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  • Writer's pictureThom Holmes

The 2023 US Open Tennis Soundscape

My Book/eBook: Electronic and Experimental Music, sixth edition, Routledge 2020.

My Podcast: The Holmes Archive of Electronic Music

My blog for the Bob Moog Foundation.

Every year at this time, I spend a week at the US Open tennis championships in Flushing Meadow, NY, a suburb of New York city. I go there not only to watch tennis, but to listen to tennis and take-in the ambiance of the tennis center, crowds, outside noise, machinery, and the players, coaches, and chair umpires who bring all their skills to the tennis court. The result has been a podcast to celebrate the sounds of the sport. This is my third such podcast based on this theme.

For this year’s podcast, I’ve created an amorphous blend of sounds of the US Open, combined with vintage recordings of tennis instructions, a little electronic music, and lots of audio processing. All the sounds of the US Open grounds were made by me and include crowds, the fountain in front of Arthur Ashe stadium (the largest tennis venue in the world), rainfall, grounds equipment, jet airplane flyovers, chair umpires delivering scores, and many tennis players hitting, playing, and practicing.

Within this mix are the sounds of dozens of female and male tennis players. The playlist on the podcast website includes names and details. The ambience of various courts is also present, including Louis Armstrong stadium, the Grandstand, and a variety of outer courts. These all differ in the kind of containing structures, and range from the enclosed (Armstrong) to the wide open (outside courts).

Episode 105

The 2023 US Open Tennis Soundscape


Sounds of the tennis facility and players: Novak Djokovic, Varvara Lepchenko, Alexander Zverev, Andy Murray, Dan Evans, Kwiatkowski, Thai-Son, Stan Wawrinka, Matteo Berrettini, Taylor Fritz, plus many other unidentified male and female players captured during my walks around the grounds. The ambience of various courts is also present, including Louis Armstrong stadium, the Grandstand, and a variety of outer courts. These all differ in the kind of containing structures, and range from the enclosed (Armstrong) to the wide open (outside courts).

Vintage Instructional recordings used:

  • Arthur Ashe, Learn Tennis (For Beginners & Advanced Players) (1974 Manhattan Recording Company). Vinyl, 12 ." Arthur Ashe teaches you Tennis. Comes with 8-page black/white instructional booklet.

  • John Newcombe, Tennis With John Newcombe (1974 K-Tel). Limited Collectors Edition. Vinyl, 12 ." Narrator, unidentified. 12-Page Tennis tips Booklet Enclosed. Promotional item for Rawlings tennis products.

  • Evonne Goolagong, Tennis Tips By Evonne Goolagong (1975 Fleetwood Records). Vinyl, 7", 33 ⅓ RPM. Narrated with questions by Bud Collins.

Audio processing. I love repetition. Loops are kind of my happy place. I have created many textures around the loops from the vintage recordings, some more dense than others, some with added beats and electronically generated sound. I also did several treatments of audio tracks using MetaSynth CTX 1.2, the Effects Room, particularly the inertia and shuffler features. I also processed some sections of the soundscape in real-time using Virtual DJ and added it to the final mix.

I have developed a technique for processing natural sounds and transforming them into drones. For this soundscape, I did this using the sounds of tennis balls being hit, which accounts for the loud pings that color the drone. There are two sections. They begin around 26:00 and 47:00. The first is a single drone, the second comprises multiple drones created with different tonal centers and played simultaneously.

While I curate the individual sounds and apply treatments separately, overall the mix is largely based on the chance encounters of different sounds across the soundscape. I generally decide on techniques to apply to given sections and then let the pieces fall where they may to see what happens. I auditioned numerous mixes for the podcast before deciding on this one. This is a mixdown of 33 tracks with over 131 individual sounds included in the mix, which also includes a composite track from Virtual DJ including manipulation of a half dozen tracks recorded in real-time.

Opening background music: Sounds of tennis. Unidentified rally hitters, Stan Wawrinka drone sequence, Vasek Pospisil and Ilya Ivashka gameplay.

Opening and closing sequences voiced by Anne Benkovitz.

Additional opening, closing, and other incidental music by Thom Holmes.

See my companion blog that I write for the Bob Moog Foundation.

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Electronic and Experimental Music

Notes on the development and continuing history of electronic music, its creators, and the technology.

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