— J.R.R. Tolkien,
“The Lord of the Rings”
With a few exceptions across the mountain states, the lifts have, or will be soon, cranked to a screeching halt and, while many will undoubtedly trek off to higher snow, most of us are ready to load up the water toys, climbing gear and mountain bikes and head out into the oncoming spring. Cars and trucks may be the vehicles, but music is what gets us there. There is a rhythm to tires on open road, a vibration synced from engine to asphalt that sustains us through the journey, but it’s the music that puts down the miles and propels us into the adventure.
Cars and trucks have inspired generations of songs, but in taking our chariots to the next level of evolution in the marriage between vehicle and music, artists have lately turned cars into creative, tonal and percussive instruments. Using slamming doors, switches, ignition, revving and pounding the steering wheel, Los Angeles filmmaker Julian Smith made a music video starring a Jeep Cherokee. The genre is called “bootboxing” and it solely utilizes all the bells, whistles and actual sounds produced from any vehicle (check out “Techno Jeep” on youtube).
Japanese engineers even took it a step further, getting their groove on those annoying rumble strips meant to keep drivers awake and on the road. In California, they tuned the grooves of rumble strips to play the finale of the “William Tell Overture” when a car drives over the entire quarter mile of ruts (see “Civic Musical Road” on youtube).
My good friend, Cathy Hedin McNeil, who well understands the cadence of vibrations through the lower register of her bass guitar, is convinced that road and music vibrations work in harmony with one’s own internal field vibrations. “Music enables a person to travel in the most literal and the most figurative sense. Certainly on the open road, you can’t think about driving on the open road. The freedom that engenders necessitates music playing. The symbiosis of music and traveling is a very literal thing, in the car, rubber on the road, music blaring out of your speakers … In the figurative sense, a song like ‘White Rabbit’ (Jefferson Airplane) can take me traveling to unlimited other realms within the field. For instance, I can be in a normal state of emotion, but I can put on Tchaikovsky and it can move me to tears and traveling into that realm of my own emotion that I might not otherwise be able to access. I don’t have to travel … music takes me there from my living room. Between music and maps, I can go anywhere and it doesn’t cost much except a joint and a pot of coffee.” Indeed, that’s why they called it tripping in the first place.
Music transports us simultaneously into the past and the future, drops us into the heart of hot and gritty cities or takes us home down a country road. It lifts us out of a crowd and into our minds. It can bridge the distance of vastly different cultures. In Steven Spielberg’s conceptual movie, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” it was a five-tone musical phrase in a major scale that was the communicative link between visiting extraterrestrials and humans during a starry-night concerto under Devil’s Tower.
Long before Led Zep rambled on, Steppenwolf decided they were “Born to Be Wild” and, yes, even prior to Lynyrd Skynyrd wailing about how they were such freebirds, there was music sparking wanderlust equally as much as wanderlust inspired the music. The lure of open road, open seas, endless railroad tracks, and space, the final frontier … it’s all about freedom and movin’ on. It’s enough for us to pack our bags, stick out a thumb and run down a dream and an adventure or two. If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there, and with an inexhaustible playlist of traveling music, there’s no limit to where your mind and body can wander.
Dawne Belloise is currently staging a gypsy exit out of Crested Butte in a travel trailer large enough to hold a couple of guitars, a killer sound system and a 20-pound cat. Email her at