James Murphy's Subway Sounds

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James Murphy's Subway Sounds

Former LCD Soundsystem front man James Murphy wants to shake up the sounds of the underground -- specifically the New York City subway turnstiles. He gave WSJ an exclusive preview of his aural proposal.

"I'm a DJ, a record producer and a man about town. It's kind of a tough city, and an expensive city but the subways are sort of like very, very egalitarian, this purist New York thing that runs all night. So I have a love affair with the best of New York, I think, with the subway. I'm noticing that the subway sounds quite brutal. There's a missing opportunity at the turnstile. There's this kind of unpleasant beep. Given all that information is already in the turnstile why don't we just make it a nice sound to make it pleasant?" he said.

If Murphy had his way, turnstiles at each station would generate different notes from a given harmonic set.

"Recently when I read that the subway system was going to move from a swipe-and-read to a tap-and-ride, I thought this is my chance. I want to be part of the installation of the [system], so it doesn't cost any money. There's already going to be a thing that makes a sound; why can't it make the sound a nice sound?"

"The more I thought about it, it's an opportunity for music -- why not make the worst time the best time?," Murphy wondered.

"The more people going through, the more times the turnstile gets turned, and it you have different notes that are all in agreement, it would make music. It's an opportunity to have something quite beautiful in a place where something beautiful seems impossible or unlikely."


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