Wagner's Road Furies

By Ray Massey
The London Daily Mail
June 1, 1998

The Hits

These are the pieces that the RAC says have the sort of soothing qualities that most drivers need.
All SaintsNever Ever
The BeatlesHere Comes The Sun
BachCello Suite No. 1
Robbie WilliamsAngels
Robert PlantBig Log
BeethovenSymphony No. 6 Pastoral (Finale)
EnyaOrinoco Flow
StraussBlue Danube
DebussyClair de Lune

The Misses

Playing this music in your car could be stirring up trouble. It has the ability to raise blood pressure and heart rates.
WagnerThe Ride Of The Valkyries
The ProdigyFire Starter
Chemical BrothersBlock Rockin' Beats
MussorgskyNight On A Bare Mountain
VerdiDies Irae (Requiem)
MotorheadAce Of Spades
HolstPlanet Suite (Mars)
Carl OrffCarmina Burana
Meat LoafBat Out Of Hell
Sex PistolsAnarchy In The UK

The music you play in your car can drive you to distraction or help you avoid disaster. Whatever your taste - light pop, heavy rock or classical - the beat can affect your mood and your tolerance at the wheel, according to the RAC. The motoring organization believes some songs can leave drivers revving for a fight while others immediately take the stress out of being behind the wheel.

Astonishingly, the classical strains of Wagner are just as likely to get you in a lather as the latest head-pounding rhythm from The Prodigy. The RAC's psychologist, Conrad King, said stirring classics from Wagner and Verdi ranked alongside head-banging material from Motorhead in their ability to get blood boiling on the road. And former Take That singer Robbie Williams and all-girl band All Saints, along with Bach and the Beatles, shared an ability to soothe by stereo.

The secret, according to Mr. King, is in the number of beats per minute in the music.

The RAC has even drawn up a recommended listening list of 'hits' and 'misses' to keep drivers calm and off the road rage. "The music you listen to while driving can affect your performance behind the wheel," Mr. King said. "Whether listening to classical or pop music, there is no doubt that your mood can be altered by the beat of the music flowing from your car stereo. In general, if the music is above 60 beats per minute, listeners experience a faster heart rate and increased blood pressure. With dance music that is fairly common. Classical music is not as fast. But the number of notes, combined with repetitive crescendo and diminuendo can have the same effect."

Mr. King said road rage incidents were often linked to young drivers blaring aggressive dance music from souped-up stereos. But classical music fans could be equally hyped up by the music in their cars.

"There is no fundamental difference between the boy racer listening to rave music and the businessman in his V12 Jaguar pumping out opera," he said. "When he has Ride Of The Valkyries coming out of the speakers, heaven help anyone who gets in his way. Some people like to listen to certain music to stimulate a particular mood and the listener becomes absorbed. It all depends on the speed of the beat."

But just as certain pieces of music can make drivers more prone to blowing their cool, others act like a calming balm. Mr. King explained: "Some music can have the effect of soothing and pleasing the stressed-out, uptight motorist and deterring any possible incidents of road rage."