This work by Heather Hill is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.
The Verve Pipe at Common Ground:
There are a couple of firsts for a Sounds of #LoveLansing post here, but both are hugely warranted: 1) This sound post is a full 4 1/2 minutes long, and 2) In parts it features me singing badly.
In the fall of 1993, my friends dropped me off at a fraternity party so I could save a good spot while they went to get beer. We were going to see this band we had heard was really good, and I was up for anything. It was early, and I was pretty much alone near the stage just hanging out when this guy came up to me, handed me a beer and chatted me up for 20 minutes or so about East Lansing and Michigan State. I had no idea who he was, but he was fun to talk to (and fun to look at ;). People started to arrive, and my new friend said, “Excuse me… it was great talking to you,” and Brian Vander Ark got up on stage and started singing. That was the start of my love affair with The Verve Pipe - a very talented band that takes deep pride in being from Michigan.
On July 12, 2011, they played Lansing’s Common Ground Music Festival, and they did not disappoint. I have seen them play several times over the last 17 years, but it had been many years since the last time I saw them. When they played their quintessential song, The Freshman, my eyes filled with tears and so many of my wonderful college memories - meeting my husband, fun with my friends - flooded into my head. During this 4 1/2 minute stretch recorded here, I realized it’s been too long since I’ve felt that carefree feeling from my old college days. It’s time to find it again…
U2 at Spartan Stadium:
So sometimes I spend time sulking about my stressful life as many people do. And even when I’m doing it I realize I shouldn’t be - I’m a lucky girl with two healthy kids, a loving husband, great friends and mentors, and a career. I’ve been sulking enough lately that I almost forgot I had excellent tickets to see one of the world’s most prolific bands at Spartan Stadium last night: U2. My son was sick, I had homework due - I just don’t have time for such things anymore! But I got dressed, my Mom was kind enough to watch the kids (sick and all) and I went out thinking I’d just make the most of it.
By the time I got to my seat, I was excited. What a visual spectacle! And then the base started pumping, and I smiled. And I continued to smile for 2 1/2 hours. I was hearing the sounds of my childhood up close and personal in the place I had so many memories, and I forgot about the stress.
The sound I’ve served up here was the best part of the night for me - hearing my fellow Spartans singing a classic with Bono after the base stopped pumping and then cheering with appreciation. This was the absolute moment that I realized just how lucky I am, and I have a sneaking suspicion that 65,000 others did too.
Brenke Fish Ladder:
The second sound on the Sounds of Old Town tour was recorded simply because it’s just so darn loud: the North Lansing Brenke Fish Ladder. When a sound is that prevalent, you just have to stop and take notice. But here’s the weird part… I had never ever been there before that I can recall. It was built in 1981 to help fish get beyond the dam safely (yet I find it ironic that it’s a great spot for fishing), so I was 8 years old when it was erected, living in Lansing’s Groesbeck neighborhood. And it was really quite nice… calming, serene, my kids liked it. I imagine it would be a great spot for a picnic.
But why hadn’t I been there before? After awhile I realized it’s because my parents didn’t want to take me for walks in North Lansing when I was little. Yet here I was, 30 years later, walking with my family around this beautifully restored and vibrant area. What a testament to the work that Lansing’s residents have done to make Old Town a destination. I’ve admired their work for some time, but it took a sound for me to realize just how much.
Our first stop in a three-part Sounds of Old Town series is a place that is so full of sound, it can be difficult to listen for just one: Preuss Pets. A #LoveLansing gem, Preuss draws people in with its vibrant art and vast array of animal life. As soon as you enter, visitors are enveloped by sounds - most noticeable are the tropical birds (some of which will say HI if you keep at it long enough) and the water fountain surrounded by really big koi fish.
But those aren’t the sounds that I personally associate with Preuss. My youngest son is particularly drawn to the things there that frighten me the most: the really big spiders. One day when we were there for a quick visit (every time we drive by he begs to stop in), a staff member saw my son’s interest and asked if he’d like to help feed the tarantulas, and out came a huge box of crickets. With sheer delight, my son watched as he dropped them in and they disappeared. He loved it… it warped me for life. So every time we go in, all I hear are the poor poor crickets. Now you will too ;)
Sawyer’s Gourmet Pancake House:
“The world’s best pancakes? In Mid-Michigan? Believe it!” I read this on Yelp about Sawyer’s Gourmet Pancake House as we were headed there. My husband said it was good stuff, and I was in the mood for some serious carby goodness, so off we went.
We managed to get the last table available (it was about 9 a.m. on Sunday), so no wait, but the place quickly filled up with people willing to do just that. I kept seeing these HUGE pancakes go by that smelled delicious, and the menu listed pancake offerings that sounded too good to be true. I finally settled for the apple cinnamon pecan pancakes, and the kids got chocolate chip pancakes (my husband got an omelet).
As the place filled up to maximum capacity, I realized how wonderful it was to see (and HEAR) a business in Lansing doing so well. In fact, signs on the table expressed the owner’s search for investors so they can expand. When our food arrived, I also heard the sounds of a family enjoying their food. This short clip features both sounds - a successful business and extreme food pleasure. (If you listen closely, you’ll hear my 5 year old say, “I want to marry this pancake, it’s so good…” Thanks for the experience, Sawyer’s! It won’t be our last.
OK… I admit that I’m a huge Izzo fan. He has a lot of fans. His student fans love him so much, in fact, that they produce lots of sound for him… lots and lots of sound. They love their team and they love their coach. I feel strongly that the often cacophonous sound this group produces is unique and full of purpose. They make sound to show their devotion… they make sound to affect outcome. And I don’t think anyone (not even Wolverines) can say it’s not effective. I, for one, sure wouldn’t want to be on the back end of an air ball on that court.
So here’s my salute to a group that appreciates the value of sound as much as I do, as well as to a player that has given his all to the Spartans over the last four years. It’s March baby… Go Green!
terrypbrock asked: Thanks for this blog! I just moved away from Lansing, my home for 29 years, and being able to listen in whenever will be great! Are you taking suggestions for some great lansing sounds?
Absolutely! (You just warmed my heart ;) John speaks highly of you, BTW ;) You’re in West Virginia now, right? - Heather
If you’ve done any walking on Michigan State’s campus, there’s no way you could miss the sound of Beaumont Tower’s beautiful bells. Winter, spring, summer or fall, there’s something very peaceful yet powerful about how this sound reverberates around Circle Drive.
There are signs surrounding the tower that tell the story of its history and significance, but for students and alumni its symbol and sound represent the splendor of campus. Graduation pictures are taken there, couples kiss there, students protest there, politicians politic there… but rarely do people think to capture the sound like they do a picture. It’s a memory… it’s an experience. When you see a picture of it, you recall the sound in your head.
The day I recorded the tower bells, I heard the usual sound of the bells tolling on the hour, but I was also treated to the sound of the bells playing MSU Shadows - the recording I’ve attached here. The wind was blowing through the trees, the sun was shining, and I thought, “If I could bottle this moment, everyone would want to come here.” Well, here’s my bottle… put a cork in it.
OK, it’s the last day of February and there’s still lots of snow… the most snow Lansing’s ever had during the month of February, in fact. I know I’m not the only one who’s been thinking about warm weather lately!
So when I awoke to a “strange” sound on Saturday morning, it took me aback. What is that? I opened the window and confirmed the “strange” sound: birds. They were going nuts! It wasn’t warm, and there was no grass in sight, but they were there. I grabbed my recorder, put on my boots and trodded out the back door in the deep snow to investigate. What you hear in the attached recording was exactly what I heard when I opened my window - not just one bird… lots of birds! All recorded in DeWitt, Michigan… in February. Since this sound means Spring to me, I’m confident it’s just around the corner!
Impression 5 trebuchet:
There’s no doubt that Lansing’s Impression 5 Science Center makes visitors use all five of their senses… especially on busy days. So many things to hear when there are kids scurrying from exhibit to exhibit on a snow day! So capturing one sound that reminds me of I-5 was truly a daunting task on this particular day. The key: closing my eyes and focusing on just what sounds “unique”.
And there it was… that sound that reminded me of when I was my oldest son’s age (10… yep, it was a long time ago) and I visited when the museum was new to its current location on Museum Drive. Some of those exhibits are still there, which isn’t a bad thing. It means they’re still relevant and thought-provoking. Among my favorites to this day: the trebuchet. Listen closely - the lock and load, the swoosh of the arm and the sound only tennis balls can make when they hit a wall. It still makes me smile like I’m 10… I like to feel 10.
It might seem odd to start with the sound of a bus stopping and accelerating, but I dare you to find someone who isn’t familiar with it. Some people hear the CATA bus while they’re walking into work, some people hear it while they’re eating dinner in their apartments, and many of us hear it or remember hearing it on our long walks to class at MSU.
Tons of people in the Greater Lansing area use this wonderful public transportation resource, and - for good or bad - it makes you think of something. I strongly associate this sound with the University. Close your eyes and listen… if you went to MSU, you will too.