LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy Wants To Harmonize The NYC Subway System

LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy Wants To Harmonize The NYC Subway System

by Danielle Desmond
03.23.2014

Forget LCD Soundsystem. James Murphy wants to integrate an NYC Soundsystem, and a more welcoming one at that.

If you are one of the 5.5 million subway riders who use the city’s transportation system on the daily - you know the drill. You have a love/hate relationship with the subway, but it’s all part of the quintessential “New York” experience. When you enter the subway and swipe your flimsy yellow and blue metro card through the (sometimes stubborn) turnstile, you hear a piercing beep letting you know you can pass through. The Wall Street Journal reports that the current turnstile tones exist to accommodate blind passengers; one beep means go, two beeps means “swipe again,” and the triple tone is for an insufficient fare.

The MTA recently announced that they will be phasing out your flimsy yellow and blue metro card, and replacing it with a more efficient “tap and go” system. Former LCD Soundsystem frontman, James Murphy was inspired by the easy-going sounds of the Tokyo subway and Barcelona airport for his latest project “Subway Symphony.” Murphy’s idea is to program the new hardware, in accordance with the MTA's new system, with a more pleasant tone, creating a nicer environment and perhaps making your commute a little less loathsome. Each turnstile in a station would be harmonically tuned, so as a station gets busier, the music would sound more full, and more like a symphony.

Murphy explains: “What I propose to do is to create a series of 3 to 5 note sequences, all unique, one for each station in the subway system. These sequences will be part of an intersecting larger piece of music, which would run from station to station, and cross one another as, say, the 4, 5, 6 line (one musical piece) intersects with the L, N, R, Q and W (another musical piece) at Union Square.  At each turnstile in Union Square, as you tap your new tap and ride card, a pleasant bell tone will sound, in one of a set of possible notes, all related to that station’s note sequence.  The effect would be that at the busiest times, like rush hour, what was once cacophony would now be music.” 

The MTA told The Journal that “we really don’t care” about the unpleasant subway sound system, saying it the dissonance is caused by a “natural technical variation.” Adam Lisberg, an MTA spokesman, did say that Murphy’s plan “is a very cool idea,” and that he isn’t the first person to propose the idea. The NYC subway system has 3,289 turnstiles, and taking each one out of service for fine-tuning isn’t something the MTA wants to do, “for an art project,” Lisberg said. 

If you are interested, you can sign the petition here  to help make Subway Symphony happen. 

Also, you can hear what Murphy's project would sound like in the video below, courtesy of The Wall Street Journal



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