James Murphy’s Subway Symphony


James Murphy, the mastermind behind the now-defunct LCD Soundsystem, has kept himself busy since his band’s farewell show by DJing parties, doing production work with Arcade Fire, and supporting Tim and Eric in a weird indie flick.  Not that anyone thought Mr. Murphy was going to stop working after LCD Soundsystem called it quits and his commitment to working on projects that he cares about and doing a damn fine job of bringing his vision to life is to be commended.

The long time New York City resident loves his city and he has decided to go to the MTA subway system with an idea that could change the way people ride the subway.  This latest project is one his most ambitious…and I am looking forward to it coming into the world someday.
The project is called Subway Symphony and here is the general idea (from the project’s site):
I love the subway system of my city–one of the most egalitarian, kind and high-functioning miracles in a city known around the world for it’s nearly unforgiving toughness.  I also love sound, and music.  Unfortunately, the sound of the subway is kind of a drag.  Every time you swipe your MetroCard, the turnstile emits a flat, unpleasant “beep”.  Each turnstile emits its own beep, all of which are slightly out of tune with one another, creating a dissonant rubbing-styrofoam-on-glass squeak in stations all around New York City.  It’s kind of horrible….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.  

As a public transportation rider myself – in Philadelphia, not New York – I am supporting of anything that would make the public transportation to commute brighter – especially music.  One of the most simple things that Mr. Murphy asserts in the projects overview is that “music makes people happy, and makes them reflective” which I know to be true for me, especially in the ways that I mental connect songs that I love with people I have listened to them with or places that I have been and heard them.  While the project isn’t after the visual beautifying that is discussed with subways, I hope that people learn about this project and get on board.  Even if it is just for the what-would-that-be-like curiosity Mr. Murphy’s desire to bring his gifts and talents into the public sphere to make his city a more beautiful place is truly inspiring to me.   Please take a minute to watch the video below and then make sure to go to the Subway Symphony website to sign the petition.  I will keep you updated as to whether or not the project is going to happen, and if it does I propose we all meet up someday at Union Square and travel the city listening to the songs.

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