Making the cacophony of public transit a soothing symphony


New York’s subway could sound better. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Perhaps our standards for public places should be higher. Instead of accepting the din of public transit systems, what if we were greeted by pleasing harmonies? Former LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy — who once turned down a writing gig on “Seinfeld” — has a plan to bring melodies to the New York subway, as he told The Wall Street Journal:

For the past 15 years, Mr. Murphy has been crafting what he says is a low-cost musical solution: 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.

Now, he believes his plan finally has a chance, as the state’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority embarks on a $900,000-a-year project to improve passenger flow at some stations by repositioning turnstiles, furniture and emergency exits.

In this video you can hear what Murphy envisions the subway sounding like:

In one similar project, a staircase in Stockholm was turned into piano keys:

At the end of the day, the cost of such projects makes them unlikely to be adopted on a large scale. But we can all dream.

Matt McFarland is the editor of Innovations. He's always looking for the next big thing. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.
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Matt McFarland · February 24