When one walks into the Georgia Tech CRC, that person usually has an objective set in their mind. With this in mind, it can be very difficult to pick up all the various sounds when you’re focused on completing a different activity. But, whether that is to run, swim, play basketball, hit the weights, or one of many other activities; there are a large variety of possible soundscapes to experience in the CRC. When I go to the CRC though, it’s usually to hit the weights, so I will be focusing on the soundscape of the lower floor weight area.
I walk into the bustling weight floor; the sound of my footsteps on the rubberized floor is added to the footsteps of the many people around me. As I make my way to the free weights, the sounds of the gym envelope me. The distant hum of the treadmills and exercise bikes in the background. Also, almost hanging above you is the constant sound of the CRC speakers playing an endless amount of remixes of current music. Nearest to me, and the most important sound to me, is the sound metal on metal contact between the weights and racks or weights hitting one another.
The sound of the weights is the sound that connects everyone together. The fact is that lifting weights is a very self-oriented activity. Meaning that I’m focused on what I’m doing more than anything, and every other person there is doing the same. The sound of weights has its own sound, so when I hear it, I feel as though even though I’m working out as solo body, I am part of the community of everyone else there.
On the fourth floor of the Campus Recreation Center (CRC), there are six basketball courts, an inside field, a room for ping-pong, and rooms for other various activities. At the moment, there are four basketball games, two volleyball games, a game of ping-pong, an indoor soccer game, and a yoga class going on. The soundscape of the floor is composed of basketballs hitting the floor, shoes running on the ground, feet kicking a soccer ball and the yoga instructor calling out to her class. I’m going to focus more specifically on the soundscape for the first basketball court only. The ball hitting the ground and rim, the feet hitting the floor, the high-pitched squeak of a player’s shoes when he changes direction, and the teammates communication with each other all make up the soundscape for the court. The main task on the basketball court is to outplay your opponent and win the game. I claim that the most important sounds to accomplish the task is the verbal communication between teammates. The communication can take many different forms, such as words and full sentences or, my favorite, quick high-pitched sounds that catch everybody’s attention. In such a big space with so many different sounds, it is important for the players to be able to hear selectively. With all the sounds going on around you, you have to be able to focus in on the sounds that will help you win the game. Being able to focus on the communication of your teammates rather than being distracted by players on another court could be the difference in winning or losing the game.
The soundscape of the basketball courts at the CRC is littered with the sounds of squeaky feet, bouncing basketballs, soft background music, and on-court conversation. Most players tune out the squeaking of feet, the bouncing of basketballs, and the playing of music. Instead they prioritize the intelligibility of others sounds, but without those sounds the game would be an unnatural experience. The background music provides a relaxing feel to the game while the squeaking of feet and bouncing of balls on the other hand get more intense when the game becomes more fun and more intense. Players dribble harder and take more steps thus increasing the volume of the squeaking and bouncing.
When players are not tuning out the noise, they are using causal listening to locate teammates that call for the ball. In this case the fidelity of the sound does not matter, all that matters is the intelligibility of the sound. Semantic listening is required sometimes when players talk on the court. For example, teammates have to be able to communicate to other teammates what is happening, such as if someone shoots the ball, a player should yell “Shot!” to notify their teammates that the ball has been shot and they should try to grab the rebound if it misses. While communication on the court might be a very important aspect of winning basketball games, winning is not the most important goal at the CRC. The most important task is to have fun. While that might be winning for some people, for most it is just playing. That is why the most important sounds on the courts are the squeaking of feet and bouncing of balls. They determine how much fun is being had.