Turnstile Tunes

James Murphy thinks that a little harmonic convergence would do wonders for the New York City subway turnstile experience, reports Hannah Karp in The Wall Street Journal (2/24/14). James says the beeping noises from the turnstiles are both "unpleasant" and "slightly out of tune from one another." So, over the past 15 years, he’s written "a unique set of notes for every station," each in its own key, such that "the busier the station becomes, the richer the harmonies would be."

The notes "would also play in sequence when the subway arrives at that stop," giving each station its very own anthem. This would not only create sweet music, but "could also help cut down on riders missing their stops … while boosting their emotional connections to their neighborhoods." James says he got the idea back in the ’90s, while traveling in Tokyo, whose metro system features "incredibly friendly beeps," and Barcelona’s airport, where announcements are preceded by "a signature four-note sequence."

James says a pending subway turnstile re-vamp affords the perfect opportunity to realize his vision, but MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg dismisses the idea and the tones as "a natural technical variation," adding, "we really don’t care." He says it would be costly, disruptive and not something the MTA would do "for an art project." However, James says his plan wouldn’t cost much at all and the reprogramming could be done when the turnstiles are upgraded to read microchips. "If it doesn’t happen," he says, "I’ll be brokenhearted."

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