Sound and Sonic Footprints

For class on Monday, we were assigned to walk around campus and just listen, which is not something I typically do. I primarily walk to campus and back, and always have music going into my ears as I walk. After doing this assignment though, I became more aware of the noise around me.

One of the first things I noticed was the steps of those around me. Around 3:00 in the afternoon, there weren’t a ton of people walking around, but those who were walking around could often be heard. My footsteps weren’t really particularly loud, but I am one of those people who keeps their keys on a carabiner attached to a beltloop, which makes a surprising amount of noise.

I also noticed that runners keep to a very specific tempo. Their footsteps were more consistent than that of normal walkers, and also more audible. They were more rhythmic to listen to, and could easily have been the percussion section to some odd band only using sounds that are heard on a college campus.

By far the most interesting thing we did in this assignment was just to stop and sit in a single location and listen. Lots of people walked by in the time I sat. Some people have very loud footsteps. Some people do not. Some people have shoes that you can still hear squeaking from almost 30 feet away. At one point, I heard someone start a traditional “Let’s Go Hokies” chant. (For those who don’t know, this chant involves one person/group of people shouting “Let’s Go” and a group responding with “Hokies!” It is a part of the opening of football games and other sporting events on campus.) The interesting bit about this chant was that, although it was started by an adult, the response came from a group of kids that sounded like they were either in late elementary school or early middle school.

While sitting I heard many conversations of people walking by. Most of them were within a group of two or more, and so all sides of the conversation could be heard. But on occasion, someone would walk by while talking on the phone, leaving me to guess at what the other side was saying.

I was also surprised by how far away I could hear. Where I chose to sit was under the arch that connects Pamplin Hall and Robeson Hall. I could hear a construction vehicle’s distinctive backing up horn from a construction site that was easily over 100 yards away.

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