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 six countries: Denmark, Japan, South Korea, the United States of America, China and San Marino.
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 a system using 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 the closer the grooves are, the higher the pitch of the sound; while grooves which are spaced farther apart create lower pitched sounds.
There are multiple permanently paved 250 m stretches of Melody Roads. The first ones built included one in Hokkaido, another in Wakayama where a car can produce the Japanese ballad "Miagete goran yoru no hoshi wo" by Kyu Sakamoto, one in Shizuoka Prefecture on the ascending drive up Mount Fuji, and a fourth 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. Some of these roads, such as one in Okinawa that produces the Japanese folk song "Futami Jowa", as well as one in Hiroshima Prefecture, are polyphonic, with different sequences of rumble strips for the left and right tires so that a melody and harmony can be heard.
As of 2016, there are now over 30 Melody Roads in Japan, with 4 in Hokkaido, 3 in Hiroshima, 2 in Shizuoka, 2 in Oita, 10 in Gunma, and 1 in various other prefectures.
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 intervals are so far off that the melody bears only a slight resemblance to the William Tell Overture, regardless of the car speed. It is likely the designers made a systematic miscalculation which affected all the groove spacings.
Tijeras, New Mexico
In October 2014, the village of Tijeras, New Mexico (just east of Albuquerque), gained national notoriety for a nearby "musical road", a two-lane stretch of U.S. Highway 66 (Route 66) with grooves in the roadway (rumble strips) arranged to cause the sounds of a famous song ("America the Beautiful") to be heard when vehicles drive on it. This highway is labelled NM 333, between Miles 4 and 5, eastbound. Funded by the National Geographic Society, the project was coordinated with the New Mexico Department of Transportation who described the project as a way to get drivers to slow down.
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- The Singing Road
- "New Mexico hopes 'singing road' curbs speeding", Associated Press via Yahoo News (online), 1 October 2014.
- "Route 66 Adds Singing Road as Speeding Deterrent", ABC News (TV), 2 October 2014.
- "Route 66 ‘singing road’ debuts in New Mexico", KRQE News 13 (TV), 1 October 2014.
- The Singing Road in New Mexico The Singing Road
- Locations of singing roads and their sounds on Sound Tourism website
- Google Maps Link