Skip to content

Watch James Murphy Make New York City’s Subway Sing

james murphy, lcd soundsystem, new york subway system

If James Murphy gets his way, the New York City subway system will be a little less hellish. The former LCD Soundsystem mastermind wants to replace the piercing beep produced by subway turnstiles with actual music. “They make this unpleasant beep and are all slightly out of tune from one another,” the 44-year-old tells the Wall Street Journal, explaining his solution.

Murphy says that he has devised a unique set of notes for every subway station, which would play whenever a commuter swipes his or her MetroCard to catch a train. This means that as a station gets busier, the harmonies become richer. According to Murphy, each of the city’s 468 subway stations would hum with notes in different keys.

“I started noticing the subway sounds quite brutal,” the DFA Records co-founder says. “Why don’t we just make it a nice sound? Just make it pleasant?”

Adam Lisberg, a spokesman for the state’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, admits that Murphy’s plan is “a very cool idea,” but says that the effort would likely cost a good deal of time and money, and would also probably involve taking thousands of turnstiles out of service, something the MTA isn’t keen to do “for an art project.” Lisberg added that the current dissonance is caused by “natural technical variation and we really don’t care.” At least he’s honest.

Murphy — a “subway geek,” according to the WSJ — hopes that his plan could benefit from the MTA’s new $900,000-a-year project to improve commuter flow by repositioning turnstiles, emergency exits, and furniture. He believes that installing or reprogramming tone generators during the repositioning would save money and be an efficient use of labor.

“If it doesn’t happen I’ll be broken hearted,” Murphy says. C’mon, New York, stop bringing him down.

Preview Murphy’s utopic LCD Subwaysystem by watching the WSJ video feature above.