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James Murphy Wants To Turn The NY Subway Into A Musical Experience

James Murphy’s musical turnstiles


LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy wants to improve your New York subway experience: he basically wants to make it more musical.

You know, the whole ‘New York, I love you/But you’re bringing me down’ deal, Murphy is not happy with the city as it is, ‘It’s such a brutal city. I think one little gift of kindness would be nice’, he declared to Sound Opinions. And this gift of kindness would be to bring music in each subway station in New York, turning the whole subway system into a giant orchestra, so that people will later associate the place with a sound.

‘I’ve been fighting for 14 years to get all the subway turnstiles to make music. I want to make every station in New York have a different set of dominant keys, so that people who grow up will later on in life hear a piece of music and say, ‘Oh, that’s like Union Square’, he said.

Really? Do we really want to hear music every time we go through subway turnstiles? First, I thought that his project would be to play a Radiohead song at Times Squares and a Bob Dylan tune at Greenwich village, but no, it’s much more than this, much more experimental, as people would go through the turnstiles, they would eventually ‘make a beep of a certain note’, he explained, ‘and it would have a random note generator that would be based on a percentage, so the root note would have a higher percentage of going off, and the third, and the fifth. And during rush hour in the bigger stations hopefully it would make a really beautiful piece of music.’

According to Murphy, each line in the subway system would then create its own music ‘a piece’, ‘the green line would go through different chords as you move through, and when you would intersect with other lines that would change that station’.

That would sound like cacophony to me, I am pretty sure, and  a beautiful piece of music during rush hour? Can you really imagine it?

So it sounds like an update of music for airports now turned to music for subways. Apparently he had some difficulties to sell the project to city’s mayor Michael Bloomberg ‘it’s very hard to get through to them’… but New York has a new mayor, so there’s hope. I just have two questions, does James Murphy take the subway, and what will happen to all these subway buskers?

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