Sounds from the Underground

Urban commuters often move through the city insulated by a technological wall created by personal mobile technology. But every once in a while, unplugging to appreciate the richness of the surrounding environment can be rewarding.

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rafaj via Flickr

rafaj via Flickr

This journey starts in media res as we are haphazardly launched through the labyrinth that is the New York subway. The filmmaker noiselessly glides us through the space as we take his perspective and are forced to listen. His solitary travels through the subterranean world are made authentic by his lack of interaction with the people around him, which calls for heightened senses. We suddenly notice subtle details like the body language and dress of the commuters and how, surprisingly enough, some of them adopt a gait that matches the beat of the music being played.

Certain details regularly go unnoticed as we spend our lives constantly being distracted, whether by our thoughts or by technology – we are constantly plugged in. I am personally guilty of this, as I find that any walk longer than 5 minutes must be accompanied by a personal soundtrack on my iPod. But sometimes I feel that I’m missing out by not listening to the soundtrack around me. The sounds of the New York City subway serves as a reminder that sometimes the best soundtrack can be found in the most unexpected places. These are the sounds from below: the mechanical clicking of the turnstiles once we’ve payed our dues and the exhilarating albeit almost terrifying woosh of the subway upon reaching the platform. But the most interesting sound for me is the music played by the diversity of musicians. Suddenly, a seemingly unexciting launching pad is transformed into what could almost be a trendy European club, with a different style of music in each room.

vonderauvisuals via Flickr

vonderauvisuals via Flickr

Unfortunately, many of these opportunities for interaction with our environment are disrupted by the technological wall that we have built for ourselves. I honestly like this technological wall – it’s comfortable. But at the same time, I sometimes want to momentarily tear it down to see what I’ve been missing. So next time you’re in the underground of the TTC, London Underground, the Métro or wherever you may be, I challenge you to unplug: you might be surprised at what you notice.