Saturday, February 21, 2009

Subways singing "Somewhere"

Since 2000, some subway trains in New York City have been singing the first three notes of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen's Sondheim's "Somewhere" while leaving a station. Sort of:

The sound is a fluke. Newer trains run on alternating current, but the third rail delivers direct current; inverters chop it into frequencies that can be used by the alternating current motors, said Jeff Hakner, a professor of electrical engineering at Cooper Union. The frequencies excite the steel, he said, which — in the case of the R142 subway cars — responds by singing "Somewhere." Inverters on other trains run at different frequencies and thus are not gifted with such a recognizable song.
Stop, look, and listen:

Under Broadway, the Subway Hums Bernstein (New York Times)

(Thanks to Stefan Hagemann for making sure that I saw this article.)

comments: 1

Andy said...

Wow, I thought the zoetrope ads in the BART tunnels were neat, but this is much cooler, just because of the sheer randomness. I can see that I'm going to have to do a bit of aural trainspotting when I'm in NYC in May.