Organized space is a fixture of the institutions that structure the human world. The Oxford Dictionary defines “institution”, as a society or organization founded for a religious, educational, social, or similar purpose. Within an institution, there are formal and informal elements. The formal elements of an institution include ceremonial and/or planned events and activities. Conversely, the informal aspects of an institution include more vague and flexible experiences. The soundscapes created by the institution, bring to light two separate viewpoints on that space. Does the soundscape of the institution shape the behavior of the occupants? Do the occupants of the institution influence the soundscape?
The institutional sounds themselves are often considered “white noise” to the occupants of the particular institutional soundscape. That is, these are the sounds that one would not think twice about when hearing them. These are background sounds that are so embedded within the identity of the institution that they essentially become part of the walls that enclose the space of the institution. Examples of institutional sounds one might hear during his or her everyday routine could include the various conversations and rings that sound in an office, or the sound of a train conductor announcing the next stop on one’s daily commute. Another defining factor of institutional sounds is their artificial nature. Some sounds are created through the mere action of a car driving by on the road or an A/C unit turning itself on and off within a household. These are general examples of how “white noise” can be drowned in the background from all other noises around us. Institutional sounds can be found almost everywhere that human influence can be found. Oberlin is no exception to this, and although it has many sounds in common with other institutions, these sounds in Oberlin have a particularly Obie twist to them.
Oberlin, like any other institutional soundscape as its distinct environment that highlight the features which are unique to Oberlin. Examples of the institutional sounds we recorded span a wide of Oberlin institutions. These range from the quiet creaking of the floors in Peters Hall to the organized chaos that is the practice rooms in the conservatory. All of these exhibit the different traits institutional sounds that Oberlin displays. The organized chaos of the practice rooms is a soundscape that is almost entirely unique to Oberlin, as many schools and conservatories do not operate at the same level as Oberlin, due to its high standing in the realm of music education. Similar to the organized chaos of the practice rooms, the recording of the football practice exemplifies how this type soundscape can be seen in many other environments that might not have much in common. The similarity between the two shows how two soundscapes can be described similarly, but almost have nothing in common. The practice rooms in the conservatory contains students who are playing in an organized manner, but when all these sounds are mashed together, it creates chaos. Similarly, each football player must go about each play in an organized manner in respect to their assignments, but when each player tries to execute their assignments, a form of chaos ensues. As previously mentioned, every institution has its own soundscape, and the institutions at Oberlin is no exception to this rule.
Through the walkway of Peters Hall, students tend to have the feel of a quiet environment. This is associated with the sound of the creaky floor boards as you walk through the halls. Wood flooring was not commonly seen throughout a household until the late 19th century. The sound is made by a person walking on the wood floor that has worn down over time and begins to either erode or shift from it’s originally position. In order to create this sound, someone must walk over the floor boards with enough weight to shift the wood and create a creaky/raspy noise. The attitudes that reflect the sound of the wood floor as one walks over it to create a creaking noise are contributed to a quiet or old building interpretation. When most people hear the sound of a wooden floor, they instinctively think that they must walk quieter and be more cautious with their surroundings.
The key card swipe is filled with multiple different sounds throughout the soundscape. It was made by recording the walk from outside the dorm to when the door shuts behind you. This soundscape has a brief history of the college life. Not too long ago, schools began using key card swipes and pin pads to get in and out of dorms. Lately, schools have been using prison architects to create the layout of how the dorm buildings will be made. Similar to a prison, a card swipe can monitor and restrict which buildings you enter and when you can enter them. This sound is made as an institutional noise to show whether you have clearance or not to enter the building. With the swipe of the card, the person entering the building and the door that opens and closes are the sounds that flood the atmosphere. The attitudes and behaviors of these sounds reflect the prison type feel or the conformed feel of how dorm buildings are beginning to be portrayed as.
This sound was created from a football practice. It was recorded while the coaches ran a drill and motivated the players by shouting at them. There is a long history behind the sound of a football practice. It all started back in the mid-19th century and has evolved into the game it is known as today. The sound is made from whistles being blown, coaching shouting, and players striking one another with their pads. It is a sum of many actions coming together at once. This sound can be created from a football practice, a football drill, or even a football game. It is distinct in the nature that it can only be recreated through the form of a football activity. The attitudes of the noises and sounds reflect the violent and chaotic nature of what the sport entails and how it is perceived through the eyes and ears of an observer.
The sounds in this recording are made by the morning rush of students passing in and out of the Science Center before 10:00 AM classes. There is not much that is distinguishable in this recording, because it is the amalgamation of numerous people doing different activities and carrying out their own conversations. What makes this sound unique is that it can only be heard in a small 10 minute window from 9:50-10:00 in the morning, because that is when the masses of students walk through the building on their way to classes. If one were to come at 10:05, he or she would experience a much more quiet and tranquil soundscape. The Oberlin College Science Center was approved in September of 1997 and was completed in September of 2002. On October 4th, it was ceremoniously dedicated and opened for use.
Although it is not explicitly stated, Stevenson Dining hall is most likely named after Oberlin’s 8th president, William Stevenson, who served from 1946-1960. A rather interesting man, Stevenson also won a gold medal in the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris for his victory in the 4x400 relay. College cafeterias are a feature on almost every college campus, and most colleges use a meal swipe system, in which a student pays for his or her meal beforehand and then simply swipes his or her I.D. card and gains entrance into the cafeteria. A college cafeteria system often has a virtual monopoly on the students due to an isolated location and a lack of surrounding eateries. Oberlin is no exception to this case, as students will eat at one of the various cafeterias around campus for almost every meal.
This recording is made by several students in the weight room in the Philips Gym at Oberlin College. The huffs and puffs that can be heard in the background are made by the various weightlifters in the gym at that time in the day. Additionally, the clanking of metal is made by the weights hitting each other as students and faculty use the various machines and free weights in their pursuit of a more healthy body. The soundscape was recorded in the late afternoon on a weekday, so the weight room had an average occupation. If one were to come in the evenings, he or she would experience a much busier and chaotic soundscape. The gym is named after Jesse Philips, and includes a pool, to basketball courts, an indoor 6-lane track, and other various facilities.
This recording was made by a student walking through the hallways that contain the Oberlin Conservatory practice rooms. The sounds that can be heard are made by various students individually playing through various etudes, technical studies and repetoire. The instruments that can be heard in this recording include string instruments such as violin or cello, piano and a clarinet. This recording was made in the evening of a day in the middle of the week. Most of the rooms were in use.