This Soundmap explores the variety of sounds and spaces within the Claremont Colleges community. Claremont is situated at the foot of the the San Gabriel Mountains roughly 30 miles east of Los Angeles.  The Claremont Colleges are seven academic institutions, five undergraduate and 2 graduate, with a total 6,900 students. This Soundmap aims to capture the sonic character of the Claremont consortium campus and its environs. Some of the spaces explored include a student-run coffee house, student lounges, academic buildings, performance spaces, athletic arenas, and campus quadrangles.

pin-soundscapeThe map’s “soundscape” entries present sounds characteristic of Claremont in the form of brief recordings accompanied by short descriptions that follow the language of R. Murray Schafer, who coined the term “soundscape.”-1-  Thus the entries identify “keynotes” (sounds so pervasive that they are easy not to notice), “soundmarks” (sonic landmarks by which one might recognize an environment), “archetypes” (soundmarks typical of specific kinds of environments), and “signals” (sounds intended to convey meaning).  There is some overlap between these categories, and often a description will reveal something about how the writer inhabits a soundscape.  The bells of a railroad crossing are intended as a signal, but for many students who live close to the tracks they have become soundmarks or even keynotes.

pin-reverberantThe map’s “reverberant spaces” entries examine the acoustic properties of various spaces within the community through recordings of the popping of large (18-inch) balloons.  As you listen to the striking differences between the various reverberant-space recordings, be aware that all of the popped balloons themselves were almost identical, as were the sounds they produced.  When popped, the balloons produce bursts of white noise.  The decay of the white noise in a given space offers a way to understand many qualities of that space.

This Soundmap is a project in the course Music 91: Perception and Cognition of Sound in the Modern World taught at Pomona College by Alfred Cramer during the spring semesters of 2013 and 2014.  The contributors are students at many of the Claremont Colleges.  Jason Brown, educational technologist at Pomona College, provided technical support, as did Mary McMahon, Director of Instructional Services for Pomona College Information Technology Services.  This project emerged from the Digital Pedagogy Integrations Program at Pomona.

 –Ariane Gushue and Alfred Cramer


1. The Tuning of the World (New York:  Random House, 1977). back↩