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96th Street sound installation


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I recently read this NYTimes article about the sound installation planned for the 96th St. Broadway station. I'm interested to know what everyone thinks about it. Personally, I like the Christopher Janney art at 34th Street and think more art is a good thing.


A Calming Presence Amid the Groans and Screeches


Published: July 5, 2009


Chirping birds, rustling leaves, a burbling brook: not the first sounds that come to mind about the New York City subway.

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Urbahn Architects


A rendering of a proposed art installation at the coming subway station house at 96th Street and Broadway.


Times Topics: N.Y. Metropolitan Transportation Authority


But starting next year, the city’s subterranean soundtrack — a familiar overture of clanks, screeches, groans and beeps — is poised to add a few noises of a more verdant variety.


Nature sounds would be played inside a station house being built at 96th Street and Broadway, a heavily trafficked stop on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, as part of a proposal nearing final approval at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.


The sounds, broadcast on a loop by hidden speakers in the above-ground headhouse, would be one component of an art installation intended for the station that draws on the ideas and iconography of Asian pop art and contemporary graphic design.


They would also mark an unlikely intrusion of the calm and soothing into a sphere defined by its din.


“It’s an experiment in many ways, to see what else will work in this environment,” said Sandra Bloodworth, the director of Arts For Transit, the arm of the transportation authority that oversees art throughout the system. “We want to challenge what we know how to do.”


By the fall of 2010, when construction on the station is expected to be complete, subway riders will enter an arched glass-and-steel structure housing an exhibit that is a striking contrast to the traditional tile mosaics and sculptures that populate the underground rail system.


Nearly 200 stainless-steel flowers will hang 12 feet above the turnstiles, mounted in staggered patterns across seven ceiling beams. The flowers, weighing about three pounds apiece, will be allowed to sway slightly, creating the effect of a shimmering garden levitating above the stairways that lead down to the platforms.


The nature noises, which are pending final review by the authority’s staff, would be focused by directional speakers on small areas of the station, allowing riders to “walk through” the sounds.


The modern garden and its accompanying soundtrack are a tribute to the geographic provenance of the 96th Street station, which was built in 1904 in a neighborhood known as Bloomingdale, after a Dutch word translated as “vale of flowers.” Although the station now sits amid rows of high-rise apartment buildings and noisy intersections, the hilly area was once known for its picturesque natural landscape.


“The installation is a memento of nature past, so that subway riders may be reminded of a time before the area became an urban neighborhood,” the designers, Sigi Moeslinger and Masamichi Udagawa, wrote in an introductory note.


But that nostalgia is anointed with a postmodern tinge. The flower sculptures are more vaudeville than vérité: each is a floral cartoon, simple and symmetrical, with six geometric petals and a perfect circle at its center. The basic design alludes to comic art, particularly Japanese anime, and the smiling flowers of Takashi Murakami, whose pop-infused brand of contemporary art is cited as an influence by the designers.


The identical appearance of the 180 flowers also nods to the mass production of commercial art — perhaps a gentle irony considering the fate of Bloomingdale Road, now the ambling aisle of commerce known as Broadway.


Ms. Moeslinger and Mr. Udagawa, who work together as Antenna Design, have a playful but highly functional aesthetic that has quietly become an everyday presence in the lives of subway riders in New York.


Many riders who enter the new station will buy their MetroCards on the colorful kiosks that Antenna Design introduced to the system in 1999. The design inside the subway cars on the No. 2 line, which stops at 96th Street, was also done by Antenna, featuring bright interiors, cantilevered chairs and light-up route maps.


They also designed the “Flower Power” exhibit at Bloomingdale’s in 2002, which featured a row of similarly designed flowers that lit up and emitted sounds as pedestrians passed by.


Sound art has been an occasional presence in the underground over the years. Christopher Janney’s 1996 piece, “Reach New York, an Urban Musical Instrument,” installed sensors on the Broadway line platform at 34th Street that played sounds when activated. Amtrak riders have been serenaded by classical music in Pennsylvania Station for years.


Before 96th Street’s aural component can be installed, Ms. Bloodworth said, authority officials must ensure that any sounds played in a subway station would not interfere with similar noises, like talking kiosks that assist visually impaired riders. (The specific sounds have yet to be finalized.)


Ms. Bloodworth said that if approved, the nature sounds would be played at a relatively low volume. So what happens when the train comes whizzing by?


“I imagine it would drown the sound out,” she said.

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I really don't think this will be done. It took (MTA) about six months just to fix the staircases at that station...plus, do New Yorkers really care about that stuff? Maybe the first few days we'll be dazzled by it, but then it'll just be part of the scenery. It might stun a few tourists, but that's it.


And also, steel flowers? Really? (MTA) is complaining about money and here they are investing in steel flowers hanging down in the ceiling and installing new speakers with nature voices? If I wanted to hear nature voices I would have my iPod there...


Plus, remind ourselves of how the community was before the switch to urbanization. Whoops....too late now, we're already "urbanized."


My source? I live by the station and ride the subway everyday to and from my destinations.


Save Our Money Please (MTA) And Save Money To Help Station Rehabilitation.

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1. Look how much money that (NYCT) make.

they must be making over $500.00 ( when they recieve check

how much they make) why cant (MTA) cut half of the salary

that may make. that half of the salary will be used for station rehabilitation.

they must be making of $50,000 when they recieve check. so why they

saying they have money or budget problem. again use half

of the money that make or how many they work and it will be use

for station rehabilitation. who said (MTA) dont have money.

false statement. look how much money they get

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Is the (NYCT) paying for this or the other way around? Station upkeep and repairs should be higher priority than beautification right now, that is if they are shelling out the greenbacks for this.

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