Transit Maps Vol. 1

Copenhagen S-Train


For the first three pieces I composed for this project I tried to stick to more linear maps without too much crossing of lines, to keep things simple early as I learned the project. San Francisco was a logical first choice, and second was the Brisbane QR map, consisting of longer lines mostly running parallel to each other. However after creating the compositional techniques for Brisbane; I discovered my ideas didn’t fit the map very well. The green line specifically was a lot longer than the other lines, and it ended up creating extensive periods of hearing only a single instrument, which made the piece very long and boring. I still liked the ideas I had, so I shelved the Brisbane map for later use, and applied the techniques to a linear but more condensed map. Enter Copenhagen.


Copenhagen started as a more slow-paced, percussion based piece than most of the other works. The fundamental idea is that each instrument plays during a specific beat or offbeat. Like Osaka, a single player could theoretically play the entire piece by themself, as no two notes strike at the same time. The careful use of delays makes the piece sound much busier than it actually is.

This is where the yellow line on the map comes in. It is the only line that doesn’t essentially parallel to all the others, so instead of using it to direct an instrument, I used it to direct the delay effect. On this line, when the train passes a station, it alters the timing of the delay effect, cycling the left, center, and right channels through different beat divisions. During some sections of the piece, you can hear the delay behavior changing constantly. These are the parts where the yellow line is active.

Making music with a computer can lead to techniques that feel like cheating. I try to avoid digital shortcuts if they degrade the integrity of an idea, but in this case, finding the right pacing for this piece was very difficult, which made me very glad to have a tempo slider on Ableton Live. Originally Brisbane/Copenhagen was a much slower piece, which had a plodding and foreboding effect. While I liked how it sounded, it got monotonous quite quickly. On the other hand, speeding up the work too much made it sound frantic and shaken, rather than driving and energetic. A speed-walking pace ended up being where this work fell into place, which took quite a bit of trial and error.