Author Archives: Hannah Wayment-Steele

Honnold Cafe, Feb 16, 2014

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Location.  The Honnold Café is on the first floor of the Honnold Mudd library.  The library is central to the Claremont colleges – it sits right between Pomona, Scripps, CMC, and CGU, and serves as a study space for students from all of the colleges and graduate schools.

Recording Setup.  A table in the center of the cafe, about 15 feet from the cafe counter, with the recorder pointed towards the counter.

About the Soundscape.  It’s 4 pm on a Sunday, so there are plenty of people in the café studying and ordering coffees to help with their studying.  The café is large, with low ceilings and wood-paneled square pillars about every 15 feet.  There are square tables, couches, and chairs littered everywhere, and all of them are occupied.  The walls are a dull beige, and the floor is carpeted with a print that would not look out of place in an airport.  It seems like the library has spent some money on lighting fixtures to make the place feel hip, but there are too many of these trendy lighting fixtures to make them feel original and not mass-ordered from a trendy-library-lighting catalog. Talking is allowed in this part of the library, so there is light chatter, the main keynote of the space.  I would designate the sound of conversations as an archetype sound of cafes, a representation of discourse and learning and academic banter.

It is difficult not to listen to neighboring conversations.  Surprisingly, the microphone did not pick up the conversation of two female students sitting a mere 3 feet away from me, probably a good thing as I did not want to intrude on their private conversation.  Conversational noise, when interesting enough, can function as a signal noise by directing my attention away from my own studying.

Wherever you are in the sitting area beyond the counter, you can hear the espresso machine whirring away to prepare coffee orders, and you can hear the clanging of the barista loosening the used espresso grounds from the portafilter after she has made an order.  Both of these espresso-related sounds, the whirring and the clanging, are the prominent keynotes of the cafe counter, though the portafilter clanging is loud enough to be a signal.  My brain snaps to it whenever it occurs.  Other keynotes emanating from behind the counter include the electric buzz of the freezer and the squelching noise whenever someone opens it.  Another signal that happens at about 10 seconds into the soundscape is the whirring of a blender behind the counter.  This is so loud, that I’m often surprised cafe patrons don’t get annoyed by it.


Seaver Auditorium Foyer, Feb 15, 2014






Description of the space.  Foyer outside Seaver Auditorium, between Seaver North and Seaver South buildings, Pomona College.

Seaver Auditorium is host to many events in the natural science departments at Pomona College.  It holds large introductory science classes such as General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Introductory Physics, and others.  Visiting lecturers give their talks in the auditorium.  Accordingly, the foyer outside it is also full of people on a regular basis.  Whenever the large sections in the auditorium get out, the foyer is filled with students.  After an Organic Chemistry exam, students hang out in the foyer afterwards, nervously discussing what they wrote.  After a lecture from an esteemed visitor, groups of professors and students congregate in the foyer, chatting for long after the talk is over.

The foyer itself is not much to look at.  It is a utilitarian 30 ft cube with one open face pointed towards College Avenue, a major thru street (see diagram below).  It is made entirely of grey concrete, with no ornamentation except for the back wall, where the doors to the auditorium are.  This wall has vertical grooves spaced 2-3 inches apart.  I wonder if this is to help with reverberation, since the space is entirely concrete.  Four square pillars are evenly spaced in the center.  The floor is made of dull reddish brown tile. The metal double doors to the auditorium are dented from wear.

Recording setup. I popped the balloon about 5 feet in front of the doors to the auditorium.  The microphone was located about 10 feet away, sitting on a concrete bench, about 2 feet from the concrete wall (see diagram below).


Reverberation time.

30 dB decay: 0.64 sec

50 dB decay: 1.42 sec

60 dB decay: 2.35 sec

Decay to background level: 2.92 sec

Acoustic Description.  The foyer readily amplifies and echoes sound—the microphone was at least 10 feet away and still picked up a maximum decibel level of 85 dB.  This is due to all the hard surfaces present, as there is nothing but concrete walls, concrete ceiling, concrete floor, and metal doors.  The balloon pop had a relatively long decay time: it took 2.9 sec to return to the background noise level.

The foyer has significant background noise, since it readily amplifies passing cars on College Ave, which is about 50 feet from the opening.  This can be seen in the spectrogram:  there is noticeable volume in the 20 to 200 Hz range before the balloon pop.  These frequencies are intensified with the balloon pop, but after the higher frequencies associated with the balloon pop have decayed, this background noise is still present.  This suggests that the foyer is adept for echoing sounds in this lower range.