Musical Maps

Image courtesy of fickr.com member Babyknight

As the release for GLIMPSE‘s new Cartography issue nears, we wanted to share another source for a creative and unique expression of maps. Alexander Chen is a Brooklyn-based artist and musician who created Conductor, a visual and musical representation of the New York City subway map that transforms the map into a stringed instrument hosted on the website MTA.ME. At MTA.ME, colored subway lines creep across a screen and as they intersect with one another, the lines bend and snap, producing sharp, clear notes. The effect is eery and beautiful. As more and more lines are added to the screen and the music becomes slightly louder and faster-paced, it becomes easy to forget what it is exactly you’re looking at. You get lost in the in the simple lines and quiet notes until you realize: this is the subway.

All the movement is real, a path each train takes hundreds of times a day, with hundreds of people crammed inside each one, and it’s louder and more confusing, more overwhelming. Conductors mumble the upcoming stop while people stand tightly grasping metal poles in front of them, or sit with their legs crossed and hands folded, all avoiding eye contact with one another. And for the most part it’s a draining experience. But right now, we’re not on any of those trains. We’re just watching and listening to Chen’s creation, mesmerized by the labyrinth of a map we can’t appreciate when we’re in it.

Allison Nonko

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