News 07-07 (No.235)
Issued : July 25, 2007
[ Japanese Version ]
Sanda City's "Sato-no-Ne Hall" Cultural Center Celebrates a Gala Opening
by Chiaki Ishiwata
On July 1, 2007, the residents of Hyogo Prefecture's Sanda City celebrated the long-anticipated opening of their new cultural center. The gala opening event began with a masterful performance by 23 local, amateur Japanese Taiko drummers and the internationally known professional Taiko drummer, Ichiro Jishoya, also a Sanda City resident. They gave the inaugural performance of a work by Mr. Jishoya commissioned for the occasion and entitled "Yukon," meaning "vigorous" or "magnificent." The 24 drummers performed in perfect timing, with not even one beat out of place. The virtuoso opening to the gala began a wonderful evening that awed the audience from start to finish.
<< Sato-no-Ne Hall's Gala Opening Program >>
The drummers of the opening performance were selected in open auditions held last September and included a diverse cross-section of Sanda City residents, both women and men, ranging in age from their teens up to their seventies. For nearly nine months they practiced under Mr. Jishoya's direct instruction in preparation for the inaugural performance of the commissioned work. Most of the drummers were total novices when they auditioned. At the gala opening, Mr. Jishoya praised their skills and also credited their many months of practice as the sources of their outstanding performance.
Next on the gala's program came excerpts from "Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg" performed by the Kyoto Symphony Orchestra, after which the orchestra was joined by Mr. Jishoya to perform "About Taiko," a concerto for Japanese Taiko and orchestra composed by Sato-no-Ne Hall's Musical Advisor, Mr. Shigeaki Saegusa. This composition includes a vocal section that tells the history of the Japanese Taiko drum and is chanted in the Noh style. The soloist for this part was master Noh actor Yoshinobu Shigeyama.
For the encore finale, the 23 local Sanda drummers again took the stage with the orchestra and Mr. Jishoya. The audience rose repeatedly to shower standing ovations in appreciation of the stellar performances.
<< Overview of Sato-no-Ne Hall >>
Sanda City's landscapes still retain some fertile farmland, but the city's location along the Japan Railroad's Fukuchiyama Line is just a 40-minute express train ride to Osaka. This location has made Sanda City prime real estate as an Osaka and Kobe bedroom community. The cultural center is an easy, 10-minute walk from Sanda Station, on a piece of land overlooking the Mukogawa River, where cherry trees blossom beautifully in the spring.
Like many cultural centers in Japan, the structure has both an official name: Sanda City Cultural Center and a more colorful "nickname" chosen from among suggestions submitted by the general public. The inspiration for "Sato-no-Ne" (literally, "sound of the village" or "sound of a hometown") derives from the single Chinese character used to write the Japanese word "hibiki," meaning harmony or acoustics. The character for "hibiki" contains both the character pronounced "sato" and the character pronounced "ne," as if the ancient creators of Chinese characters understood the concept of good acoustics to be the "native place" of sound. According to the decision-makers who choose the name "Sato-no-Ne Hall," the name expresses their hope that the new facility, resonating with many genres of sound, will become part of the essence of their hometown.
The design of the new cultural center will foster and stimulate the cultural life of the people of Sanda City. The facility has many spaces, including Grand Hall, Harmony Hall, rehearsal room, three practice rooms, conference room, gallery, Japanese tatami room and ancillary rooms. In addition, the center has an outdoor stage, where Sanda City's annual outdoor summer event, the Sanda Festival, will be staged. Nihonsekkei Inc.'s Kansai Branch served as the project architect and Obayashi Co. Ltd. was the project's general contractor.
<< Grand Hall >>
Designed to accommodate a wide range of events, from convocations and ceremonial gatherings to theatrical performances and classical music concerts, Grand Hall is a 974-seat multipurpose hall, with an audience seating configuration that has a sloped floor and no balconies. From the edge of the stage to the last row of audience seating, the hall's depth measures only 27 m. (89 ft), while the width of the hall measures 30 m. (98 ft). In halls such as this one with large width, the acoustical designer faces a difficult challenge to achieve effective propagation of sound reflections to the central portions of the audience seating area. For Grand Hall, we divided the audience seating area into three side-by-side sections and raised the floor height of the two outer sections compared with the center section, so that the partial walls on each side of the center section produce sound reflections to the seats in the center of the hall.
Our acoustical design also focused on creating a smooth transition from the stage to the audience area when the stage's retractable acoustical shell is in use. To this end, we designed the high stage proscenium opening and installed adjustable proscenium surface elements. The retractable acoustical shell's panels are attached to rails that support it and enable it to be easily set up and retracted. Instead of using the typical arrangement of rails embedded in the stage floor, we installed rails above the stage, continuing them past the end of the stage opening to the left and right wings. When the acoustical shell is not in use, its panels are folded and pushed to these storage areas and stored in a hanging position. The overhead rail design eliminated the need to devise covers to hide floor-embedded rails.
The lower portion of the hall's sidewalls have a wood finish, creating a calm, unassuming visual ambience. For the upper portions of the sidewalls, we used drywall to create gently curved surfaces reminiscent of undulating waves. From the acoustical view, the lower portions of the sidewalls are the portion closer to the sound source of music performed on the stage, we packed any space and crevices behind the wood paneling of these sidewall areas with mortar, creating stiff wall surfaces for generating abundant sound reflections. The curved surfaces of the sidewalls' upper portions promote diffusion of sound reflections.
<< Harmony Hall >>
In response to the client's programming instructions, we designed the 358-seat Harmony Hall primarily for the performance of small-scale classical music ensembles and recitals, while also making its acoustically suitable as a multipurpose hall used for lectures and other speaking engagements. This hall also has a removable acoustical shell that creates a smooth transition between the stage and the audience seating area, transforming the hall into a box-like hall configuration. To obtain ample acoustics in Harmony Hall, we arranged appropriate room volume, achieving 11 cu. m. (388.5 cu. ft) per audience seat.
On the lower portions of the Harmony Hall's sidewalls, we used tile with a rough finish, applying the tiles directly to the hall's rigid framing. This wall treatment has the dual benefit of creating robust sound reflections and sound diffusion for middle- and high-frequency sound.
<< Sato-no-Ne Hall's Sound Isolation Plan >>
The Sato-no-Ne Hall facility includes many rooms in addition to Grand and Harmony Halls, and our sound isolation plan aimed for the most harmonious and comprehensive simultaneous operational use of as much of the facility as possible. We separated the two halls from each other both in terms of physical distance and structurally. Between the two wings, each of which contains one hall, we located the rehearsal room and practice rooms. Each of these rooms also has a "floating" structure for noise and vibration isolation from neighboring rooms. As a result, we realized a very high sound isolation performance level, so that all of the facility's rooms, as well as the two halls, can be used for almost any purpose simultaneously.
Sound isolation between rooms is one of the most critical considerations from a hall's operational perspective. In the case of Sato-no-Ne Hall, as soon as the facility's operating company was named, which was during the project's construction phase, we arranged to meet them together with the project architect and city representatives. In our meeting, we explained the policies and rules that the cultural center should establish based on the acoustical design of the facility. In addition, during the period between the end of construction and the official opening of the center, we had opportunities with the persons in charge of the hall's operations to experience the level of noise and vibration in various locations of the facility while Japanese Taiko drums were performed in Sato-no-Ne Hall.
<< Harmony Hall's Opening Piano Recital >>
Harmony Hall held its opening concert on the same evening as Grand Hall's gala opening. Harmony Hall's opening program featured a recital by pianist Keiri Nakano, who lives in Sanda City. The rich acoustics of Harmony Hall showcased Mr. Nakano's powerful performance, delighting the audience with an impressive and fulfilling musical experience.
In his remarks welcoming the audience to the new facility, Mr. Nakano expressed his intention, as a resident of the city, to become involved in the Sanda City's cultural activities, a pledge that was received by the audience with enthusiastic applause. Surely, all of us who participated on the Sanda City Cultural Center project hope that the entire community will derive many years of cultural enrichment from this new facility.
The Sanda City Cultural Center's website can be viewed at http://sanda-bunka.jp/.
On Reading Hiroshi Isaka's On a Single Disc, the Work of a Record Producer
by Dr. Minoru Nagata, Founder of Nagata Acoustics
Nowadays at mass market retailers, the iPod is the main product offering for shoppers seeking an audio reproduction device. Meanwhile, speakers and amplifiers priced in the tens of thousands of dollars find customers among a certain group of high-end audiophiles. CDs, which came on the scene not long ago as the medium most expected to replace LP records, now face a rapidly declining market. In particular, the situation for classical music CDs is especially grim in Japan, where only a limited number of retail stores carry any classical music CDs at all.
<< The Impact of Digital Technologies on the Classical CD Market >>
Digital music technologies give us small, light devices and an assortment of software formats for recording music, so that music can be nonchalantly captured with a microphone and the real work of editing the captured digital sound signals begins after the performance has ended. The use of a studio where artists perform and human intention controls the recording process seems to be fading into history. At broadcasting and recording companies, the limitations being placed on studio time is a big topic of discussion, while on the consumer side, the new classical music CDs we see published are now mostly remakes of famous past performances or recordings of live concerts.
CDs pressed in Japan now sell for ¥3,150 (about US$25), an amount that is surely not inconsequential to Japanese classical music fans. On the other hand, the retailers that sell high-end equipment sell audio connector cables with price tags as high as ten times the price of a single CD. This is the audio market in Japan today.
When a musician engages in conversation and debate, sometimes even escalating to heated back-and-forths, and this process moves the musician to strive for his or her own true expression through the music, culminating in the performance being recorded via electrical signals to create a completed recording, every step of this process and collaboration encompasses the work of the record producer. Across the formats of 78s, LP records and CDs, the work of record producers has given us many famous recordings. The culture of recording gave birth to recording as an art form, an art form that now seems fated to disappear.
<< Mr. Isaka and His Book on the Work of a Record Producer >>
The preceding paragraphs are some of the thoughts that crossed my mind as I read Hiroshi Isaka's book, On a Single Disc, the Work of a Record Producer (published by Shunjusha, Aug. 2006, 282 pages). The book's front cover contains the English comment, “‘I would like to listen...’ The Art of Recording.” The author, Mr. Isaka, began his career as a music producer for the Victor Company of Japan (JVC). He left JVC in 1978 to found his own company, Camerata Tokyo. As head of this company, Mr. Isaka has established deep roots in the classical music world through both his record production activities and his work as an impresario, producing concerts and managing classical music artists. One of Mr. Isaka's ongoing outstanding achievements is the Kusatsu Music Academy and Festival, which will hold its 27th annual season this summer. This two-week long festival of master classes and evening concerts can truly be said to enjoy its current strength and prominence because of the attention and hard work Mr. Isaka dedicates to it.
The subtitle of Mr. Isaka's book prepares us well for its contents, which tell the story of how a completed recording comes into being. Starting with the purpose of making recordings, the book gives readers insight into the discussions and debates between musicians and their record producers and the interactions among noted record producers in the recording industry. The book then takes the reader on an introductory tour of a recording location, explaining the work involved in selecting the studio and requesting specific equipment. Throughout, the aura of Mr. Isaka's devotion to the art of record production infuses the words on each page.
<< LPs and CDs Will Always Have Their Own Unique Appeal >>
LP recordings came on the scene in the 1960s. I recall that, at the time, the price of an LP record was very expensive in Japan, about ¥3,000 (US$24.00). I remember feeling something thrilling about purchasing an LP album. In my opinion, from the time when LP albums came into existence, through the years when CDs reached the height of their popularity during the 1980s and '90s until about the year 2000, may have been classical music's most glorious era.
The decline of classical music CDs can be attributed to many different causes. Among them may be the opening of concert halls in so many communities throughout Japan. We now live in an era in which it has become commonplace to attend live classical music performances, and the difference between listening to a live performance and hearing it through the medium of audio equipment may be all too well understood by classical music fans. That said, today, as much as in the past, I still have a special place in my heart for LP and CD albums. This is because the great recordings are their own world of music, a world separate and distinct from that of live performances. As I read Mr. Isaka's book, I felt drawn again to my shelves of LPs and CDs, to experience again the music packed tightly in these containers.
Mr. Isaka's book received the Publication Award, Classical Division, of the 19th Annual Music Pen Club Japan awards.
Metropolitan Opera's General Manager, Peter Gelb, Speaks in Japan
by Chiaki Ishiwata
From his helm at the world's largest opera house, the New York Metropolitan Opera House (seating 3,800), Mr. Peter Gelb, who became the Met's general manager a year ago, came to Tokyo and spoke at Showa University of Music's Teatro Giglio on June 13, 2007. Nagata Acoustics featured Showa University of music in our News & Opinions April, 2007 issue.
<< The Opera Research Center Program >>
Through a grant from Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), Mr. Gelb's host, the Showa University of Music Opera Research Center (ORC), is in the midst of collecting information and conducting surveys and comparative research about the operational and administrative management of overseas opera companies and opera houses. By learning more about how overseas opera companies structure and manage their operational, marketing, funding and other business activities ORC aims to be able to establish a roadmap for Japan to use in effectively promoting and financially supporting opera within Japan.
Mr. Gelb's appearance was the 19th speaking engagement sponsored by ORC as part of its research program, one facet of which is to invite the key executives, leaders and representatives of domestic and international opera organizations to give public seminars and panel discussions with other authorities in their field. Attendance at the seminars is free of charge. Teatro Giglio was filled nearly to capacity for Mr. Gelb's seminar, which also attracted many people from the local community who took advantage of this opportunity to hear Mr. Gelb speak.
<< The Met's Need to Attract New, Younger Audiences >>
The title of Mr. Gelb's talk was "The Metropolitan Opera House Strategy for the Future: Bringing Together New Media and the Theater." For last season's opening night, the Met put a simulcast of its opening opera, "Madame Butterfly," on the jumbo screen at Times Square and set up free seats in the square for free viewing by the public. Reviews of the event portrayed the Times Square area as overtaken by the "virtual" opera house during the performance. And also in Japan, TV news programs broadcasted the event.
It was Mr. Gelb who made the Times Square event happen. During his talk at Teatro Giglio, Mr. Gelb recounted his interview for the position of Met general manager, at which he spoke of the public's disengagement from the opera house and criticized some of the aspects of the Met's marketing strategies. He credits his appointment, in part, to his willingness to speak out about the need for change.
In Japan, music industry leaders fear the seeming growing inability to attract younger audiences to classical music. When Mr. Gelb came to the Met, he was given the results of a survey done five years previous that put the estimated average age of attendees at 65 years. He was also given the results of the survey conducted an additional five years earlier, which showed the average attendee's age to be 60. The surveys supported Gelb's sense that, in addition to the aging of the audience population, acquisition of new, younger audience patrons was also lacking.
<< Examples of Mr. Gelb's Innovative Programs >>
As soon as Mr. Gelb assumed the general manager position, he moved quickly, beginning last season, to implement innovative programs to attract new audiences. For example, he worked through arduous negotiations with 16 different labor unions in order to get agreement to launch high definition broadcasting of selected Met performances to viewers across the United States, Canada and Europe. In the Met's New Year's line-up, he included an English-language version of "The Magic Flute." He obtained philanthropic donations that enabled him to reduce US$100-a-seat weekday tickets to just US$20.00. Mr. Gelb shared with the Japanese seminar attendees that 32% of the people who purchased the $20.00 tickets said they were seeing an opera for the first time and 50% of the people who purchased these low-price tickets were under 30 years of age. Overall, last season's attendance increased 7.1% over the previous season.
<< Peter Gelb's Weighty Responsibility as Met General Manager >>
Mr. Gelb's association with the Met began when he was a teenager. He worked part-time as an usher at the opera house and, even as a young man, soon began dreaming about one day becoming the Met's general manager. He said in this lecture, "Now my dream has come true, but this dream is heavy." Listening to Mr. Gelb speak, one easily absorbs his enthusiasm and eagerly looks forward to the Met's coming seasons and newsworthy innovations.
The next ORC seminar, to be held in the fall of 2007, will be on the topic of "Management of European Opera Festivals." The speaker will be Mr. E. Gardner. Symposium details can be found at the ORC website.
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[ Japanese Version ]