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MTA Melodies

the E train

There’s a place in New York City where the subway sings a recognizable tune. Since the early 2000s, commuters have noticed a musical screeching coming from certain trains like the first 3 notes of “Somewhere” from West Side Story. The first interval is a dominant seventh and resolves down to the major sixth just like in the Leonard Bernstein tune, although Bernstein stole it from Beethoven. Drag over the noteheads to listen to the MTA melody.

It begins on an F#, jumps up to a higher E, and then down to a D# to quote the Bern. The first 3 notes are in the key of B Major. Some of the trains have a few extra notes at the end, modulating down a semitone to B-flat, because this is New York City baby, and there has always been jazz underground.

The MTA says the melody is accidental. Senior subway officials claimed to had never head it before. The Canadian company responsible for the trains said that the newer trains have power choppers. These power choppers emit the tones while generating the necessary voltage to push the train forward.

Yeah, I’m sure it’s all a coincidence that the trains running through the Upper West Side sing a song from West Side Story and not some massive musical conspiracy. Just like that song we all remember by Leonard Berenstain.