Every now and then a piece of news passes your way that’s so interesting and new you can’t help but gape. This is one of those times. After the end of the LCD Soundsystem moniker in 2011, frontman James Murphy has been playing around with a number of decidedly odd projects. These include opening a wine bar and a coffee brand, but the most exciting one is a mission to alleviate the cacophony of “unpleasant beeps” produced by the swiping of New York’s MetroCards – or what he calls “a dissonant rubbing-styrofoam-on-glass squeak in stations all around New York City”.
Murphy envisions melodic turnstiles, emitting sounds in harmony with each other to produce a sort of ‘Subway Symphony’ – the name of this ambitious project. NME recalls Murphy’s earlier plans: “I want to make every station in New York have a different set of dominant keys, so that people who grow up will later on in life hear a piece of music and say, ‘Oh, that’s like Union Square’,” he said in a previous interview. In an official release, Murphy states that he wants to “deliver a small sonic gift” to people on their way home, and he’s already garnered the support of Heineken, partnering with their “Project to Make Cities Better.”
Paste Magazine remains undecided on the project, calling it “half amazing and half annoying”. But we think it’s pretty bloody spectacular and innovative in its integration of music into everyday life.
In the meantime, however, the actual NYC government branch responsible for the Metro system has thrown a spanner into the works, denying Murphy’s idea firmly: “We have heard from him, and as we’ve told him many times, we cannot do it. The tones are an ADA element for the visually impaired, and we won’t mess with them – much less take turnstiles out of service and risk disabling them for an art project.”
We can’t say we’re not disappointed. But with some luck and divine intervention, Murphy just might make it happen in the future.