“Music from the Road” is a collection of American music reviews by New York Times critic Tim Page. It also sounds like the name of an album recorded in the backseat of a van by some Americana bluegrass band. In this case, though, the phrase refers to a small strip of land in New Mexico where there’s actually music coming from the road.
On Route 66, there’s a 490-yard stretch of bumps and grooves that will play “America the Beautiful” when driven over—as long as you’re going the speed limit. Turns out it’s a clever advertising ruse by Nationwide Insurance to get drivers to be safe (the Nationwide jingle plays for a few feet after the song), but what a ruse it is, and what a process it was to create it.
In order to pull off the engineering feat, a local road contractor built steel templates that could produce various pitches when pressed into the asphalt. The rumble strip is essentially a more meticulous version of the ones that warn you when you’re straying from the road. There are even notes painted onto the side to indicate when the pitches will sound. The National Geographic video below explains the process more thoroughly.
Open, flat states (I’m looking at you Nebraska) should jump all over this. Want people to enjoy that eight-hour drive through the plains? Drop some treads in the asphalt. Just think of the possibilities! What if musicians started releasing their music on the road (literally)? Album releases are getting more and more unconventional, so why not? “Radiohead’s New Album Took So Long Because They Were Engraving It into a Highway in the Oklahoma Panhandle.” Eventually, there could even be collections of music reviews solely dedicated to such music; now that’s a “Music from the Road” book that I’d jump all over.
This patch of road opened a couple years ago—are there any nerds out there that have driven it? Let us know in the comments.
IMAGE: National Geographic/Youtube