What does Pittsburgh sound like? During the 2010 Winter Olympics, it sounded, briefly, like a Human Curling Tournament. Here’s the story:
A few days ago, feeling so sick of shoveling snow (and as if I was ready to spontaneously combust like a drummer in This Is Spinal Tap), I began to look around for something to diminish my severe winter blahs. On the This Is Happening site, I saw a link to a Human Curling Tournament. Human Curling Tournament?!
On the Obscure Games website, I was completely drawn in by this super-sweetly Photoshoped image:
My winter blues suddenly lifted. This looked fun, but I wasn’t quite up for playing. I’d recently taken a spill on the Schenley Park Ice Rink and I wasn’t feeling solid enough to compete. But the sound of ‘human curling’ might make a darn good ringtone!
Adam Nelson is the founder of Obscure Games. I got on the horn and chatted with the him to see if I could show up at the tournament and record audio for a tone or two. He approved.
As I took my gear from the car and headed towards the gym, I heard two other Pittsburgh sounds–a snow plow/salt truck (preparing the parking lot for tournament participants) and Polish Hill church bells (it was a Sunday morning, after all). Two thoughts: Why didn’t I record the sound of any snow plows this winter? and Note to Self: come back to Polish Hill some Sunday around 10:30am for those church bells.
Inside the rec center, a nice crowd was seated on the bleachers. Two office chairs, a broom and a mop were waitin’ around, looking awful lonely on the gym floor. I asked around for Adam. “He’s on his way,” someone said. The delay was a lucky break for me–a quiet location, folks who don’t know each other waiting around for something to get started?–that’s an opportunity for me to get good audio. I introduced myself and the project. Then I asked if a person or two would volunteer to help me capture “clean” audio for a ringtone, specifically the sound of the office chairs rolling across the floor, before things got too loud with the competition.
Jesse Creegan and Virginia Paul, participants who’d shown up to play with different teams, happily stepped up to the plate (mic). Not only did Virginia and Jesse each take a running start, jump on a chair and whiz by me and the audio equipment a few times each, but both of them also took the Edirol WAVE/MP3 recorder in hand while traversing across the gym floor on their speedy chairs. BTW, that’s a Locally Toned first–I’ve never before handed my recorder off to another person in the field to capture audio for me. Thanks to them, there are two new obscure tones in the project.
First up is the Human Curling Message Alert, which I recorded as Virginia rode on by me on her office chair. It’s the shorter and quieter of these two tournament tones. You can hear her chair coming close to the mic and then heading on past it. A very nice text message alert, I think (just picture Ms. Virginia flying past your phone in an office chair to drop off a little text message).
And here’s the Human Curling Ringtone. First you’ll hear the sound of Jesse’s two ‘takes’ zooming across the gym floor (his second take includes a nice squeaky scuff of his tennis shoes on the gym floor), and then you’ll hear Virginia carry the recorder while racing on her chair. Her sound ends with a nice chair thump.
Thanks to Adam Nelson for giving Pittsburghers something to do to drive away the winter blahs (and for allowing me to come and make some tones). Extra special thanks to Jesse and Virginia for being deputy ringtone field recordists! Now read and look on, sisters and brothers, to find out more about that day’s Human Curling Tournament.
Since I was so busy collecting audio and taking pictures, the rules of the game never quite translated for me, but I can tell you that folks got some exercise, had fun and competed in a congenial fashion. Five teams showed up to play–the Friscoffs, Kodiak, Sweaty Gym Socks, Penny Petters and Ruth and the Ruthless. Each team consisted of four members. Adam kicked off the event by explaining the rules to the participants.
I snapped this photo, a rendering of the playing field (or would it be ‘floor’ since the tournament was played in a gym?).
Let the games begin!
Tournament (a view from the bleachers):
Participants had different chair-riding and maneuvering techniques:
Human curling’s certainly not for the faint of heart–players go down now and again, as do the office chairs.
Teams put the broom and mop into play.