Sean McCaul, Subway Virtuoso

I’ve seen Sean McCaul play on the Union Square L-train platform three times now, and each time I haven’t had the $10 in cash to buy his (presumably) self-produced CD. I need to put a ten-dollar bill in each of my bags and backpacks and be prepared, Hardy Boys style, to meet risk with success.

I want McCaul’s album because he’s brilliant. I remember coming down the stairs to the platform a couple years ago and being surrounded by soothing noise, rising and descending tones of an ethereal, emotion-made-sonic quality. McCaul plays the vibraphone, a rack of metal bars of specific length that, when struck, emit a note; depending on how you strike the bar and the type of mallet used, it can sound either like a rolling wall of noise, liquid and intermingling, or a staccato, if mellow, sort of polyphonic drum. I’ve only ever heard vibes played on a Miles Davis album before McCaul.

He is a slight, calm presence on the stewing chaos of the platform. I remember a black t-shirt with black jeans and work boots, eyes on his vibes unless someone drops a bill into his case and then he’ll nod his thanks. His eyes bespoke concentration and an interior peace I can only imitate. I assume he plays his own compositions. His music moves quickly but unhurriedly to cover a range of moods, and he uses space to fine dramatic effect. There is also a narrative quality to his music. I get the sense, more immediate and vivid than another instrument, that he’s telling me a story that takes place over a period of years.

Poking around the internets, I found a lone video of McCaul at work. Unfortunately, it cuts off before his stream-of-consciousness mellowification can build to full effect, alas. I hope to see him again soon, and this time have $10 in my wallet.


2 responses to “Sean McCaul, Subway Virtuoso

  1. Success! On the evening of May 13 at approximately 8:30 PM teh Scribblerist obtained McCaul’s cd, “Alone.”

    Thank you, loyal readers, for your support in this difficult time.

  2. Sean: Hi enjoyed your music! Your dad Jim & I are first cousins. look up on google; see your cousin also in NYC , my son Andrew Mccaul Photography. Andrew & his wife Sarma also enjoyed your music in brooklyn last year. You have another cousin Elizabeth Mc Caul, also listed on Google.Elizabeth is in the finance end of wall street. Keep up the good work! Gene mc Caul, Cherry Hill NJ

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