GT Beats: Sounds Like Home

2nd year MT, Ripken Walker, uses samples of familiar campus sounds to create electronic music tracks reminding students of home. // Photo Courtesy of Josh Smith

After almost four months away from campus, students are missing even the most mundane elements of Tech, from the food at North Avenue to the long walks up Freshman Hill.

One student in particular took this yearning to the next level. Ripken Walker, second-year MT, used samples of noises heard around Tech to create electronic dance music tracks, known as GT Beats.

“It’s just interesting to have that connection to campus and just being able to utilize stuff that we [hear] on campus every day,” said Walker. “I’ve made two [songs] so far, with plans to make more in the future, if I have time. It’s just having that connection with Georgia Tech and being able to put that in the form of music where other people can listen to it and get enjoyment or laugh at it.”

Walker’s first track was derived from the voice of the Ferst Drive walk sign, a voice of comfort and familiarity to many students who use this particular crosswalk on a regular basis. 

“The origin of the track was mainly for my friends, because I had a friend send me that audio clip [of the Ferst Drive walk sign],” said Walker. “I just did it, because I knew that a lot of people [walked by the Ferst Drive walk sign a lot], and I figured if I made something about it, that would make them reminisce about being there.”

After the Ferst Drive track spread through the Tech Reddit, Walker began receiving requests for more music. His second track was created after someone sent him an audio recording of a test of the Emergency Notification System at Bobby Dodd Stadium. 

This particular piece took an unexpectedly long amount of time to make, due to many tedious steps in creating the music.

“[My music-making process for] these Georgia Tech [tracks] have been pretty different, because I’m starting with a sample and building stuff around that, so I’ve had to do a lot of very small time edits to the samples to make them line up on an actual beat,” said Walker. “With the Emergency Notification System one, it probably took me an hour just to chop up the vocals so it perfectly lined up on each beat of the song.”

As a Music Technology major, Walker has experience with making other music, but the specific starting point for GT Beats differs from his other work. 

“With other music that I make, I can mess around on the piano until I find something I like,” said Walker. “I’m primarily a drummer, and if I think of a drum beat that I like, it’ll start from there. I don’t really have a starting point of what I’ll do every single time to start something.” 

Walker regards his own music in a casual context, but for many in his audience, these tracks have taken on a largely important meaning. 

“The Ferst Drive beats were really touching to me in particular, because that soundtrack was really the soundtrack to my life during my second year at Georgia Tech, which was one of the most tumultuous years in the university’s existence during the pandemic and whatnot,” said Stephen Nash, third-year IAML. 

Not only are these tracks reminders of simpler, easier times for students, they are also a comfort to students separated from their Georgia Tech homes.

“The first thing that popped into my head was the crosswalk. I just imagined walking there [and hearing] the sound,” said Harsh Patel, second-year CMPE. “It reminded me of GT when I can’t be there.”

Walker, Nash and Patel all gave the same answer when asked what they missed most about Tech: the people. 

“I mainly miss the people, because the diversity is nothing like what I have at home and having friends now scattered across the country during a pandemic makes it really hard to keep those connections afloat,” said Nash. 

Four months of quarantine has shown students that despite their constant academic stress, Tech is a remarkable institution to attend and a hard place from which to be separated, and GT Beats is strongly representative of such.

“GT Beats is really something that I wouldn’t see coming out of basically any other college,” said Nash. “It takes a really special place to have not only talking crosswalks, but also a student who’s willing to take time out of their schedule to produce sampled audio tracks of campus sounds. It’s a really special place, and GT Beats reflects that.”

GT Beats, as well as Ripken Walker’s other music can be found on his YouTube channel. Walker is also open for requests with an accompanying sample audio recording via the Georgia Tech Discord server