Since the spectacular planned demise of LCD Soundsystem, James Murphy has had all the time he needs to devote himself to a series of goofy passion projects. The latest, if he can pull it off, will certainly make the world a better place. It’s a plan to make the New York City subway system sound less like garbage. Murphy’s specific problem: The high, squealing beep noise that Metrocards make when you swipe them at the turnstile. “They make this unpleasant beep and are all slightly out of tune from one another,” Murphy tells The Wall Street Journal. And he thinks he has a better idea.
Murphy thinks the turnstiles should make a richly harmonic series of bloops, which would then be in tune with each other and create a sort of haphazard improvised sound-piece when people are rushing to catch trains. WSJ explains: “He has worked out a unique set of notes for every station, one of which would sound each time a passenger swipes his or her MetroCard to catch a train. The busier a station becomes, the richer the harmonies would be. The same notes would also play in a set sequence when the subway arrives at that stop. Each of the city’s 468 subway stations would have note sets in different keys.”
Sadly, Murphy’s scheme seems unlikely to take hold, even though MTA spokesperson Adan Linsberg calls it “a very cool idea.” Changing the sounds, he explains, would be expensive, and it would involve taking each of the turnstiles temporarily offline. As for the sound they currently make, Lisberg says it’s because of “natural technical variation and we really don’t care.” But Murphy is holding out hope because the MTA is starting a project to improve passenger flow, which will involve redesigning the layout of certain stations. And in the video below, he gives a preview of the sounds he has in mind, and those sounds make a strong case.
(via The Wall Street Journal)
Murphy has written more about his idea and started an online petition here. And if Microsoft can recruit Brian Eno to compose its Windows start-up tone, why can’t the New York subway use the beep sounds that James Murphy has already made for it? And if it works, maybe we can get Murphy to remix the smell of certain lower Manhattan subway stations during summertime.