City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

The highway’s jammed with broken heroes

Written in





My recent thoughts on ‘Indiscreet music’ and modeling urban sounds just got a whole new variable to deal with. 

"The Melody Road will allow a car passing above it to play a simple tune, which is made audible by ridges on the road’s surface. The pitch of the note created is increased by increasing the frequency of the ridges, and the opposite is also true."

It may be intended to be a traffic calming measure – the video below is a little unclear on whether the resulting Sunn O)))-meets-gaguku drone is calming or entertaining – but what happens when people start improvising, veering out into the other lane to skip certain notes? Or zipping back and forth over one particular note? Total mayhem, that’s what; burning cars dotting the side of the road, strangely beautiful discordant whines drifting through the smoky haze. You mark my words.

While the kind of sound artists I mentioned previously might pause briefly to consider another possibility for generating ‘positive soundscapes’, I doubt the resolution of tyre-on-grooved tarmac is quite high enough for any truly engaging noise.

(Yet just maybe … the actual Highway 61 could be reconfigured to endlessly play ‘Highway 61 Revisited’, ditto Route 66. More plausibly, autobahns all over Germany could sound like, well, ‘Autobahn’. Let’s hope no-one in Hokkaidō is too familiar with Bowie’s ‘Always Crashing in the Same Car‘.)

The most bizarre musical instrument on earth [Deputydog]
Melody Road – speed control using music – best heard at 28 mph [Smart Mobs]
[via Matt Jones]


One response to “The highway’s jammed with broken heroes”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: