The New York City subway is known for a lot of things — its maps, its ridership size, its long-delayed Second Avenue line — but never have its sounds been among those defining features. That's something that James Murphy, former frontman of LCD Soundsystem, has dreamed of changing for 15 years, and this past weekend he shared with The Wall Street Journal what his idea of a sonically beautiful subway would sound like.
"I think it would be really lovely, honestly."
"The subway sounds quite brutal," Murphy tells the Journal. "There's a missing opportunity at the turnstile." Rather than having the subway's turnstiles release a shrill beep every time they receive payment, Murphy would like them to each release one of many pleasant tones that, during busy moments, would coalesce into a grand harmony. Murphy's vision would have every station in the city set to a different key, and he thinks now could be the time to turn it into a reality.
"'This is not a big deal!' you cry. 'There are way bigger problems in New York!' you yell. You're pretty much totally right," Murphy writes on a website for the project, which he's calling Subway Symphony. "But this one is so infuriating because, quite simply, it would be really cheap and easy to change. And I think it would be really lovely, honestly."
New York's subway is set to change from accepting payments by a card swipe to accepting payments by the tap of some sort of electronic chip or device by 2019, reports the Journal. The turnstiles will have to be reworked in order to enable this, and since they already have hardware to generate a tone, Murphy believes that now would be an efficient and inexpensive time to implement his plan.
Unfortunately for music lovers and New York commuters, it doesn't seem like there's a good chance of that happening. As it is, the Journal reports that the existing turnstile tones are set up to assist the blind, and New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority also isn't eager to do any unnecessary maintenance that might disrupt service for its millions of commuters.
Murphy acknowledges on his website that neither a low cost nor a simple installation will have much of an impact in trying to sway the MTA, but he's hoping to make the project happen anyway. He's started an online petition for the project, where New Yorkers and music fans alike can show their support for a better-sounding subway.