From Leonard Bernstein to GangStarr’s DJ Premiere, New York musicians have struggled to translate the sounds of their beloved metropolis into song. Christopher Janney has reversed that formula with his public sound installation, currently on display at the NR subway platform at 34th Street in Manhattan. Titled Reach — New York, Janney’s work consists of a series of photo-electric cells which trigger a variety of sound cycles — raising pitches, bursts of digital bird song, touches of marimba and flute. The cells are situated a foot or so above average height, so you have to raise a hand or umbrella to set off the tones. Also, trains entering the station at 34th Street trigger a cell of their own. Ever the techie, Janney has a web site you can check out if you aren’t due for a trip to New York soon, or if you prefer cabs: janney.com.
Originally published in epulse 2.28, dated August 27, 1996