A musical road is a road, or part of a road, which when driven over causes a tactile vibration and audible rumbling transmitted through the wheels into the car body in the form of a musical tune.
Musical roads are known to exist in four countries: Denmark, Japan, South Korea, and the United States of America.
The first known musical road, the Asphaltophone, was created in October 1995 in Gylling, Østjylland, Denmark, by Steen Krarup Jensen and Jakob Freud-Magnus, two Danish artists. The Asphaltophone is made from a series of raised pavement markers, similar to Botts' dots, spaced out at intermittent intervals so that as a vehicle drives over the markers, the vibrations caused by the wheels can be heard inside the car.
In Japan, Shizuo Shinoda accidentally scraped some markings into a road with a bulldozer and drove over them, and realised that it was possible to create tunes depending on the depth and spacing of the grooves. In 2007, the Hokkaido National Industrial Research Institute, which had previously worked on infra-red lights to detect dangerous road surfaces, refined Shinoda's designs to create the Melody Road. They used the same concept of cutting grooves into the concrete at specific intervals and found that the closer the grooves are, the higher the pitch of the sound; while grooves that are spaced farther apart create lower pitched sounds.
There are three permanently paved 250 m stretches of Melody Roads; one in Hokkaido, another in Wakayama where a car can produce the Japanese ballad "Miagete goran yoru no hoshi wo" by Kyu Sakamoto, and a third in Gunma, which consists of 2,559 grooves cut into a 175 m stretch of existing roadway and produces the tune of "Memories of Summer". The roads work by creating sequences of variable width groove intervals to create specific low and high frequency vibrations. The pavements were designed so that the songs were heard right only when a car drove at a certain speed, encouraging drivers to observe speed limits.
The Singing Road can be found close to Anyang, Gyeonggi, South Korea, and was created using grooves cut into the ground, similar to the Japanese Melody Roads. Unlike the Japanese roads, however, which were designed to attract tourists, the Singing Road is intended to help motorists stay alert and awake – 68% of traffic accidents in South Korea are due to inattentive, sleeping or speeding drivers. The tune played is "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and took four days to construct.
Civic Musical Road
The Civic Musical Road was built on Avenue K in Lancaster, California, United States, on 5 September 2008. Covering a quarter-mile stretch of road between 60th Street West and 70th Street West, the Musical Road used grooves cut into the asphalt to replicate part of the Finale of the William Tell Overture. It was paved over on 23 September after nearby residents complained to the city council about noise levels.
After further complaints from city residents about its removal, work began to re-create it on 15 October 2008 on Avenue G between 30th Street West and 40th Street West — this time, two miles away from any residence. This road is named after the Honda Civic. It opened two days later. The new section on Avenue G is only in the far left lane of the westbound side of the road.
The road appears in Honda Civic commercials. The rhythm is recognizable, but the pitches are so far off that the melody bears only a slight resemblance to the William Tell Overture. The intonation is not affected by the design of the car or the travel speed. It is likely the designers made a systematic miscalculation which affected all the groove spacings.
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