singing the metro

UK reader Adham Fisher, who recently visited all 301 Paris Metro stations and wrote a song about the quest, announces a musical project:

[I asked] different musicians to submit songs about various metro systems around the world. The result is the Metro EP under the collective name 1000 Stations. We toured it to Paris last month and hope to release it early next year. The project may be followed here: .

It would be great to see more musicians trying capture the beauty of networks in musical form.  Music is mostly math anyway — especially electronic music — and as many composers have discovered, you can make great music simply by exploring music's mathematical structure.  Geographic networks have structures too, that could be explored by analogy at various degrees of abstraction or popularization.  

Storing and transmitting geographical information in songs is not a new idea, especially for premodern cultures.  That's part of what Australian Aboriginal songlines are, for example.  

9 Responses to singing the metro

  1. Daniel December 30, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    A stray period found its way onto the end of the Youtube link.

  2. Simon Lyall December 30, 2011 at 3:31 pm #

    I came across this following youtube video a while back. It is a yet another Vocaloid version of the Ievan Polkka song (google those terms if you don’t know what they are) but in this case the lyrics are Stations on Tokyo’s Chūō-Sōbu Line.

  3. Tristram December 30, 2011 at 3:52 pm #

    About the parisian subway, there are multiple songs, including actual commercial songs.
    Not much mathematical structures here, but an important part of the culture.
    For example bercy-madeleine from Pierre Perret
    Or Java

  4. Eric O December 30, 2011 at 4:54 pm #

    Nice incantation of station names. You do hear something of an oral history represented there. Events, luminaries, and a surprising acknowledgement of other cities (besides Paris’s conception of its origins and hints of an understandable narcissism). It is somewhat random but, nevertheless, a kind of recitation of Paris’s place in the world.

  5. Alon Levy December 30, 2011 at 11:08 pm #

    There’s always Berlin’s Metro.

  6. January 4, 2012 at 10:46 am #

    Made me instantly recall “Finchley Central” (1967) – the video includes footage of period Northern Line tube stock

  7. Peter January 5, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    This may not be considered music but I like the concept of a music that writes itself through the rhythm of public tranpsort, especially services connecting at interchanges. All that is required is to have timeable data and draw up some conventions.
    You’d be converting the written language we’re all familiar with (printed timetables) into an aural language.
    When you do this the sounds of a co-ordinated network appear musical while those of an un-coordinated network are discordant. It may or may not be useful. It beats straining your eyes looking at lists of times. And if it is useful maybe as a service planning tool where even untrained listeners can in a short snatch determine the connectivity applying at a particular interchange.
    I discuss this further here:

  8. Jarrett at January 5, 2012 at 3:58 pm #

    Peter.  This sounds at least as capable of beauty as this:ürfelspiel
    … or for that matter any of a number of automated composition techniques essayed in the postmodern era.  

  9. Peter January 7, 2012 at 3:07 am #

    Many thanks Jarrett. I’m tempted to write it up as an abstract, and if accepted, a research paper. While beautiful it also has serious applications for transport planners.