James Murphy soldiers on with “Subway Symphony” despite opposition from NYC

LCD Soundsystem frontman wants to soundtrack subway turnstiles with unique musical chords

James Murphy subway

    Since disbanding LCD Soundsystem in 2011, James Murphy has focused his efforts on a variety of odd projects, perhaps none notable that his “Subway Symphony.” As previously reported, Murphy desires to soundtrack New York City’s subway turnstiles with unique musical chords.

    He explained in a 2014 interview with The Wall Street Journal, “These sequences will be part of an intersecting larger piece of music, which would run from station to station, and cross one another as, say, the 4, 5, 6 line (one musical piece) intersects with the L, N, R, Q and W (another musical piece) at Union Square. At each turnstile in Union Square, as you tap your new tap and ride card, a pleasant bell tone will sound, in one of a set of possible notes, all related to that station’s note sequence. The effect would be that at the busiest times, like rush hour, what was once cacophony would now be music.”

    Last year, Murphy launched a petition to garner support for his “Subway Symphony” idea, but has yet to win over his most important critic: The MTA itself, which previously deemed Murphy’s efforts nothing more than a “an art project.”


    Undeterred, Murphy has partnered with Heineken to make his dream a reality as part of Heineken’s Project to Make Cities Better initiative. Their goal is to have the “new turnstile notes installed in our first station” by the end of the summer.

    Despite this latest development, the MTA remains unconvinced. A spokesman told Gothamist, “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. (It would be a very cool project, don’t get me wrong, but we can’t mess with turnstiles that handle 6 million customers a day for it.)”

    The spokesperson added, “As a condition of filming in the subway, we made them acknowledge that we can’t and won’t do it.”

    Below, watch a video of Murphy explaining the project.

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