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James Murphy Starts Petition to Soundtrack New York City Subway System

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(Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for CBGB)

(Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for CBGB)

By Shannon Carlin

New York, James Murphy loves you, but the current sounds of the city’s subway system are bringing him down.

The former LCD Soundsystem frontman is petitioning New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority  to let him create a “subway symphony” so when you swipe your MetroCard through the turnstile you get a little jingle instead of an annoying little beep.

Murphy, who refers to himself as a “musician and long time NYC subway rider,” writes on the petition website: “Every time you swipe your MetroCard, the turnstile emits a flat, unpleasant ‘beep.’ Each turnstile emits its own beep, all of which are slightly out of tune with one another, creating a dissonant rubbing-styrofoam-on-glass squeak in stations all around New York City.  It’s kind of horrible.”

But his symphony idea would allow each subway station to get their own little jingle, that the producer, who recently worked with Arcade Fire, hopes will make riders happier and maybe a little reflective.

“What I propose to do is to create a series of 3 to 5 note sequences, all unique, one for each station in the subway system,” Murphy writes. “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.”

Murphy knows that this is not the biggest problem NYC is facing, but it’s one he said that would be really cheap and easy to change. “And I think it would be really lovely, honestly,” Murphy wrote.

This is not a new idea for Murphy–he’s been toying with it for the last 15 years–but feels now is the perfect time since the MTA recently announced a $900,000-a-year project to renovate the turnstiles. They’ve also said they are looking to move away from riders swiping their MetroCard through the turnstiles, but use a tap and ride system, where they person taps their card on a keypad to be allowed through.

In a new video on The Wall Street Journal, Murphy discusses the project and previews some of the sounds he would install into the turnstiles around the city.

As of now, the MTA is calling Murphy’s proposal a “very cool idea,” but isn’t ready to sign on. MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg told The Wall Street Journal that the city wouldn’t want to temporarily disable each of the city’s turnstiles “for an art project.”

But Murphy isn’t interested in sitting back and watching his “art project,” which carries the tagline, “Making the city a slightly nicer place to be,” go to waste, so he’s started a petition to support his efforts.

Watch the video below to learn more about Murphy’s idea.

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