Thanks to a new sound project, you can have the sonic experience of taking the London Underground without ever leaving your house. As The Guardian reports, The Next Station—a site created by the international sound art project Cities and Memory and the London Sound Survey—is a tour of the city’s iconic transportation system in the form of audio recordings. With The Next Station, you can experience the crowds, the trains, announcers, musicians, and other aural ephemera heard by millions of commuters every day.
Over the course of three months, the creators recorded audio in and around 55 London Underground stations, from people offering free hugs outside Brixton station to the hum of Bank station's escalators. Artists, sound designers, and musicians—not all of them from London or even the UK—then tinkered with the recordings to create 100 reimagined versions of the original Underground sounds. These remixed soundscapes are available for listening in an interactive map of the Tube, organized by the stations at which they were originally recorded. Though each has a title that explains the main sounds included, like “Bank station, passages, and escalators,” there’s often a bit of a surprise inside, like a subway musician’s killer guitar solo.
In New York City, sound artists have been more interested in adding soundscapes to subway stations than extracting them. LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy has lobbied for years to create an underground sound art project where turnstiles would be equipped with different beeping sounds to create electronic orchestras unique to each station. Alas, the city’s subway administrators have not been receptive.
Joyful as subway soundscapes are, the sounds of underground transport are rarely pleasant. Subways are often so loud that, over time, they can damage your hearing, and the New York City system has had dangerous noise levels (over 90 decibels) for years. By contrast, San Francisco’s BART has average noise levels of 79 decibels within its train compartments, close to the maximum allowed by California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, but still under the limit. While high noise levels are fine in the short-term, over long periods of time (such as every day on your commute for years), loud noise can permanently damage your hearing. Better to enjoy the sounds of city transit safely from your computer.
[h/t The Guardian]