Anyone who’s ever had to deal with a person in a position of power within the MTA knows that they’re not always very pleasant people. We don’t blame them, though; listening to tourists’ questions, locals’ complaints and the constant buzzing, squealing and rattling of the New York City subway stations is enough to drive anyone insane. There’s someone in the city who finds the musicality of the system, though, and is eager to expand upon it.
Last month, while speaking on a panel at Yale with David Byrne, LCD Soundsystem frontman and head of DFA records James Murphy—who moderator John Schaefer dubbed “his generation’s David Byrne”, which was awkward for all involved—took the subway turnstiles to task, suggesting that an adjustment of the noise they make when a Metrocard is swiped through them would make the commuting experience infinitely more enjoyable for everyone involved.
“I love New York and I love its aggression, and I love that it doesn’t make it easier for you to be a member of the city,” Murphy explained, before unveiling his plan.
“I wanted to change the sound of going through the turnstile to a series of notes—I could do a little program. I could be like, well, the dominant note is the root, this is the fifth, this is the third, have a couple of sevenths, throw a few sixths in there just to be crazy. And during rush hour it would make arpeggiated music. And each subway station could have its own key or tonal set. For me, for a new person going to work, I think it would just be nice. It would be hard not to like that more than, “Shut up, idiot, you’re walking so slow!”
It would be an interesting way to have people relate to the city and I didn’t think it would be that expensive…if anybody knows anybody?”
While we’re sure Murphy has enough pull within the city’s upper echelons to see this through—especially after this—there’s another musician who has links to the MTA, and we’re sure would be eager to have his commute a little more musical. Just kidding, Paul McCartney’s never ridden a subway in his life.
Listen to the full discussion here.