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Ransom Riggs
Musical Roads
by Ransom Riggs - July 27, 2009 - 7:42 AM

Now I’ve heard everything: if you’re a driver so musically deprived that you have neither a radio, CD player or iPod hookup in your car, there’s still one more way to get yourself humming — by driving on a so-called “musical road.” There are only a half-dozen or so in the world — one just over an hour from me, in Lancaster, California — and they work via a series of raised pavement markers, spaced and grooved such that, when driven over at an optimal speed (usually around 50mph), the grooves’ specially-calibrated vibrations “sing.” Here’s how the one in Lancaster — tuned to the “William Tell Overture” — sounds.

Sponsored by Honda, the Lancaster road is also known as the “Civic” road. Here’s the commercial they made:

The idea was first hatched by two Danish artists, who created the very first “asphaltaphone” in the town of Gilling, Denmark. (The melody it plays isn’t too impressive, though.) Here’s a Danish news report featuring the road and its creators (in Danish, naturally). Skip to about 90 seconds to see the road in action.

There are several musical roads in Japan, including one that plays “Memories of Summer.”

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Comments (4)
  1. Those are great! I remember reading about a musical driveway built on the same principle in a Jasper Fforde book (I think “The Big Over Easy”), but I didn’t know they existed in the real world.

  2. I’ve been over the one in Lancaster! I had no idea such a thing existed until I went there (and kind of thought my boyfriend was a lil crazy when he said we were going to drive over a musical road). I didn’t know there were so few of them.

  3. Interesting idea, but it’s not really in tune. The William Tell road has the right rhythm, but the notes are WAY off.

  4. Haha I love these things :-) Yes, the William Tell road is a bit out of tune (okay, a LOT out of tune) but it’s still great.
    And yup, the Jasper Fforde musical road is a priceless, if random, moment in the book. “It’s not in poor repair. If you drive at precisely twenty-nine miles per hour, the rumble strips play ‘Jerusalem’ on the car tires.”


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