Conductor turns the New York subway system into an interactive string instrument. Using the MTA’s actual subway schedule, the piece begins in realtime by spawning trains which departed in the last minute, then continues accelerating through a 24 hour loop. The visuals are based on Massimo Vignelli’s 1972 diagram.
This is beyond cool and oddly captivating. It’s easy to find yourself reluctant to stop watching just so you don’t miss what’s coming up next.
According to Chen, “The piece follows some rules. Every minute, it 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. Some decisions were made for musical, aesthetic, and technical reasons, such as fading out routes over time, the gradual time acceleration, and limiting the number of concurrent trains. Also, I used the weekday schedule. Some of these limitations result in subtle variations, as different trains are chosen during each 24-hour loop.”
The mta.me site is also interactive, you can pull and pluck and strum the strings yourself to add your own musical flair to the orchestra.
Note: While I was able to load and view the mta.me page on my iPhone I wasn’t able to hear any sounds. There was a message at the bottom of the page that said “Loading sound (0%)” so I’m not sure if that’s a permanent or temporary issue.