What can a New York City subway ride tell us? In the work of Brian Foo, it offers a unique way to examine income inequality across different parts of the city.
Foo is a visual artist and programmer whose latest project uses music to narrate a ride on the city's 2 train, revealing New York's yawning income gap along the way. Plotting each stop along the subway route and using income data from each area, Foo created a musical track that changes to reflect the median income in each location.
As the train moves through wealthier areas, the music becomes louder and more dynamic. In poorer areas, the track is simpler and quieter.
This is the first of a 12-track series Foo plans to create over the next year. He writes on his website that his goal is to make music based on data and sound samples. "As mainstream music moves more toward computer-generated and sampled sounds, the selection and organization of sounds become the artist's narrative. I want to find sounds and data that interest me and mix them in a thoughtful and deliberate way," he says.
There was also a specific reason Foo chose the 2 train, namely that it services economically diverse areas of the city -- from Brooklyn, through Manhattan and into the Bronx. The 2 line was a natural choice because it enabled him to "create the song with the most contrast," he told Untapped Cities.
"The 2 Train was the winner by far. The median income went from under $14K to over $200K," he added.