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Arts Vanity: Smith Campus Center’s Confusing, Acoustic Disney Music

Sarah M. Rojas '25, incoming Books Exec
Sarah M. Rojas '25, incoming Books Exec By Courtesy of Sofia Andrade
By Sarah M. Rojas, Crimson Staff Writer

Widener was the first Harvard library that I ever set foot in. After spending an hour in the reading room, I quickly realized that all possible noise was sanitized. Every backpack wasn’t unzipped, but rather slowly peeled open — zipper tooth by zipper tooth — so as to not disturb the stagnant air. Every sticker-covered hydro flask was carefully, robotically placed on the hundred-year-old tables to prevent any sound waves from escaping. Every breath was taken with altered diaphragm movements to prevent a cough or, god forbid, an echoing sneeze. Okay, I’m being dramatic. But places like Widener have an impenetrable silence that can almost be distracting at times.

Luckily, there’s the Smith Campus Center. I love Smith. There’s the 10th floor with a stunning view, every shape and color of chair imaginable, and this background soundtrack of Lo-fi music to keep you awake as you finish out that last problem set.

Throughout my freshman year, the music was Lo-fi. Flash forward to the fall of this year, and everything has changed. I can picture it: I’m not in desperate need of Widener's iron silence to finish any papers or study for a final, so I take the elevator to Smith's 10th floor and begin to study. At first, I’m too distracted by the view of the Charles River to anticipate anything but the usual, expected Lo-fi playlist. But then, as I’m starting that first “piggybacking off of…” comment on a class blog post, I’m hit by this emotional d[e][é]ja vu. I’m 7. I’m eating goldfish and drinking a Capri Sun as I stare at the TV, watching a red-haired mermaid swim through the ocean with a yellow fish, singing “what’s a fire, and why does it burnnnnnn.” But I’m not 7. I’m not watching “The Little Mermaid.” I’m trying to figure out how to use an APA citation for my Expos draft that’s due tonight.

That was the fateful day that I discovered that the music of Smith Campus Center changed from harmless, background Lo-fi to acoustic reincarnations of every Disney soundtrack known to humankind. There has been some new bravery and audacity in whoever chooses the music that hundreds of students will listen to from 9:00 A.M. opening to 10:00 P.M. closing.

And honestly, when it’s a Friday and you haven’t started that Stat 110 problem set due in a few hours, reliving Aladdin’s “A Whole New World” played on a Yamaha might just be the very thing that you need. So in that sense, this vanity isn’t really a critique, but more of a question: Why, Smith?

As much as a study space is made of comfortable chairs and convenient outlet stations, music is such an important part of creating a space. And if Smith Campus Center saw this review, they might just say, “Let It Go,” you “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” Or they might say, “You’ve got a friend in me” and I’ll give you “The Bare Necessities” by letting Harvard students have some say in the music that is played throughout study spaces.

Anyway, next time that you enter Smith Campus Center, this is your friendly reminder (warning?) that you may be entering “Into the [Musically] Unknown.”

—Incoming Books Exec Sarah M. Rojas is accepting new study spot recommendations at sarah.rojas@thecrimson.com.

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