Tuning into the Subway
January 23, 2012
Last week, Storefront for Art and Architecture opened its swinging panels to reveal their latest exhibition, Urban Songline, a site-specific installation that has temporarily transformed the gallery into an interactive musical instrument. For the exhibition, artist Allard van Hoorn meticulously strung and tuned Storefront’s interior, effectively translating movement in space into a distinctive auditory experience.
Also with an ear tuned to New York, artist Alexander Chen has created an urban songline of another kind: Conductor turns Massimo Vignelli’s recently revived New York subway map into another interactive string instrument, converting the MTA’s subway schedule into a real-time music generator.
As Chen explains: “Every minute, [Conductor] checks for new trains launched from their end stations. The train then moves towards the end of the line, with its speed set by the schedule’s estimated trip duration.” Upon intersection, the colored lines of Vignelli’s iconic map create the sound of a cello pizzicato, with each note determined by the length of the subway line being ‘plucked.’ The screeching of New York’s dated subway system is suddenly recomposed into an avant-garde soundscape that hails the simultaneous simplicity and complexity of Vignelli’s design.
Listen to Conductor in real time here!