The Subway Sings Somewhere — Now In Video

You may remember that one of my songs for February Album Writing Month was “The Subway Sings Somewhere, which combined field recordings of the NYC subway with harmonica and guitar and various loops and electronic treatments to create a song based on the musical tones made by the newer subway trains. Most people identify those tones as the opening notes of “Somewhere,” from West Side Story.

The day I made the field recordings (on the way to Staten Island for my dad’s birthday), I also shot some video, and today I finally got around to editing them into a video to go with the song. It includes (starting at the two-minute mark) a complete view of “Masstransiscope,” an animated piece by artist and filmmaker Bill Brand that can be seen on the Manhattan-bound BMT tracks between Dekalb Avenue and the Manhattan Bridge.

The abandoned subway station shown at the end is the Cortlandt Street stop on the R/W, one of the World Trade Center stops abandoned after 9/11. I used to get off the train there every day to go to work.

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10 Responses to The Subway Sings Somewhere — Now In Video

  1. narode says:

    The Subway Sings

    The video enhances the sense of motion expressed in the music. Images in the “Masstransiscope” appear to dance to the beat of the music as you watch from the passing train. Closing with the view of the abandoned Cortland St. R station makes the harmonica in the song’s ending sound so poignant, but I hadn’t thought of the closing notes that way before seeing the video.

  2. If it was the N/R you were on when you shot the Canal St station – that was my station for 3 years.

    • ken says:

      Yes it was. I took the Q to Canal and transferred to the downtown R to the ferry. You know, I think when you lived there the Manhattan Bridge work was still going on and the Q didn’t stop there. That whole platform was closed for years.

      • Yeah, tell me about it. In recent years, X and I found ourselves at that station trying to get an R or W to go to the ferry. All we got going by were N’s and Q’s on their way to the Manhattan Bridge. I don’t know how long we stood there before X meekly suggested, “I think maybe we need to be on a different platform.” Me, of course, “Pff, what different platform, I lived here for three years, this is the only platform.” Then he very meekly suggested that that Manhattan Bridge work was going on the whole time I lived there and, well, we did get to the ferry eventually and late to my chagrin.

        PS Is it the N/Q that goes over the bridge and the R/W that goes down to the ferry – don’t quote me on that detail – it was one pair vs. another pair and I just remember we were on the platform for the wrong pair.

        • ken says:

          Yes, the N goes over the south side of the bridge and up the Broadway line, and the D goes over the north side and up the 6th Ave line. The R goes to Whitehall. Was the W there when you were living there? It’s relatively new but I don’t know how new.

  3. harrietbrown says:

    I really enjoyed that. Maybe you read my last LJ entry about finding Nirvana (the state, not the band) on the subway? I definitely got the sense of speed and motion from the video. Yep, liked it!

  4. Anonymous says:

    I just played your subway song for baby Lexie and I’m certain she was listening. 🙂 She didn’t cry so I think she must like it!


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