Author Archives: Alfred Cramer

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Little Bridges lobby during street demolition (May 2013)


Pomona-Bridges Hall-Lobbyconstruction May 23 2013
 

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Soundscape: Recess at Chaparral Elementary School, Oct. 9, 2014 just before 10:00 A.M.

During recess

End of recess

 

Location and timeThe primary-grades playground of Chaparral Elementary School during first recess.  The recorder (a TASCAM DR-40) was on the eastern edge of the playground.

About the Soundscape.
Kids are talking, yelling, and screaming.  There is the sound of tetherball chains rattling. We hear balls bouncing off the handball wall or the ground, and the soft thuds of rubber balls hitting black top. There is rhythmic bouncing of balls from the handball wall to the ground. There is also the sound of kids kicking the soccer ball. Ropes and shoes quietly click and shuffle as kids jump rope.

When the bell [actually a loud electronic tone] rings at the end of recess, everyone squats down until a whistle says to get up and go inside.  It gets quieter after the bell rings and louder after the whistle. Some indications that this is an elementary-school playground include the high-pitched voices of kids, the sounds of playground games such as tetherball, and the sound of the bell.

—By the students in Mrs. Andrade’s 3rd-grade class

Marston Quadrangle at Pomona, Friday, 15 March 2013, 9:03 a.m.

Pomona-Marston-south03-08-13

 

Location. A tree-filled garden stretches along the southern edge of Marston Quad, near Fourth Street.  Although college tourguides still call it a Shakespeare garden, it is now mostly planted with plants appropriate to California (including giant sequoia trees, of which one or two are still standing but not doing well in this climate).  For this recording, the microphone rested about six inches above the westernmost of the three concrete walkways that cross the garden, about 65 feet due north of Thatcher Music Building.

About the soundscape.  Two kinds of sounds are constant in this recording.  First is the steady hum of a machine that was being operated in the distance, probably at Smith Campus Center on the opposite corner of the Quad.  It’s not a sound I ordinarily hear at this site, and it was hard to ignore, so notwithstanding its unremitting presence in this recording I certainly don’t think of it as a keynote of the southern edge of Marston Quadrangle.  On the other hand, there is usually work being done by heavy equipment somewhere on the Pomona College campus, so perhaps in a general way the hum is a keynote of the College.  The second constant is the presence of bird songs and calls heard throughout the recording, mostly coming from trees and bushes.  As a constant sound that recedes to the background of consciousness, the bird sounds are a keynote of this scene–unless one is thinking about the scene as a naturalistic garden dominated by trees (or a Shakespeare garden!), in which case the birdsongs become archetypes indicating and epitomizing the kind of place this is, a garden.

Two sounds join and then leave the soundscape:  a car being driven down College Avenue (only one during the two minutes of this recording!), heard most prominently between 0:30 and 0:40, and a golf-cart-sized vehicle being driven on Fourth Street which passes close to the microphone between 1:30 and 1:40.  At the time of this recording, Fourth Street was a street with asphalt and curbs; during the summer of 2013 it was made into a wide walkway–but College groundskeepers and other support staff still travel on it in their small vehicles whose intermittent whirr, like the hum of heavy equipment, is a keynote of College life.

One might expect, on a concrete path in a College’s central quadrangle, to hear sounds archetypal of College:  the sounds of professors or students walking and talking, perhaps, or of frisbee being played.  Such sounds are absent here.  Marston Quadrangle is large and therefore almost never dense with people; and at 9:03 in the morning, those students who are awake are in class or working.  Shortly before 9:00 a few people were walking here and there, but at 9:03 people were not part of the scene.

Acoustic Space: Thatcher Stairwell

reverb-Pomona-Thatcher-stairwellFeb2013

Location. Stairwell leading from first-floor lobby to basement of Thatcher Music Building, Pomona College, Claremont, CA.

Description of the space. It is an enclosed two-flight staircase.  The walls, which include a wall separating the two flights of stairs, are of painted concrete.  The steps and landing are covered in laminate tile and appear to be concrete underneath.  The stairwell has doorways at top and bottom, usually open, for entry and exit.  They were open during this recording.  The ceiling is at an angle, so that the distance above any step is approximately approximately ?? feet.  Total height of the stairwell from the bottom landing to the ceiling above the top landing is approximately ?? feet.

Recording setup. The microphone and the balloon were both placed near the floor of the landing between the two flights of stairs, about three feet apart.

Reverberation time.
30 dB decay:  1.8 sec
60 dB decay:  4.8 sec
decay to background level: 5.0 sec
minimum: 6.4 sec
(Using intensity graph function in Praat,)

Acoustic description.  The resonance in this space prominently reinforces a pitch that I hear as 312 Hz. In the recording this pitch (E-flat 3, just above middle C) becomes audible as a hum less than a half-second after the pop, and it remains perhaps the most prominent feature of the sound for about two seconds.