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The History of Musical Roads

Many Antelope Valley Residents know of our musical road located on Avenue G between 30th and 40th Street West, but they might not be aware that Lancaster is one of the few places in the United States, let alone the world, that has a musical road, making it one of our most unique attractions.

As many residents remember, the road was first opened on September 5, 2008, along Avenue K and was named the “Civic Musical Road”. The original road was designed and made by Honda as part of an advertising campaign and was the first of its kind in the United States. It quickly became popular and many people lined up to take a drive on it. This not only caused traffic build ups in the street, but the sound of the song carried as far as a half mile causing many residents to issue noise complaints (Destination Lancaster).

In response to this issue, the city repaved the original road on Avenue K and moved it to a more secluded Avenue G, where it still sits today. It reopened on October 12, 2008. The music is created from driving over grooves in the road, like rumble strips. When driven on at about 55 miles per hour, the grooves create different pitches of sound, playing the William Tell Overture finale (also known as The Lone Ranger theme song).

The first known musical road ever created was the Asfaltofon ,or Asphaltophone, made in 1995 in Gylling, Denmark by two Danish artists Steen Krarup Jensen and Jakob Freud-Magnus. Their design was made from a series of raised circular pavement markers, also known as Botts’ dots, which similarly created vibrations and sound when driven over. Their song of choice was an arpeggio.

The second musical road was made in 2000 in Villepinte, Sien-Saint-Denis, France. Supposedly the road was paved over just two years later, but some claim that it can still be heard when driving on the road. Japan really took off with the installation of musical roads. In 2007, a man named Shizuo Shinoda accidentally scraped some markings into a road with a bulldozer before driving over them, realizing they could create different musical tones. Engineers in Sapporo, who had previously studied the use of infra-red light to detect dangerous road surfaces, begin studying how to create musical roads further (Johnson 2007). There are now at least thirty musical roads in Japan today, with some playing the theme song from the anime Neon Genesis Evagelion and the song “Always with Me” from the film Spirited Away. These roads are primarily made for tourism purposes.

However, other countries have developed musical roads for the purpose of safety such as Indonesia, South Korea, and China. The Indonesian road was interestingly made to reduce the number of traffic accidents in the area, playing the familiar Happy Birthday song. Having the songs play keeps people awake when driving. Oftentimes, the songs on the musical roads can only be heard correctly if you drive on them with the correct, consistent amount of speed. The Chinese general manager of the architecture company that created many of the roads in China named Lin Zhong Lin Zhong stated that this aspect of the roads allows people to move at a constant speed. For people to enjoy the musical effect, they must stay in the correct speed limit. Several musical roads in China play the national anthem as well as the overture from “Carmen” and “Ode to Joy”. In 2022, the most recent musical road was made- playing the song “Without the Communist Party, There Would Be No New China.”

As mentioned, Lancaster’s musical road was built in 2008 and it was the first musical road ever created in the United States. In October of 2014, in Tijeras, New Mexico, a musical road was made which played “America the Beautiful” on a two lane stretch of Route 66. Unfortunately, that road has been fading and the department of transportation has no plans to restore it due to the great cost. The final musical road in the United States is at Auburn University in Alabama, which plays the first seven notes in their college’s fight song. “War Eagle”. The most recent musical road was created in the United Arab Emirates in January of this year. The sounds of the road are being tested and developed to play the national anthem of the country.

It is unclear if more musical roads will be developed in the United States, whether for safety or for advertisement, but Lancaster’s remains a piece of musical road history. Why not revisit it and take a drive?

Works Cited:

Johnson, Bobbie. “Japan’s Melody Roads Play Music as You Drive”. The Guardian. 2007. (Japan's melody roads play music as you drive | World news | The Guardian).

Wikipedia. Musical road (Musical road - Wikipedia).


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