Lower Union Station is not a place known for its pleasant auditory environment. Mostly it’s a means to an end, a brief stopover en route to a better place. Going there with the explicit directions to pay attention to the sound was a surprisingly interesting task. I found several unique soundscapes in Lower Union. There were the train tracks with the hellos and goodbyes and rumbles of trains passing through. The waiting area with its muffled announcements and droning hum of hundreds of fluorescent lights. Most interestingly, to me, was the concourse, particularly the vestibule at the entrance of the station.
Of all the spaces in the station this one is the most transient. Few people, if any (aside from the odd artist), will ever spend more than a few of seconds here. But within it exists a cacophony of sound. There is the ambient drone of the heater, footsteps, suitcase wheels, snippets of conversation and, most notably, the squeaking doors. Each door has it’s own distinct squeak. With people constantly passing through it seems like an unending improvised symphony of squeaking.
It would be interesting, if incredibly difficult, to calibrate the squeaks so each one was a perfectly tuned note. Or better (and easier) yet, oil the doors and replace the squeaks with sensors that, when triggered by a door opening, would create notes, chords, or even bus/train-related sound effects. Then the passage way would truly become an accidental symphony. Most of the people passing through wouldn’t notice they’re the musicians in this performance but, occasionally, someone will enjoy the random music created by this installation.