Quietness, Comfortable Sound and Excellent Acoustics NAGATA ACOUSTICS

News 13-10 (No.310)

Issued : October 25, 2013

[ Japanese Version ]

Museo del Violino and Auditorium Giovanni Arvedi Open in Cremona, Italy

By Dr. Yasuhisa Toyota

In the September, 2012 issue of this newsletter we wrote about the completion of the Museo del Violino and Auditorium Giovanni Arvedi in Cremona, Italy, a city known as the world's foremost locale for violin craftsmanship. After the completion of construction, the project entered a six-month period of fine tuning and preparations for a grand opening planned for the spring of 2013. That grand opening became delayed by nearly six months and instead was held on September 14, 2013.

<< Benefits of the Delayed Opening >>

The reason for the delayed opening was simply a matter of one government official's schedule. Italian President Giorgio Napolitano was one of the invitees to the grand opening. After the February, 2013 Italian general election, the president's schedule became very busy and his attendance at the event became difficult to schedule. Until the president's attendance could be confirmed for September, the official opening was put on hold.

In retrospect, the opening's delay may have been a blessing in disguise because it meant that the fine tuning and preparations of the new hall proceeded at a more leisurely pace than if the hall had opened on schedule. We used the extended period to have numerous performers and ensembles rehearse in the hall so that they had time to familiarize themselves with the hall's acoustics. The performers and ensembles included violin soloists and soloists of many other instruments as well as string quartets, woodwind ensembles and choruses, among others. I had the pleasure of being present at some of the rehearsals.

<< The Auditorium's Unique Audience Seating Arrangement >>

The new hall has a unique layout unlike that of most chamber music halls. Even though this is a small hall with just 450 audience seats, the stage is not at one end of the hall but, instead, is located in the center of the audience with about 1/3 of the seats at the "back" of the stage. This layout resulted from an iterative design in which we prioritized seating the audience as close to the stage as possible. Also, we aimed to enhance the hall's characteristic of intimacy by having members of the audience able to see each other's faces instead of just the backs of their heads.

Photo 1: Woodwind Ensemble Rehearsal Using Normal Seating Layout
Photo 1: Woodwind Ensemble Rehearsal
Using Normal Seating Layout
Photo 2: Woodwind Ensemble Seated in Circular Layout
Photo 2: Woodwind Ensemble
Seated in Circular Layout

<< Overview of the Center's Facilities >>

With this hall layout, when performers step on the stage for the first time, it is not unusual for them to feel somewhat bewildered by the surrounding audience seating. Specifically, when performers walk onto the stage, they are sometimes not certain which way to face. After a few moments, the performers orient themselves toward the direction of the greater number of audience seats and begin to play. Still, I've noticed that during some musicians' first rehearsals, body language makes it clear that the musicians are not yet 100% sure they are facing in the correct direction.

The advice I give to performers and ensembles is to think about freeing themselves from the restrictions of standard stage seating layouts. The audience doesn't face the stage from one direction, but from all sides, so for example an ensemble might try sitting in a circle on the stage. (Photos 1 and 2 show an ensemble on stage before and after they tried the circular seating arrangement.) As a result of my suggestion, many of the ensembles that rehearse in the hall express interest in sitting in a circle facing each other. Almost all of them report that they experience increased ability to communicate with each other when seated in the circular arrangement.

One string quartet that expressed interest in the circular seating arrangement and implemented the arrangement during their rehearsals played an encore performance at the auditorium's opening concert. Before they played the encore the ensemble rearranged their chairs in the circular seating arrangement, thereby inaugurating the use of this seating arrangement for performances as well as rehearsals. I think the hall would do well to have this unique seating style become one of the "selling points" of this new chamber music hall.

<< September 14, 2013 Opening Events >>

Photo 3: Opening Ceremony at Piazza Marconi
Photo 3: Opening Ceremony at Piazza Marconi

Before the hall's inaugural concert, Museo del Violino (of which the hall is a part), held its opening ceremonies at the plaza in front of the museum building. President Napolitano was, after all, unable to attend, but the mayor of Cremona, ministers in the Italian cabinet and top officials of the European Union participated. (Photo 3)

By my estimation, about 2,000 people assembled to watch the ceremony and proceedings. I overheard people in the crowd marveling at the large gathering, saying this was the first time they'd seen so many people in one place at one time in their small city.

One after the other, the politicians and other dignitaries addressed the crowd. Many voiced similar messages about how the new museum and hall would bring people to the city and contribute to the economic health of Cremona. From my experience, effective and skillful operations are an essential ingredient for attracting visitors and patrons to a cultural destination. Without effective planning and strategies that attract people, economic benefits cannot be realized. I would have been eager to hear some discussion and foresight about a vision for the museum and hall's success. Hopefully, people with the authority to put such a vision in place will make it happen.

Akiha Ward Sports Center Opens in Niigata City

By Fumiaki Sakamaki

On October 14, 2013, which in Japan is the annual national holiday known as Sports Day, Akiha Ward Sports Center opened in Niigata City. Akiha Ward became part of Niigata City in 2005. Prior to that time, the area was a group of small cities and towns, one of which was Niitsu. The combined communities adopted the name Akiha Ward in 2007.

Building Exterior
Building Exterior

The planning for Akiha Ward Sports Center began as a way to utilize the site of the combined community's old civic center which was made obsolete by the completion of the new Akiha Ward Cultural Center (introduced last month in the September, 2013 issue of the Nagata Acoustics Newsletter). The Sports Center's planning focused on the combined goals of a place for active sports and for learning how to realize the path to a healthy lifestyle. To these ends, the Sports Center has an indoor sports arena that can be used for a wide range of sports events and competitions, and the building also has a multipurpose room and study and conference rooms.

The sports arena has 3 basketball courts ringed by a second level of 540 seats. Also, on the circumference of the arena's second level and around the outside of the other rooms, an indoor running course meets the needs of local runners.

The firm of Kume Sekkei Co., Ltd. created the architectural design for the center. A joint venture of Honma Corporation, Mizukuragumi Co., Ltd. and Kondo Gumi Co., Ltd. served as the project's general contractor. Nagata Acoustics participated in the role of acoustical consultant during the design phases and was responsible for performing the acoustical measuring after the project's completion.

The Sports Arena at Akiha Ward Sports Center
The Sports Arena at Akiha Ward Sports Center
The Sports Arena Ceiling
The Sports Arena Ceiling

<< Controlling Excess Reverberation >>

The first objective that the acoustical design of an indoor gymnasium, sports arena or stadium needs to solve is how to control excess sound reverberation. In order to fulfill their purpose as venues for sports practice and competitions, these spaces generally cover a large surface area, accommodate large numbers of people and have high ceilings, making them necessarily large in spatial volume. Because sound reverberation times are proportional to a room's spatial volume, large indoor spaces tend to have long sound reverberation times. Also, sports arenas rarely have the upholstered audience seats or stage curtains found in multi purpose halls and the lack of these sound-absorbing elements contributes to the long reverberation times that typically characterize indoor sports arenas and stadiums.

The desired sound environment for the intended uses of the Akiha Ward sports arena pointed our acoustical room design toward maximum use of sound absorbing materials. However, the arena's side walls needed to be sufficiently strong surfaces to withstand repeated impact of balls and people colliding with the walls during sporting events. Therefore, for sound absorption, on the ceiling and upper portions of the walls we used 25 mm. (1 inch)-thick glass wool, on a portion of the side walls we used perforated panels backed by 25 mm.-thick glass wool and on the ceilings above the audience seating's walkways we used sound absorption panels made of rock wool.

The completed 35,000 cu. m. (124,000 cu. ft.) arena has a sound reverberation time of 2.7 seconds (at 500 Hz, mean absorption coefficient of 0.22). The sound reverberation level is appropriate for participatory and spectator indoor sporting events.

<< Sports Arena Sound System >>

It is not uncommon for the experience of listening to amplified sound in an indoor sports arena or gymnasium to be difficult on the ears and characterized by poor speech intelligibility. In addition to the long reverberation times of these kinds of spaces, the loudspeakers installed in sports facilities may be insufficient in number or not well located or positioned. The quantity and conditions of the speakers can also cause the venue's amplified sound to be of poor quality.

In the Akiha Ward Sports Center's sports arena we installed nine JBL AC2215 loudspeakers in distributed locations across the ceiling. We planned the placement and installation of the speakers to ensure complete coverage of the arena's floor as well as the second floor audience seating that rings the arena.

During the acoustical fine tuning that we conducted prior to our closeout of the project, we adjusted the loudspeakers' power level and we used the sound system's equalizer to adjust the sound quality. We confirmed that the sports arena sound system provides good sound clarity for the space.

<< Other Acoustical Objectives of the Project >>

Indoor sports venue projects tend to rank acoustics as a lesser priority. On this project, in addition to the items discussed in detail above, we were able to give high priority to a number of other acoustical objectives. We designed sound isolation to reduce the transfer of sound generated in the arena to other spaces in the sports center and outside the building. We also designed measures to mitigate the sound of rain on the roof and to reduce the sound from impacts with the arena floor.

We defined our goals based on an understanding of how the sports arena will be used and the specifics of the sport center's location and the sports arena's placement within the sports center building. In particular, the programming for the sports arena includes using the large space for ceremonies and other gatherings of people beyond just sporting events. In some circumstances, the space may also be used as a hall for music or other performances. We designed a sound environment that takes into consideration these various possibilities for how the sports arena will be used and provides a solution that allows for all of the proposed uses.

With Tokyo's designation as the host city of the 2020 Olympics, Japan's already strong interest in sports will continue to reach new heights. Japanese children will see the next 7 years as the time to prepare themselves athletically so that they may be chosen to participate in the Japan Olympics. I am delighted that children have this excellent new environment in which to grow and become the best athletes they can be.

"Please Turn Off Your Mobile Phone..."

By Dr. Keiji Oguchi

In Japanese concert halls and theatres a barrage of instructions to the audience precedes each performance. First comes the statement that audio and video recording of the performance is not permitted, followed by a reminder to silence mobile phones and smartphones. Recently, a third precautionary instruction has been added informing the audience that the hall is structurally designed to withstand earthquakes and asking the audience to remain seated in the case of an earthquake and wait for specific instructions from hall or theatre employees.

In the 1980s, the only announcement concerned the prohibition of recording the performance. When mobile phones became popular, the announcement about turning off these devices was eventually added. After the Great Tohoku Earthquake of March, 2011, halls and theatres added the precautionary announcement about remaining calm in the event of an earthquake during the performance. With each additional message, the pre-concert announcements about good audience manners and safety have become progressively longer. In Japan, these communications to the audience are mostly delivered via the hall's sound system that is, the delivery medium relies solely on our auditory sense to communicate the messages to us. Even the manner of communicating that a performance will commence momentarily typically relies on some kind of bell or melody played over the sound system (compared with, for example, briefly dimming the hall's lights). When the performance is a classical music concert, this plethora of pre-concert sound (be it melodic bell chimes or spoken announcements) perturbs some concert patrons.

White text projected on a wall surface of the hall reminds audience patrons to silence mobile phones. Multiple languages are displayed simultaneously on different wall surfaces.
White text projected on a wall surface of the hall
reminds audience patrons to silence mobile phones.
Multiple languages are displayed simultaneously
on different wall surfaces.
An opera's stage curtain is used as the backdrop for an icon-like image that reminds patrons to silence their mobile phones and smartphones.
An opera's stage curtain is used as the backdrop
for an icon-like image that reminds patrons
to silence their mobile phones and smartphones.

In my experience, in Europe, before the ubiquitous use of mobile phones, the prohibition about recording a performance was typically communicated by printed sign on the audience approach to the hall. In European venues, I don't recall ever hearing this announcement broadcast to the audience over the sound system. More recently, after mobile phones became ubiquitous and incoming calls to mobile phones began to create disturbances during concerts, I noticed that the pre-concert announcement about turning off mobile phones has become common in Europe as well. However, while some European venues use a bell sound or the Nokia Tune that became pervasive during that company's ascendancy in the mobile phone market, from my observations, the European approach to this announcement tends primarily to be text or an image projected on the venue walls or the stage curtain that is, the communication medium relies on visual display rather than sound.

As for different ways to enforce compliance with the prohibition on photographing or recording a performance or performers, I can share an experience I had at Beijing National Centre for the Performing Arts that I cannot forget. Cameras are not allowed in this venue and, in order to enter the hall, audience patrons must allow their handbags and belongings to pass through an x-ray scanner similar to the ones used in airports. Mobile phones are allowed. Of course, these days, most mobile phones and smartphones have built-in cameras. When I attended a performance at the Beijing National Centre, as might be expected, some audience patrons could be seen using their phones to take photos of the performers during their curtain calls. When these audience patrons aimed their mobile phones' cameras at the stage, I noticed red laser pointer beams directed at the mobile devices from the rear of the hall. I looked toward the rear of the hall and saw that the hall's reception employees were using the red lasers to interfere with the mobile devices' cameras. Clearly, each country has its own approach to enforcing the prohibition against photographing and recording performances.

At performances in Europe as well I see more and more mobile phones and smartphones being used to photograph performers during their curtain calls. Regardless of country, there seems to be an almost universal desire to take photographs or videos of the performers taking their bows, as if this is not part of the performance. I think we should be mindful of the appropriate manners and behaviors expected of performing arts audiences.

Nagata Acoustics Inc.

(Tokyo Office)
Hongo Segawa Bldg. 3F, 2-35-10 Hongo
Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan
Tel: +81-3-5800-2671, Fax: +81-3-5800-2672

(LA Office)
2130 Sawtelle Blvd., Suite 308
Los Angeles, CA 90025, U.S.A.
Tel: +1-310-231-7878, Fax: +1-310-231-7816

(Paris Office)
75, avenue Parmentier
75011 Paris, France
Tel: +33 (0)1 40 21 44 25, Fax: +33 (0)1 40 21 24 00

E-mail: info@nagata.co.jp

[ Japanese Version ]