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CanadaSound: the Canadian Melody guiding you safely across the street

Grant Lawrence

What are Canada's most iconic sounds? What is your favourite Canadian sound? Why? Those are the questions we're asking you this year, as part of our Canada 150 project called CanadaSound. We're hoping to create the ulimate Canadian soundmap. Throughout the year, I'll share some of the country's most unique and recognizable sounds.

Today: The Canadian Melody.

What does the crosswalk signal sound like at your nearest busy intersection? Is it high pitched tweeting, like a bird? Or is it a distinct and melodic tune?

If you hear music when you cross the street in Canada, you could be being prompted by something called the Canadian Melody. The four-note tune was developed back in the 1990s by a Delta, B.C. company called Novax Industries, with help from the University of Ottawa and the Institut Nazareth et Louis Braille.

More than twenty years later, you can hear the distinct melody at crosswalks throughout Quebec and in places like Halifax and Ottawa, but not Toronto or Vancouver. It's up to city governments as to whether they adopt the lower key, supposedly safer Canadian Melody.

Another place the Canadian Melody is used is Prince George, B.C. Watch the video above to see and hear the Canadian Melody signal, and hear the story behind it from CBC Prince George's Andrew Kurjata.

But here's a funny thing about the Canadian Melody. As our CanadaSound executive producer pointed out, the Canadian Melody sounds a heck of a lot like the same four opening notes of Tchaikovsky's famed Piano Concerto No 1. Have a listen for yourself to compare. It begs the uncomfortable question... how Canadian is the Canadian Melody? Are we really crossing safely crossing the street to an original Canadian tune, or a very famous Russian song? What would Paul Henderson think?

What is the iconic sound of your town? What is your favourite Canadian sound? Submit yours now!

CBC Music is pleased to support CanadaSound, imagined by cleansheet communications, with partners the Junos, SOCAN, Musicounts, Canadian Heritage, IcI musique, and Adisque.