The Best Listening Experience, Right on Campus! 

Meredith Williams

Arts & Entertainment Editor

Have you ever had chills run through your body solely due to the power of music? The French have a term for this feeling: frisson, meaning “aesthetic chills.” For example, listening to music in an amplifying setting can evoke strong emotions and feelings. 

Ralston’s Listening Library was erected in memory of Sewanee professor Dr. William Ralston (C ’51). This million-dollar state-of-the-art room is filled with audio-enhancing decor and technology. The Wilson Audio Alexandria XLF Loudspeakers and PBN Audio Amplifiers provide an experience of audible ecstasy. An employee of Ralston’s Listening Library, Ava Bowron (C’ 27), explained, “The speakers and this whole system are supposed to make music sound better to you, and it’s doing exactly that.” Before Ralston passed, the Sewanee professor acquired an impressive collection of classical works and wished to share the joy of enhanced musical experience. 

Photo courtesy of The University of the South

With over 20,000 CDs and 15,000 LPs, Ralston’s Listening Library provides an array of listening choices for Sewanee’s student body. Students can host a “listening session” where they can reserve the Listening Library for an hour or two, invite friends, and share the experience of music. “A lot of students come in, sit on the ground in front of the speakers, and just soak up all of the music, or they dance, or just browse the vinyl and LPS,” explained Bowron.

This musical chamber gifts Sewanee students with a newfound appreciation for music on a sonic level. The Listening Library allows students to take a break from their earbuds or headphones and truly experience music how it was initially intended. 

Mindy Mitchell (C ’27), Sewanee student and regular listener, said, “Just to have the opportunity to go somewhere with the set purpose of listening to music with other people that want to hear music is just a great feature of this University.” Many students are grateful for this aspect of Sewanee; it’s a nice place to set aside worries and stress to absorb raw music without judgment. The Ralston Listening Library has changed hundreds of students’ lives solely with sound since it opened in 2011. 

Students and faculty are welcome to bring their LPs and CDs to listen to, except for 78 rpm records (which stopped being produced in the 1950s and are unable to hold longer than three minutes of music). Simultaneously, the Listening Library has streaming services, such as Qobuz, Tidal, and Roon (just like Spotify)! 

Open from 2-9 p.m. on Mondays-Thursdays and 2-5 p.m. on Fridays, students can come and enjoy a life-changing phonic experience. Bowron said, “The first time I heard something in this room, my mind was blown. It hasn’t changed; I’m still blown away.” Even after working at the listening library for some time, Bowron still experiences the music to the same extent she did during her first visit. “Everyone that comes in here is here to appreciate music, and that’s what it’s all about.”

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