|What a beautiful noise
Comin' up from the street
It's got a beautiful sound
It's got a beautiful beat...
Neil Diamond's lyrics aren't always spot on when living in the heart of a big city. We occasionally have to endure less beautiful noises like the ones wafting up at us in our high-rise loft from the Dance Parade at ground level below. During the Dance Parade, some 40 trucks cross Rotterdam as each carries a complete discotheque that pumps out their specific music at kidney-stone-crushing volumes. That could be tolerable from a distance when the music is pleasing. However, the effect of distance is that only the low frequencies with their long wavelengths survive and we hear -- or rather, feel -- merely the mind-numbing beat. Anything melodic is hard to make out if at all. In toto, good reasons to leave the city during this cultural brouhaha and find some real R&R elsewhere.
How different it is when the city becomes the epicenter of another celebration of loudness in the form of a street race. During a night between Saturday and Sunday, the city is reshaped into a temporary race track with steel barriers, stands and seats bordering the thoroughfare. The track is laid out in circular form, just a single track starting at a bridge and ending 4.5 kilometer at a roundabout to return. The whole spectacle is far from a race really, rather it's a demonstration that enables motorsport fans to get real close to their feted drivers and asphalt rockets.
A brewery is main sponsor of the event despite common knowledge that alcohol is not the best match for serious sports or traffic. Let's assume they promote alcohol-free beer. After a lot of nocturnal activity, the track is ready and from noon on, spectators flock to the sides of the track as the first cars make their warm-up rounds. The main attraction are select Formula 1 cars. Most people come to the event to see and of course hear them.
The demonstrations are not just about racing by with speeds up to 200km/h or a little more. Sudden stops and starts with screeching tyres and plenty of smoke enhance the race vibe and add to that luxurious smell of oil and rubber. Testosterone levels rise when the time approaches that hot-rodded commercial cars make way for the first bona fide F1 car, a Dutch-made Spyker.
We can hear the car approaching from far away and when it corners into our street, the crowd explodes in an excited din. The car stops and then takes off like a rocket. Its 8 Ferrari pistons are pumping the crankshaft at nearly the limit of 19,000 RPM. The combined sound of air being sucked into the engine and combustion fumes pushed out the open exhaust pipes is loud and raises the heartbeat of every witness to this feat of engineering skills. From our window, we measure up to 103 dBA one-hundred meters above the street. In a cloud of smoke, the car speeds to the next spot to do this acceleration demonstration again. Near the roundabout where the track is wider, the driver rips into a spectacular donut. With fast spinning rear wheels, the car is forced to change direction while battling all manner of opposing forces. Burning rubber creates an enormous cloud of smoke and the crowds love it. Then it is around the remainder of the roundabout and back the way the car came, at us again and now at almost full throttle.
These spectacular demonstrations continue for another 2 hours with intervals of a few minutes and are made by cars from the World Touring Car Championship and the new Champ Car formula. Each car has its own specific timbre - er, roar; from a low rumbling Corvette to a raw gun-like high-pitched Seat to the feline hissing and growling of the Spyker sportscar.
On such a day, listening to music let alone trying to get an idea of what a newly delivered piece of audio gear is up to is impossible. With the windows closed, the street noise is stripped of its upper content by the excellent insulation of our double-pane windows. Opening the windows lets the entire frequency spectrum enter the room uncut and with it, we become part of the event. With a second or so of 103dB Beautiful Noise whenever an F1 car howls by, it is bearable and there's plenty of decompression time to get our ears back to normal before the next passage of machismo.
The following morning, all evidence of the racing event has evaporated in smoke and the city has returned to normal. Time for some audio-related activities again? You bet.
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