James Murphy wants to make the NYC subway sing

LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy and Heineken are embarking on an unlikely quest, to bring music to the turnstiles of the New York subway, and give each station its own unique musical signature. Read on to see how you can help…

The desire to change the sounds in the New York subway is a long-term desire of Murphy’s, stretching back over decades. His affiliation with the city is well-established in song (especially within the track New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down, a love song to the city that laments how it has been changed by capitalism but is “still the one pool where I’d happily drown”) and in the film about the project below, he explains his vision: “rush hour, instead of being a nightmare, would suddenly become possibly become the most beautiful time to be in the subway,” he says.

“I believe that music makes people happy, and it can make them reflective,” he continues. “I think people are willing to do what it takes to live and work here – the commutes, the crowds, the cost. They deserve a little sonic gift on their way home, or to work, or wherever. The turnstile has to make a sound, it might as well be beautiful.”



Heineken is joining forces with Murphy on his mission as part of the beer brand’s Cities campaign, which has the aim of making the “great cities of the world even greater”. The brand and Murphy are hoping that if they can gain enough support for the project via Twitter – fans are asked to tweet ‘I Support #SubwaySymphony’ – they can lobby the Metropolitan Transport Authority in New York to change the sounds. (At the moment though, the outlook for success is a little bleak as the MTA has so far stated that the current sound is a tool for the visually impaired so must remain in place).

The project brings to mind Sonic Movement, a research project from Swedish engineering company Semcom, which aims to create a set of beautiful sound effects for use in electric cars (as reported on in our February 2014 issue of CR). Such projects may seem a little fanciful – and when a brand is involved can perhaps seem like something of a PR stunt – but they shouldn’t. Design extends to every aspect of our lives, and the sounds of our cities impact on us every day. Why shouldn’t they be inspiring, as well as practical?

Find out more about Subway Symphony at, where you can also listen to the proposed sounds.