Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Musical Road Rage or Tourist Attraction? UPDATE: "Musical Road" by RPA.

Great creative builds great buzz, the idea turns bad and now has a happy ending.

Back at the end of the year I posted a story on a series of spots created for the 2010 Honda CrossTour using some unique animation style by RPA of Santa Monica, California.

Added to the end of that piece was a description of a brilliant "engagement" ambient piece that I am still has me shaking my head the same way the VW Musical Stairs form Sweden did. The "Musical Road" really was like nothing else I had seen before. It wasn't a traditional ambient "installment" or "prop" added to a structure... this was actually engineered and designed with physical changes into the actual highway, taxpayer dollars built highway.

It was believed to be the first such musical road in the United States, although there are others in Japan, South Korea and Holland.

Well here's the follow up that I am pretty sure wasn't what Honda or RPA had in mind.The nation's first "musical road" has been silenced.

The musical road was installed in Lancaster, California, a desert city north of Los Angeles. The concept called for cutting "carved" grooves into the surface of Avenue G that produced the "notes" of the "William Tell Overture" when cars drive over them. The quarter-mile strip was engineered to play the notes to the theme of "The Lone Ranger" when drivings hit them at 55 mph.

But soon after the install came... complaints. Plenty of them, which forced the city to pave over that stretch of road just two weeks after neighbors complained the noise was annoying and kept them awake. Kept their dogs awake.

"I think it's terrible because it keeps me awake at night," Lancaster resident Donna Martin told the Daily Breeze newspaper.

"You can kind of tell it's music, but it's not any tune or notes. It's a scratchy sound, a high-pitch drone."
Smart idea crushed. But wait there's a happy ending.

The city also received hundreds of calls praising the road and so the city council decided to recreate the road in an industrial area away from homes. Many residents also liked it, and so did the many that traveled to hear the road "sing".

"It will be a tourist attraction. It will pull people off the freeway," Mayor R. Rex Parris said.

"You drove over it and you didn't know what to expect. When we got to the end of it, I was smiling ear to ear," said Genevieve Skidmore, a 80 year old resident of Lancaster.

Here's the real magic. The City Council has approved spending up to $35,000 for the work, but officials said there has been interest from several companies in sponsoring the road and reimbursing the cost in return for publicity. 

WAIT where is the original Honda sponsorship?

The piece remains a game changer. What more can be said.

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