An NBN Interactive Project
For the best experience, put on your headphones.

“Sheridan Road. Walk sign is on to cross: Sheridan Road.”

It’s that automated voice again, as you hurry across the street and through the Arch to your morning class. The exact pitch of those 25 beeps is perhaps cemented in your mind, without even realizing it. That sound is one that defines the Northwestern experience. So does the noisy bustle of Norbucks at 3 p.m. The crashing waves on North Beach.

But when you live on a typical Northwestern student schedule, jam-packed with meetings and classes and extracurriculars galore, how often do you notice these sounds? It's easy to lose sight of experiences we take for granted under the relentless grind of the quarter system, drowning out our senses instead with headphones, screens or our internal monologues. At NBN, we believe that it's the little things about being a Northwestern student that matters, and so we've compiled sounds that make up part of the Northwestern soundscape here for you.

Hover over the videos below to have a listen.


If we're talking about sounds at Northwestern, it's difficult not to talk about the role music plays on campus. While you can listen to chamber performances in the ethereal, echoing halls of the Alice Millar Chapel, you might also come across the faint strains of Bienen students holding an impromptu concert outside.


Gym-goers run on treadmills, oftentimes isolated from the rest of the room by the music from their earbuds and the steady rate of their breath. But in the openness of SPAC, one can hear the quick inhales and exhales of students lifting weights and every subtle and startling clang from the machines.


The acoustics of Allison dining hall, with its high ceiling and glass windows, seem lofty and loud in comparison to those of Sargent’s. But both also share the sounds of clinking silverware, loud chatter and this week’s top hits playing from the radio.


At Ford, the cranking and whirring of machines – not to mention the aggressive, crackling background buzz – can be amplified to an almost deafening point in the spacious basement. However, the students who work there often don't seem to mind, focusing intently on putting their hands and minds to work.


With headphones on and a paper to write, you might not notice the buzz of the overhead lights in Main. For a place to go for silence, the library is still very much composed of sounds, from the footsteps across the room to the flip of a page.


For a day in the middle of winter quarter, the fraternity quad is especially full of life with Kanye’s new song “Famous” and a pickup lacrosse game in play.


Cafes, like Norbucks and Tech Cafe, are often a hub of student activity, where the low-level hum of conversations, vending machines and Starbucks orders create a soothing aural ambience.


The open air of the Lakefill is an atmosphere unlike any other at Northwestern. Even the slightest rise in temperature draws students out from hibernation and onto the rocks to enjoy the sun with their friends. Sounds of the wind, water and birds remind us how lucky we are to live on such a beautiful campus.