It’s a jungle down there on 34th Street
New York City is no doubt an urban jungle that requires the endurance, patience, and strength of a fierce modern day explorer. We may not be wearing safari hats and carrying machetes but adorned with black apparel and fingerless gloves, we find our way home amidst the chaos of commuters, tourists, and natives. We have become accustomed to the sounds of our jungle: sirens, car horns, preachers, and those who feel that it’s necessary to tell someone how f**ck’n stupid they are at the top of their lungs. It’s these sounds that echo in our ears throughout the day and sometimes into the night.
During times like these, the sounds of nature seem distant from our New York-centric ears and we are, alas, void of the pleasure of the sounds of nature. But If you happen to be traveling on the N/R/Q/W train either uptown or downtown you may not be so far away. Hundreds of feet below Herald Square, an “urban musical instrument” awaits you.
The Urban Musical Instrument that lives at the Herald Square Train Station
Developed by Christopher Janney, the urban musical instrument was sponsored by the Origins Natural Resources and is a project of the MTA Arts for Transit/Creative Stations Program. The instrument consists of an aluminum green bar with vertical light strips that allows you to create and conduct your own tropical symphony. Watch to see the music I created one snowy afternoon…
This installation has been around since 1996, but it never ceases to capture my enthusiasm and attention. I love playing with it while those on the subway platform attempt to figure out where the sounds are coming from. Everyone always seems shy to reach up and make some music or perhaps they are unaware that the interactive instrument exists? I wish there were more opportunities like this for New Yorkers to lift their heads up and make some music with each other.
If you want to learn more about Janney, there was a great interview on NPR where he talks about his work.