Alexander Chen

Transportation Nation

NYC Subway Map Becomes Digital Work of Musical Art

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Massimo Vignelli's 1972 New York City Subway map

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) WNYC's Gallerina interviewed Alexander Chen, the musician/graphic designer who turned a 1972 version of the New York City subway map into a digital work of musical art.

"Each time two trains intersect, you hear the sound of a note being plucked on a cello -- turning the visuals into an abstract musical improvisation."

Read the story -- and watch the composition unfold -- over at WNYC.

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Notes From Underground

Monday, March 28, 2011


Artist Alexander Chen has turned New York city's subway map into a digital work of musical art—that you can play.

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Transportation Nation

Art Project Turns NYC Subway Map into Musical Instrument

Monday, January 31, 2011

Conductor: from Alexander Chen on Vimeo.

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Forget riding the subway, try playing it. Conductor: is an impressive digital art project inspired by the New York City subway system.

Artist Alexander Chen recreated, and then animated, the famous Massimo Vignelli subway map. He combined real data from the MTA made available as part of their effort to encourage the creation of more third party transit apps for mobile phones and the internet. They were thinking more like HopStop, but this is certainly creative use.

Each time a train leaves the station in the MTA dataset, so does a dot on Chen's interactive map, trailing a line the color of the train line. The music comes in when two train lines cross. Each intersection causes a twang, like a plucked string on viola, for example--Chen's chosen instrument.

The data isn't 100 percent accurate though. The system has changed since 1972 when Vignelli made his map so Chen made the K train and the old Third Ave El train run as well. But only on a limited schedule.

You can also use your mouse to pluck strings/subway lines on the site, though not on the video above sadly. For all you techies who want to know who he did it, Chen explains it all here.

See if you can tell what portion of the map is visible in the animation.

(Via Mashable.)

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