.

James Murphy Wants to Make NYC Subway Turnstiles More Musical

"If my plan doesn't happen I'll be broken-hearted," former LCD Soundsystem head says of his Subway Symphony project

James Murphy performs in Chicago.
Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images
February 24, 2014 11:55 AM ET

For the past 15 years, former LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy has been working on a way to make New York City subway turnstiles beep more melodically. "Each turnstile emits its own beep, all of which are slightly out of tune with one another, creating a dissonant rubbing-Styrofoam-on-glass squeak in stations all around New York City," Murphy wrote on his "Subway Symphony" plan website. "It's kind of horrible."

Now that the Metropolitan Transit Authority, which runs the city's subway, has decided to update its system, Murphy is proposing a new melodic approach to subway beeps. The turnstiles currently emit between one to three high-pitched sounds as a notice to the blind on whether they can proceed or need to swipe their MetroCard again.

James Murphy, 'Live at 12 Years of DFA Records' and the 20 Best DJ Mixes of 2013

Murphy says his Subway Symphony is a low-cost plan that would give each turnstile swipe a three-to-five-note sequence that would harmonize with other turnstiles. The producer was inspired to embark on the project after hearing the easygoing sounds of the Tokyo subway and Barcelona airport. The Wall Street Journal posted a streaming clip of how it would sound.

"We really don't care," MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg commented on the Journal's Murphy story, though he added that the LCD Soundsystem alum's idea was "very cool." The problems with implementing Murphy's plan are both financial and the time it would take to dismantle each of New York's 3,289 turnstiles to update them "for an art project." Murphy has countered that since the turnstiles are being updated anyway, it would be easy to install new sound chips during renovations.

The MTA is currently working on a $900,000 a year project to revamp turnstile locations. By 2019, it hopes to update them so that riders could use their phones or electronic chip–enabled cards and keys to pass through turnstiles instead of swiping MetroCards.

Murphy had previously sought a meeting with Mayor Michael Bloomberg to discuss the matter, but never got his foot in Gracie Mansion. He's hoping he will have better luck with Bloomberg's successor, Bill de Blasio. "If the mayor wanted this to happen, I know there's someone who could make this work," Murphy said. (The Journal quoted one of Bloomberg's deputy mayors who said that the mayor would have no sway over the MTA, since it is a state agency and not a part of the New York City government.)

Murphy has said that if the MTA were to green-light his plan, he would drop everything to make it work. "If it doesn't happen I'll be broken-hearted," he said.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

prev
Music Main Next

blog comments powered by Disqus
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.

X

We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“You Oughta Know”

Alanis Morissette | 1995

This blunt, bitter breakup song -- famous for its line "Would she go down on you in a theater?" -- was long rumored to be about Alanis Morissette getting dumped by Full House actor Dave Coulier. But while she never confirmed it was about him (Coulier himself says it is, however), she insisted the song wasn't all about scorn. "By no means is this record just a sexual, angry record," she told Rolling Stone. "The song wasn't written for the sake of revenge. It was written for the sake of release. I'm actually a pretty rational, calm person."

More Song Stories entries »
 
www.expandtheroom.com