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A 2 Train Ride Set to Music Reveals NYC's Wealth Gap

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Two Trains - Sonification of Income Inequality on the NYC Subway from brian foo on Vimeo.

New York's 2 train travels through three different boroughs and stops at 49 stations, hitting a wide range of neighborhoods, from poor areas of the Bronx to ritzy Tribeca to gentrifying Crown Heights, which is exactly why Foo chose the train for his latest project. Foo, a local programmer and artist, took the income data of neighborhoods along the 2 train's route and turned it into a 4.5-minute long song. "At any given time, the quantity and dynamics of the song's instruments correspond to the median household income of that area," writes Foo. "For example, as you pass through a wealthier area such as the Financial District, the instruments you hear in the song will increase in quantity, volume, and force. Stylistically, I want the song to exhibit the energy and orderly chaos of the NYC subway system itself."

The song uses between 30 instruments, with as few as three playing at any given time. Foo used income data from the 2011 census, and chosen instruments for each area based on its median income. He writes, "In general, the higher the income, the greater the dynamics and quantity of instruments. [...] Also, I tried to select agnostic sound traits (e.g. volume, force) to correlate to median income rather than biased ones (e.g. sad vs happy sounds, vibrant vs dull sounds) to further let the data 'speak for itself.'"

The loudest part of the song takes place in the Financial District and Tribeca between Park Place and Chambers Street, where the median income was $205,192 in 2011, while the quietest part of the song occurs in the Bronx between East 180 Street and Bronx Park East, where the median income was just $13,750.
· Two Trains [Data-Driven DJ]
· A Soundtrack of Income Inequality Along the New York City Subway [CityLab]
· Musical Data Project is the Soundtrack to Income Inequality Along the Subway
· An Artist Has Hand-Painted 200 New York City Buildings So Far [Curbed]