When I developed the "Science is Fun!" activity discussed below, I should have known that Honda's Musical Road in Lancaster was not the only musical road in the world.
It turns out there at least four. And there's a web page devoted to the phenomenon. It's part of the Sound Tourism website. Want to drive them all? Pack your bags! Here's where they are:
1. Lancaster, California, USA, Musical Road - "William Tell Overture"
2. Melody Road, Japan - "Memories of Summer"
3. Anyang, Gyeonggi, South Korea - "Mary Had a Little Lamb"
4. Gylling, Denmark, Asphaltophone
There's a nice "video jukebox" on the page that allows visitors to see news clips relating to each of the roads.
If you listen to the Musical Road as depicted on the 2009 Honda Civic Musical Road ad, you hear one version of tarmac William Tell Overture.
If you listen to posted YouTube videos of "regular folk" driving the Musical Road in Lancaster, the tune is significantly different. And not for the better.
Did Honda autotune the road song for their ad?
According to the Musical Road page on Wikipedia, the Lancaster's tuneful tarmac was moved from one location to another due to complaints of local residents about the noise.
The timeline was as follows: in early September of 2008, Honda's Musical Road opened. In late September, it was paved over. In mid-October, the musical road was reconstructed in a location farther from residents. Perhaps the September road was better and the October road was worse.
The location shown in the Honda ad appears remote; the location in the YouTube videos appears remote. But the tune in the everyman videos is quite off.
The Wiki page review is less kind: "The rhythm is recognizable, but the pitches are so far off that the melody bears only a slight resemblance to the William Tell Overture. ... It is likely the designers made a systematic miscalculation which affected all the groove spacings."
And that was the review of the "good" version from the ad. My own take is more forgiving. Remember, it's not that the talking dog speaks well, it's that he speaks at all.
UPDATE: Sound files offered as evidence of Honda's auto-tuning.
User Finale (with a 20% speed increase to match Honda's higher-speed pitch)
UPDATE: This one appears to be in the new location. And the banter between our investigators is too cute not to include. It sounds that same as the "original" road, with the same off-off-notes, so I'm sticking to my theory that Honda auto-tuned certain notes in their TV ad.