Bored straphangers may be in for an acoustic treat on their commutes if James Murphy has his way. The DJ, producer, and former front man for LCD Soundsystem has devised a program that could replace the blasé beeps heard when entering subway turnstiles with pleasing musical notes. In Murphy’s system, each NYC subway station would have its own set of signature sounds activated by people using their MetroCards. The computer-controlled sequences could even produce complete symphonies when enough people are swiping!
It’s an idea that Murphy has been working on for the last 15 years to craft what he calls a low-cost musical solution. On top of creating harmonies, the new tone system would play the same turnstile tones in sequence as trains arrive at each stop. On a more practical note, Murphy says his new turnstile tones could be useful to the blind by playing a single sound for “go,” double sounds for “swipe again,” and three sounds for “insufficient fare.”
The project might seem like another highfalutin’ artist’s dream, but Murphy believes he has a chance to make his underground musical scene a reality. Currently, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is embarking on a $900,000-a-year project to improve passenger flow in its stations. The project includes repositioning furniture, taking a look at emergency exits and, most importantly, examining turnstiles at 468 subway stations.
A separate project is also in the works to retrofit the city’s 3,289 turnstiles as the MTA moves past MetroCards by 2019. Unfortunately, MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg told The Wall Street Journal that Murphy’s project is a very cool idea, but would likely be too complicated and risky to implement with 5.5 million passengers relying on the subway system on an average weekday.