Musician wants to bring music to New York’s subways


Musician and self-described “subway geek” James Murphy has had a bit of time on his hands since LCD Soundsystem’s curtain call, but he hasn’t been idle. Inspired by the sounds of Tokyo’s train system, Murphy has proposed that the turnstiles of New York’s 468 subway stations each play a unique melody when someone passes through them. He thinks the project, dubbed Subway Symphony, could be part of the city’s plan to overhaul the existing MetroCard system and replace it with NFC-based readers.

Musician James Murphy thinks New York’s “underground music” scene leaves a lot to be desired. He wants to change the underlying sound: the cacophony produced by the subway turnstiles. “They make this unpleasant beep and are all slightly out of tune from one another,” said Mr. Murphy, 44 years old, over breakfast recently in the trendy Williamsburg neighborhood here. 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.

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