02/01/2011 11:45 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

NYC Metro System Used As Musical Instrument (VIDEO)

Conductor is a new project by Google engineer Alexander Chen that turns the iconic New York subway diagram (drawn by Massimo Vignelli in 1972) into a musical instrument. Using the actual New York City metro schedule, the music in the video occurs when various subway lines meet at a station; when lines cross they pluck a "chord."

Located now at, the project runs on a complex "engine" that Chen created for this and future projects. According to Chen's website, he built the project in HTML5/Javascript, used Adobe Illustrator for the design, and the audio dimension is "triggered by Flash in the background, communicating with JS Sound Manager." All that to say, the piece begins in realtime and slowly accelerates while train routes start and stop over a 24 hour period.

By going to the website, you can pluck "strings" yourself or just watch (and listen) for what happens when the F train departs at 2:43pm. Changes have been made to the subway system since Vignelli's drawing in 1972, which are accounted for by only including no-longer-running "ghost trains" between the hours of 12-2am. Check out the video below.

Conductor: from Alexander Chen on Vimeo.