Singing Subways

New York, New York…it’s a helluva town. The Bronx is up and the Battery’s down. The people ride in a hole in the ground…and now you may notice that within that hole there’s singing – from the trains themselves.

Mind the gap when stepping on the newer N/W and 2 trains. If you also mind the sounds the trains make when the doors close, you’ll hear the first two intervals of Leonard Bernstein’s “Somewhere,” a little tune made popular by the musical West Side Story. Coincidence that the 2/3 also runs through the UWS as well as alongside Lincoln Center? Things that you make you go hum…

In a New York Times article from February 21, 2009, the composer credit is given to the newer trains running on an alternating current. “Newer trains run on alternating current, but the third rail delivers direct current; inverters chop it into frequencies that can be used by the alternating current motors.”

Last year, these frequencies led playwright Tony Kushner to tell  New York magazine that the subway singing was his favorite New York noise. Listen for yourself:

Guess there is some truth after all to the MTA singin’ the blues…


Chad Miller
Events and Outreach

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