The 11th disquiet.com Junto project in March 2012 required me to make an original field recording, and to then make something of it. It focused on rhythm. I captured audio of an N train (from inside the train) going over the Manhattan Bridge as well as sounds from the Canal Street and Atlantic/Pacific Street stations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, respectively.
The assignment allowed that “to [your recording] you can add whatever sounds you like, but the rhythm should be central and prominent in the finished track.” I added some drums and cymbals for drama, but did not bury the train in the kit.
Certain newer model R142 subway cars have propulsion mechanisms that emit tones as they accelerate and excite the steel rails with electrical current. Many people swear the trains sound out the first three notes of “Somewhere” from West Side Story. I caught the tones coming off a J Train leaving Canal Street and so couldn’t resist manipulating them to finish the 1st phrase of the song (“there’s a place for us…”). At that point, the phrase demanded to open the piece. The first three notes are as the train sings them. From those, I created the last two notes of the “Somewhere” phrase and a couple more notes to resolve to the root note. I have a terrible habit of ending phrases on roots; couldn’t break it here.
NYTimes story about the “Somewhere” subway sound.
My raw capture of the acceleration tones for this project.
The ringing synth-like sounds are the subway door chimes chopped, extended and pitch manipulated, and the general calliope is reworkings of the propulsion mechanism sounds that made up the “Somewhere” phrase. Vamping over the beats and noises with my cherry es335, Jolie, turned it into a “track.”