Martin Lewis. The Glow of the City. 1929. Drypoint, plate: 11 7/16 × 14 7/16" (29.1 × 36.6 cm); sheet: 14 5/16 × 18 7/8" (36.3 × 47.9 cm). Publisher: unknown. Printer: Martin Lewis, New York. Edition: 106. Purchase. © The Estate of Martin Lewis

New York City Sounds

Take an aural tour of NYC, from Staten Island to the boogie down Bronx, across 110th Street to Coney Island, baby.
Natasha Giliberti Jul 29, 2020

Philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “Music is liquid architecture; Architecture is frozen music.” For New Yorkers, it’s easy to see what he meant.

Many of the elements we associate with music—repetition, rhythm, mathematical structure—apply to architecture as well. So it’s no surprise that New York City, a world epicenter of music and architecture, has inspired so many songs. We’ve gathered some of our favorites and arranged them into a kind of musical tour of the City, from 110th Street via Downtown train to Coney Island. Just don’t forget to bring your Metrocard. These songs also reflect NYC’s proud status as the adopted home of people from all over the world—not to mention the love/hate relationship so many of us have with this place that can break your heart almost as often as it fills you with wonder.

The skyscrapers are mostly empty right now, and there is very little music filling the streets. But I’m looking forward to the day when the City can safely come back to life. In the meantime, hopefully these songs will remind you of its magic.

Special thanks to Isabel Miesner, Charles Miesner, Jason Persse, and MoMA’s Department of Architecture and Design for their amazing song recommendations.