If you've ever ridden on the New York City subway, you know that — between its ugly beeps and loud announcements (mostly of bad news) — it can be a sonically abrasive experience. Now, James Murphy, the former frontman of LCD Soundsystem, wants to change that. If he gets his way, the subway could start sounding like this:
The longtime New Yorker — whose music makes plenty of references to the wonder and difficulty of living in the city (see: "New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down") — has a plan for beautifying the underground experience. Murphy, a self-described "subway geek," has been thinking about the plan for 15 years and believes now is the time to act.
The idea, which he calls "Subway Symphony," is a pretty amazing. On the website for his project — where he's also posted a petition — he writes that he'd create "a series of 3 to 5 note sequences, all unique, one for each station in the subway system." It'd all amount to a city-wide piece of art — each line intersecting not just in route but also in sound, creating a massive symphony of movement and music.
We imagine New York would start to sound and feel sort of like this:
Murphy's plan would definitely make the subway a more pleasant experience (it'd be hard to do worse than the current shrill beeping noise). But it also plays on the power sound holds in our minds and memories. His vision of a New York where people are comforted by the sounds of their home station, or where that sound becomes a marker of neighborhood identity, is exciting to think about.
Murphy claims that building a New York where a sound can let a commuter know they're home would be inexpensive and easy to implement. But it seems unlikely that the MTA will adopt it anytime soon. Even though the agency is spending millions to improve subway turnstiles, there is a simple reason for the beeps: They communicate information to blind riders. Plus, the Wall Street Journal reports that the MTA generally is not eager to change the sonic status quo.
Either way, it's nice to dream that the man who wrote the ultimate going out in NYC song could soundtrack all those late night rides.