Musical Roads: The Road as an Instrument

A new take on a road song...

Ultimate Guitar
Musical Roads: The Road as an Instrument

Most drivers usually listen to their favorite music, random tracks on the radio or just sing a road song while driving. But in some countries, the road sings back! Shoulder and centerline strips that are placed to alert drivers that they're getting too close to the edge of the lane or to indicate that they exceed the speed can do more than just make a terrible noise.

The "Singing" road is a highway with a special coating. Car wheels make the "encrypted" songs come to life. The sound of this "songs" can be compared to an old vinyl record. You can find musical roads only in a few countries: South Korea, Denmark, Japan and the United States.

The road-as-an-instrument concept was invented in 1995 when two Danish artists (Steen Krarup Jensen and Jakob Freud-Magnus) came up with the "Asphaltophone," raised pavement markers that are more closely related to Botts' dots than rumble strips.

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The Japan singing road was created in 2007 by engineer Shizuo Shinoda. He accidentally scraped a road with a bulldozer and realized that it started making interesting sounds. Japan singing roads have furrows of different depths located at the distance of 5-10 cm from each other. The smaller the distance, the higher the sound and Vice versa. The rhythm of the melody is controlled by the length of the furrows. To hear the melody clearly, you need to go at a certain speed.

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Nearly 70 percent of highway accidents in South Korea are caused by distracted or dozing drivers, so the Korean Highway Corp. Has installed musical grooves in particularly dangerous stretches of road in an attempt to get motorists to pay attention. Here's one of the songs, which you'll recognize as a slightly off-tune version of "Mary Had a Little Lamb."

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The only musical road in the U.S. can be found in Lancaster, California, where a snippet of the offtune "William Tell Overture" plays for drivers going 55 mph. It was built on 5 September 2008. The road found it’s voice in 2008.

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Transportation officials in New Mexico hope that “America the Beautiful” will get cars to slow down on a section of historic Route 66 between Albuquerque and Tijeras. To hear the song at the proper speed and pitch, vehicles must strictly obey the posted speed limit of 45 mph. Drivers are unable to hear the song if they are going even a few miles under or over the limit. It was built in October 2014.

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14 comments sorted by best / new / date

    In Russia almost all roads are musical - but not because of special technologies or something - just because of pits, mud, dirt, etc And when you drive your car, jumping on all that pits, it sounds like real industrial metal - sometimes even noise - with the screams of enraged drivers instead of regular aggressive vocals
    "So, let's hear this musical road thing..." (goes slowly, listens to calm melody...) "Nah... I feel like neoclassical today" (goes pedal to the metal)
    all we need now is Fender or Gibson to start producing some nice tone tyres to get the best tone possible from these roads. At the low price of 10k per tyre ofcourse for the custom shop ones or 2k for the Squier/Epiphone chinese made versions.
    My old guitar teacher was talking about how a local museum/performance hall built in honor of Ivar Aasen (he made Norway's second written Norwegian language, because the old one was too Danish for his tastes or something. Long story) where, if I remember correctly, the farm he grew up on once stood, and they wanted to make a musical road up to the place that would play a song he wrote. My teacher jokingly said they didn't do it because people would start driving it backwards to look for hidden satanic messages