There are so many good subway sounds: the whoosh and clatter of a train approaching, the click of a turnstile, armies of boots on cement echoing through strange, low-ceilinged corridors, people playing love songs that the rats know by heart. The living and non-living make a racket that occasionally coalesces into noise with shape, noise with rhythm: the song of the city's bowels.
It's all an accident, though, beauty sparking in the aural exhaust of the soundscape.
But what if subway stations took themselves seriously as locations not for transport, but musical creation?
This is the dream of James Murphy, the man behind one of the great bands of the last decade, LCD Soundsystem. He wants to compose for the city's infrastructure, write music for the lines running up and downtown, music that would be enacted by the passengers on America's greatest public transport system.
He described the dream in a WBEZ's Sound Opinions clip posted yesterday.
I've been fighting for now 14 years to try to do this, to make all the subway turnstiles make music. I want to make every station in New York have a different set of dominant keys, so that people when they grow up, later on in life, will hear a piece of music and be like, "Oh that's Union Square."
So when you go through the turnstiles, there would be a thing that would make a beep of a certain note. And it would have a random note generator that would be based on a percentage, so that the root note would be a higher percentage of going off, then the third, then the fifth. And during rush hour in the bigger stations, it would hopefully make a really beautiful piece of music.
Each line would be a piece. The green line would go through different chords and when they intersected with other lines that would change that station.
I was really hoping. I thought Bloomberg would give me a hand. But it's really hard to get through to them. I also think it's such a weird project. Is it the Transit Authority? Is it the city?
It's such a brutal city, and I love it, but one little gift of kindness would be really nice.
What a beautiful thought. We do this now so that today's children remember something wonderful tomorrow. Where is that spirit in our world? Why doesn't it inform more of what we do?