A few days ago Leslie and I were driving home. The radio came on to the opening flute solo of Ravel's Bolero. I intoned (in my best WFMT-style-stuffy-classical-music-announcer voice) "And now our daily performance of Ravel's Bolero."
Turns out that Bolero improved my experience of driving down California Blvd. in Pasadena, very pleasant. At the end the announcer said (in her best perky-I-used-to-work-on-a-Classic-Rock-station voice) "We get a lot of calls for that."
This reminded me of two times in my distant past when Stravinsky's Rite of Spring became the Perfect Driving Music.
I was on California Highway 1 in Big Sur, the twisty-as-a-television-commercial-for-an-expensive-car highway squeezed between the sea and mountains. As I drove and listened, a storm rolled in. The waves and clouds and wind and music combined perfectly.
The second time I was driving on Chicago's freeway system for the first time, not knowing exactly where I was going. Rush hour. Cars were cutting and swerving, signs were whooshing past. Everything was grey and gloomy. The Rite blended in with the impervious metal and cement of Chicago just as well as it had with the imposing rocks and ocean in Big Sur.
Both trips included a bit of danger. Neither was an easy drive for me. But in spite of environmental differences, the music had a nearly identical effect.
Speaking of Ravel's Bolero - there was an article in the recent Wired magazine about a deaf man who can only hear because of a computerized implant in his brain. He desperately wants to listen to Bolero. The software isn't good at distinguishing pitch so he tries to upgrade the software in his head. I bet it makes you appreciate your own hearing.