Yesterday, a soundbite made the blog rounds when James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem told Chicago radio station, Sound Opinions, that he has been "fighting for 14 years" to create a project in which every subway station in New York would emit sound.
His rough idea is to program turnstiles so they know how busy the station is and would generate a root note based on the number of people moving through them to catch a train. During rush hour, thirds and fifths would be emitted on top of the root note, so that the foot traffic would create a beautiful piece of music.
"I want to make every station in New York have a different set of dominant keys," Murphy said. "People who are growing up will later in life be like, 'Oh, that [sound] is Union Square!'"
Murphy has talked about this project in the past, but admits he's confused about how to take the next steps. Public transportation changes, especially in New York, are immensely complicated (ahem, L train; G train, et. al) and Murphy (like us) is confused if he should approach the transit authority, the new Mayor, or?
The Creators Project can't help him with that, but we do have some ideas of forward-thinking artists and designer who could be a perfect match for this imaginative project. This shouldn't just be a hypothetical inkling from a famous New Yorker. Here are artists who could help Murphy enhance his project and make it even cooler, and maybe a reality.
Randy Gregory II is a master's student at the School of Visual Arts who got some serious attention after creating his Tumblr, Improve Subway. For 100 days, he proposed 100 improvements--from car density notifiers, to stairway directions--and eventually the MTA took notice.
I mean, really, how many times have you missed a train because a tourist group was walking up the left side of the staircase? His ideas are GOLD.
Gregory said he met with a senior member of the MTA to discuss the feasibility of his designs, though no definitive projects have been announced yet. He did, however, have a gallery opening with the Riders Alliance to showcase his truly brilliant suggestions.
The mind reels at the type of subway improvements Gregory and Murphy could work on together.
The Creators Project documented artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's project, Park Avenue Voice Tunnel, this past summer in case you missed the installation in person.
He turned the Park Avenue Tunnel (which had previously never been open to the public--for 200 years!) and turned the seven miles of subterranean road into an interactive light show, with 300 theatrical spotlights and 150 speakers. The audiovisual performance became a "concert of voices."
If there is one artist who can convince the city of New York to turn public spaces into grandiose art projects, Lozano-Hemmer might be the best bet.
Norwegian artist, HC Gilje, pairs light and sound art to create some of the most beautiful public works. Last fall, he premiered a light installation called 7 cirkler at the "Unheard Avant-garde" sound art exhibition at The Center for Art and Media that included (obviously) seven circles of light that corresponded with a musical piece by Danish composer, Else Marie Pade.
7 cirkler also incorporated tone generators and tapes to make each light circle harmonize into a coherent sound piece. Doesn't sound too far off from James Murphy's turnstile pitch, right?
TenderNoise is an applied acoustic ecology project in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. It measures the area's sound decibels and then categorizes when noise is at it's most destructive apex. It also tells you where it's coming from (be it voices, cars, sirens, subway musicians, etc.).
The project was created by design studio Stamen, building consultancy Arup, and data mapping company Movity. This tool would be perfect for Murphy's idea about the turnstiles having sensors that measure rush hour traffic, so the more people swipe, the more thirds and fifths ring out, creating a larger symphony. I'm sure these companies want a celebrity spokesperson for TenderNoise--luckily, Murphy's interests are totally in tune (heh) with TenderNoise's.
Dutch design team Trapped In Suburbia and David van Gemeren created an interactive poster that emits sound when touched, simply titled Sound Poster 1.0.
The poster uses Arduino and cooper wire connected to conductive paint to make poster sing and ring. Imagine if James Murphy implemented this technology to change the functionality of advertising in subway stations. Though, on second thought, talking advertisements sounds a bit too much like Minority Report and could be aggressive (and terrifying).
Image by Animal New York and Adam Fagen/Flickr
James Murphy, we love your music, we love your ideas, and we want to see them become a reality. Please contact these artists and collaborate--strength in (brilliant, inventive) numbers.
Your project is not too far-fetched or insane. If you collaborate with any of the above artists, then maybe your proposed "little gift" to NYC can actually become a reality.
Here are a few other artists who could definitely help you make some cool adaptations to our subway system: