A set of rumble strips embedded in the expanse of the Route 66 east of Albuquerque plays “America the Beautiful” when the drivers cruise along it. The interesting part is that the source of music is the highway itself, with the musical notes being emitted from the grooves in the road.
The ideal tempo of the song is achieved if you drive along it at 45 miles per hour. At higher speeds, the song plays faster. Watch the video of the car as it is driven along the stretch of the Route 66 playing America the Beautiful:
The idea of this musical highway is ingeniously simple. Just like the rumble strips that jerk you awake if you doze off while driving, the musical highway uses a specified pattern of rumble strips to create the song.
The engineers from the San Bar Construction Corp. used a clever mathematical result to determine the exact distance of each rumble strip and its effect on the pitch of the song as wheel drove over it. The pattern of the rumble strips had to be determined to millimeter precision else the song would have lost its rhythm altogether.
Matt Kennicott, director of communications for NMDOT explained the concept of the Singing Highway:
“The road works by the simplest bit of science. All of the sounds and music notes that we hear in day-to-day life are just vibrations through the air. For instance, anything that vibrates 330 times in one second will produce an E note—a guitar string, a tuning fork or even a tire. To produce an E note with a car, we had to space the rumble strips such that if driven at 45 mph for one second, the car would hit 330 strips. A bit of math tells us this is 2.4 inches between each rumble strip. After that, it’s a case of breaking down the music into exact chunks of time and applying the same technique to each space depending on what note is needed and for how long.”
Once they were done with calculating the exact spacing and placement of the rumble strips, the engineers welded the metal bars to form a template. Next came the asphalt, as each model was embedded into the pavement with heated asphalt. The whole process of installing the rumble strips and painting the musical notes onto the highway was completed in 24 hours or so.
The song’s tempo depends on the speed of the car and the size of its tires. The song could sound different to various travelers depending on the width of the vehicle’s wheels, the material of the wheels and the noises in the vehicle carriage.
Previously, the Asphaltophone of Denmark and Melody Road in Japan were known as the rhythmic roads from around the world. The future hints of a traveling experience filled with the joyous notes from a musical highway; because what is a road trip without a smashing playlist?