but the moment one turns the corner into his territory, the airy, transparent strumming meets Jay’s honeyed warble and song takes flight. In his deflated guitar bag, only a few dollars. But as Jay puts it, money isn’t the reason he picked his spot out tonight.
“I’m kind of obsessed with practice, if that makes sense,” he says. “I just come down here to practice sometimes. There’s really cool energy in this station — can you feel it? A really mellow mood.”
Soundtrack Subterranea #7 is up! Jay and I swapped stories about California. He told me he moved there because of someone he loved, leaving ambiguous what kind of love that was.
"Love will make you do some fucked up shit," he told me.
Soundtrack Subterranea #6: Ukulele Underground
Evan Van Kouwenberg’s sound rests on a needle-width divide between two deeply unalike tones: that of his instrument — a ukulele strum as frail as the bones of a baby bird, and his voice — a soul that resonates with the sweeping weight of a forming hurricane.
It’s an odd combination, ukulele and soul covers, but the notes harmonize for Evan. “I can’t play guitar,” he says, chuckling. “I feel like you can play any song on an ukulele. It doesn’t matter. It’s all just chords, y’know?”
"Do you have any longterm plans?"
"Nah, I mean, I’m a free spirit. I don’t really set down any plans… I guess I’d like to be some kind of famous musician sometime, I dunno."
After a brief hiatus (sickness, parents, vacation, life) Soundtrack Subterranea is back on track this week with Evan Van Kouwenberg.