Title means "Quietness", "Comfortable Sound" and "Excellent Acoustics"

Nagata Acoustics News 02-3 (No.171)
Issued : March 25, 2002

Meiji Gakuin University's New Palette Zone at Shirokane Campus

by Motoo Komoda

The Indoor Courtyard
Nestled in a corner of Tokyo's vibrant Minato Ward (perhaps best known for its Roppongi nightlife), the sections named Shirokane and Shirokane-dai remained outside the radar screen of real estate developers and building frenzies. One main reason for this is that while the major Sakurada-dori thoroughfare borders these neighborhoods, none of Tokyo's otherwise ubiquitous subways lines had stops that were truly convenient to somewhat hilly Shirokane and Shirokane-dai. In addition, these two neighborhoods abound in stately residences, Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples and schools, any and all of which can be impediments to urban development projects.

However, in the year 2000, two newly completed subway stops connected Shirokane and Shirokane-dai to Tokyo's public transportation matrix. These two stops, both on the Namboku Subway Line, also marked the completion of that line's final link. Since then, real estate development activity, including condominium development has increased in these neighborhoods, and everyone in Tokyo now thinks of these sections of Minato Ward as more easily accessible.

<< Meiji Gakuin's Historic Shirokane Campus >>

Like much of the surrounding neighborhood, many of the buildings of Meiji Gakuin's Shirokane campus have historical significance. The school's Imbrie House, built at the end of the 19th century, represents a very early example of Western-style architecture in Japan, and is designated an important cultural property by the Japanese government. The building is named after Reverend William Imbrie, the school's earliest minister and theology professor. The Shirokane campus is also home to the original building used by Tokyo Union Theological School, the seminary that later combined with other Western-oriented 19th -century institutions to form Meiji Gakuin University. This building is now part of the Shirokane Campus' library and a memorial. In addition, the campus also has a chapel built in the university's early years and other historically notable turn of the 20th -century structures.

In Japan, the name Meiji Gakuin University brings to mind the arrival of protestant Christian teaching in Japan and Dr. James Hepburn, author of one of the earliest Japanese-English dictionaries. Dr. Hepburn invented the Hepburn system of Japanese romanization, and also made important contributions to the development of modern Japanese medical knowledge. In the field of literature, Meiji Gakuin is often associated with the famous Japanese poet Toson Shimazaki, who wrote the words to the Meiji Gakuin's school song.

<< A Phased Approach to Modernization >>

Meiji Gakuin's modernization plan began in 1986. The plan has four phases, of which the third phase was recently completed. This article discusses the highlights of Phase Three and Nagata Acoustics participation in the project.

<< Overview of the New Student Recreation Facility Project >>

The third phase of the university's Shirokane Campus modernization plan is a multipurpose facility that houses an indoor courtyard, art hall, arena, dining lounge, music studio, and club meeting rooms. The university held a naming contest for the new facility and selected the name Palette from among the submissions. The name Palette fits with the school's desire that students use the diverse functionalities of the building as tools to paint and refine their individual identities on the "canvases" of their own personalities.

The project architect was Shozo Uchii Architects and the general contractor was Taisei Corporation. A religious ceremony consecrating the building was performed in the Shirokane Campus chapel on March 17, 2001.

<< The Indoor Courtyard >>

The facility's indoor courtyard serves as the facility's nucleus. Instead of outdoor benches, this roofed, plaza-like area provides a spacious and pleasant environment where students can gather and relax as they please. The courtyard's high ceiling has five skylights and the exterior glass walls have electronically controlled louvered shutters that adjust to the sun's rays, ensuring that the daytime light in the courtyard is bright, soft and pleasant. The photo used here was shot in February 2001, soon after the completion of the project, but before the interior courtyard's furnishings arrived or the lighting apparatus was in operation. Now the courtyard is equipped with attractive wood chairs and round tables arranged along one side of the courtyard. These accoutrements and the natural lighting make the courtyard a popular daytime venue for students. The courtyard even has a hamburger shop.

<< Reverberation Attenuation for the Indoor Courtyard >>

Uniquely designed, three-dimensional trusses made with perforated metal plate support the indoor courtyard's ceiling. Between the trusses and the ceiling, we installed sound absorbing panels (except for the areas of the skylights). In addition, we inserted glass-wool panels inside the exterior window shutters, and made the outward-facing face a perforated finish. Through these measures, we reduced the sound reverberation within the courtyard.

The courtyard's lighting fixtures are suspended from the ceiling, in between the three-dimensional trusses. Audio speakers are also suspended from the ceiling throughout the courtyard space.

<< Art Hall >>

Art Hall
Art Hall is designed primarily for live-music performances and has a maximum seat-count of 300. The hall's brick walls and high ceilings reflect a secondary design objective that makes the hall an appropriate setting for use as a chapel. Along the side and rear walls of the hall are two levels of shallow balconies where lighting equipment can be placed to achieve special media affects. The front of Art Hall has a roll-up screen and speakers are installed at both sides of the front upper walls for sound amplification use.

<< Art Hall's Acoustics >>

Because portions of Art Hall's brick walls are an openwork design, we made use of this design element in planning our acoustical strategy. Behind the first floor's rear wall, we installed glass wool, and on the second floor, we installed curtains that can be manually opened or closed to meet the acoustical needs of hall's events.

When tested with approximately 100 portable chairs set up in the hall, the reverberation time was 1.5 seconds (at 500 Hz). Whether the second-floor curtains were open or closed had only minimal affect on higher sound registers. However, the human ear can distinguish a considerable difference in the hall's acoustics depending on the placement of the curtains. Overall, the hall's acoustical balance leans towards a somewhat long reverberation time for the lower sound registers, giving the hall the acoustical "personality" of a religious sanctuary.

<< July 2001 Schoenberg Festival at Art Hall >>

In July 2001, Art Hall served as the venue for a festival commemorating the 50th anniversary of the passing of composer Arnold Schoenberg. The festival included exhibitions and symposia in addition to memorial performances. It is documented in the Japanese pages of the university's website, at http://www.meijigakuin.ac.jp. The Japanese pages of the website include a related essay by Meiji Gakuin Professor of Literature Dr. Ryu-ichi Higuchi.

<< Palette Arena >>

The facility's arena is designed primarily for sporting events. It has three basement levels and the ground-level main arena has an 11 m. (36 ft)-high ceiling. Besides this main arena, there are two more arenas which can be used as dojos for the Japanese martial arts Kendo and Judo.

<< Dining Lounge >>

The student dining and lounge area is located in the facility's first-level basement, directly underneath the indoor courtyard. The interior design of this space maximizes use of wood and brick materials to create a calm and tranquil mood. Of particular eye appeal are the room's columns made of assorted woods and the floor that is a patterned combination of wood and brick. The dining lounge has portable, lattice-work-style partitions that enable the space to be subdivided for specific uses.

<< Studios and Club Meeting Rooms >>

One of the benefits of the new facility is its large number of rooms for student activities. Some of these rooms are located on the second basement level, with windows facing a "sunken garden." Some are located along an open-air interior garden on the facility's ground level. More student activity rooms are located throughout the structure, from the second basement level up to the third floor.

Years ago, student club meetings were held in windowless basement locker rooms, amidst musty smells and assorted odds and ends. The new Shirokane Campus student clubrooms bathe in natural light and their freshly painted walls can make one envious of student life in the 21st century. Waseda University also recently completed construction of a new Student Union building, and it seems that one current focus of campus construction is extra-curricula facilities for student use.

Meiji Gakuin University's mandolin club is famous in Japanese musical circles, both on and off campus, and they were one of the first student organizations to take up residence in Palette. As soon as the new facility opened, the mandolin players arrived to practice. Now the image of those students intensely engaged in playing and improving each other's music comes to mind whenever I think of the Shirokane Campus and the new student facility.

<< A Facility with Great Potential in a Secluded Location >>

Shirokane Campus' new Palette student facility is replete with space, functionality and design elements that offer students a wide range of extra-curricula opportunities. While the structure is not far from the Sakurada-dori main thoroughfare, it is recessed from the street in a way that mostly hides it from the view of passing traffic. A benefit of being recessed from the street is that the noise level from passing traffic is lower, leaving the facility's open-air interior garden quiet and undisturbed.

At present, the Miyako Hotel Tokyo that stands on the lot next to Palette is undergoing major renovation. When this work completes, visitors to the hotel will be able to enjoy a full view of the new student facility beyond the hotel's own lovely Japanese gardens.

The Facilities Maintenance Office of Meiji Gakuin University is located at 1-2-37, Shirokane-dai, Minato-ku, Tokyo. The telephone number is +81-3-5421-5128.

The "Face" of Oizumimachi Bunkamura in Gunma Prefecture

by Akira Ono

<< A Small-budget, Regional Facility Built in 1988 >>

Oizumimachi Bunkamura was completed in December 1988 in the Gunma Prefecture town of Oizumimachi. The nearest train station to Oizumimachi is the Tobu Isezaki Train Line's Ota Station, located about 15 minutes by car from the town.

Oizumimachi Bunkamura houses its large and small halls in a single structure. The large hall has a seat count of 800 and the small hall seats 288 persons. The cost of construction was approximately \150 million (slightly more than US$1 million). The building was constructed without any fancy building materials, relying instead on a design that used exposed concrete for the exterior and locally manufactured roofing tiles. The architecture is simple yet refined.

<< An Urban Advertising Man Puts a "Face" on this Facility >>

Mr.Masashi Fukuda
When Oizumimachi Bunkamura was brand new and searching for a leader, Mr. Masashi Fukuda, an employee at one of Tokyo's advertising agencies, decided to make a U-turn in his career and community. He returned to Oizumimachi, where his father had been employed as a local civil servant, and he put his spirits into his new position as the facility's director. For 14 years, Mr. Fukuda has taken charge of all aspects of Oizumimachi Bunkamura, from overseeing the operations of the facility to planning its programs. He even edits the monthly newsletter published by the village's nonprofit foundation, and sometimes draws illustrations to add artwork to the newsletter's text.

In Japan, the public funding of hall construction has often been followed by the criticism that governments are only willing to pay for the "hard" outer shell of physical structures. All too often, public support dries up when it comes time to pay for the artists and programming that should be the true objectives of establishing a performing arts facility. But planning performances and programming is truly a people business, not bricks and mortar. These aspects of a performing arts facility depend on the person or persons who direct and operate it. If a hall director devises ways to use a facility so that people come to it, that individual breathes life into the facility and becomes the true "face" of the facility. I visit many public performing arts facilities, and I can see that the ones that are thriving and successful have in common a strong leadership presence and the "face" of the facility is clearly embodied in a dedicated individual. Mr. Masashi Fukuda is the face of Oizumimachi Bunkamura, and I wish to outline some of his successes with our readers.

<< Iwao Furusawa's Home Ground >>

Around the time that construction completed at Oizumimachi Bunkamura, violinist Iwao Furusawa was leaving the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra after a four-year stint as concertmaster. Partly because Mr. Furusawa lives in nearby Ashikaga City, he decided to record his first solo album at Oizumimachi Bunkamura. The following year, he began performing recitals at the facility.

Because Oizumimachi is home to one of Sanyo Electric's manufacturing plants, Mr. Furusawa approached the company to sponsor his local concerts and they readily agreed to do so. When the economy was stronger, Sanyo sponsored four concert programs a year, with each concert being performed twice (on Saturday and Sunday) for a total of eight annual performances. Currently, Mr. Furusawa performs Sanyo-sponsored concerts semi-annually, using the same scheduling formula of Saturday and Sunday concerts, for a total of four concerts.

<< Mixing Wine and Music >>

Iwao Furusawa explains the style he wants for his Oizumimachi concerts as follows: "If my audience can stay close to home and still be able to go out with friends for a meal and some drinks and, in addition, be able to top it all off with good music that lingers on in their thoughts at the evening's close, then my concerts would be like going to a party. This is the kind of party I want to have."

To put his ideas into practice, Mr. Furusawa starts by using Oizumimachi Bunkamura's small hall for a pre-concert mini-concert. The mini-concert is free-of-charge, and even families with small children are welcome to attend. The atmosphere at the small hall's mini-concert is more of a neighborhood gathering than a concert, since when Mr. Furusawa completes the playing of a piece of music and bows, the audience usually does not applaud, but returns his bow, in keeping with the Japanese way of acknowledging a friend or colleague.

The second part of an Iwao Furusawa concert evening begins when Mr. Furusawa moves to Bunkamura's foyer, where he shares a light meal and wine with his audience, truly turning the concert into a party. The wine poured at these events comes from a favorite winery of Mr. Furusawa, who even has a hand in the wine's production. The labels on the wine bottles are decorated with a picture of a violin and Mr. Furusawa's signature, along with an inscription that reads, "These grapes were nurtured listening to I. Furusawa, and they fermented and matured into wine listening to the sounds of I. Furusawa." I would like to do a wine-tasting comparison with wines raised without the benefit of violin music, and I suppose I could do so, since the wine is also available for purchase at the reasonable price of \2,000 (about US$15.00).

At the end of each concert, Mr. Furusawa closes the evening with a raffle that sends a lucky audience member home with a gift. The gift raffle is always one of the highlights of the concerts.

<< Using "Face" to Overcome a Limited Budget >>

Mr. Furusawa produces all of his own concerts. He works from a limited budget, but because of his established relationships in the performing arts world, he manages to invite and attract top-ranking guest artists to join him and make each of his concerts a joint performance. Among the special guest artists who have performed with Mr. Furusawa at Oizumimachi Bunkamura are ballet dancer Tetsuya Kumakawa, violinist Taro Hakase and actor Takuro Tatsumi. Most halls would find it impossible to produce concerts with these kinds of name artists if they had to rely solely on the typical paltry hall budget. But perhaps even more remarkable than the name value of the guest artists is the creative nature of the programming, which is a match for some of the most cutting edge productions one would expect to see and hear in Tokyo. It is no surprise that these performances draw audiences not only from towns near Oizumimachi, but also from as far away as Tokyo, Shikoku and the Chugoku regions of Japan.

<< Iwao Furusawa's Other Community Work >>

Mr. Furusawa also appears annually at the Music Appreciation Concert held at Oizumimachi Bunkamura for children of the regional elementary schools. Through this work, he maintains a high profile among Oizumimachi residents of all ages.

Five years ago, the town of Oizumimachi commissioned Mr. Furusawa to compose a work of music to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its incorporation as a township. The result was two pieces of music, "Town Memories," and "Departures." Both pieces can be heard on Mr. Furusawa's CDs and are a valuable legacy and source of pride for the local community.

<< Hall Sponsored Violin Lessons >>

Oizumimachi Bunkamura's large hall
Another unique program of Oizumimachi Bunkamura is its sponsorship of violin lessons for youngsters. Each year, the hall accepts applications for 30 children to participate in a yearlong course of weekly group violin lessons. There is a tuition fee for the lessons, but the hall lends each student a violin to use for the duration of the course. During the year, the participants may take their violins home so that they can practice outside of the formal lessons. According to Hall Director Fukuda, even those participants who have never held a violin before are able to join in the group recital at Bunkamura held at the end of the year of lessons.

While the decision to begin violin lessons requires a substantial commitment when it involves investing in the purchase of a musical instrument, the students feel they can apply for the Bunkamura group violin lessons without hesitation, making the classes extremely popular. Initially, Bunkamura planned to accept applications from elementary school age children in grades three through six. However, several years ago, the hall added a group class for middle-school and high-school students, which also attracts strong enrollment.

Some of the elementary school students in the violin class say that they grew to like the violin from seeing Mr. Furusawa play it at concerts and decided that they wanted to try their hands at it themselves. After completing the year of group lessons, some students continue with private lessons. Some of the class' students have thereafter continued their studies at Japan's musical conservatories and universities.

The origin of the violin lessons program was a gift to Oizumimachi Bunkamura by a wealthy resident of the town who used a portion of his retirement pay to purchase 30 violins and donate them to the hall. The connection between Oizumimachi Bunkamura and violinist Iwao Furusawa, and Mr. Furusawa's wonderful concerts undoubtedly played an inspirational role in spreading the love of this instrument among the people of Oizumimachi, an appreciation for violin music that was embodied in a generous philanthropic act that now inspires future generations as well.

<< Gunma Prefecture Regional Performing Arts Network >>

In recent years, the public halls of the four Gunma Prefecture towns of Sakai, Nitta, Kasagake and Oizumi decided to work together with the support of the Prefectural Education Board to bring programs to all of their facilities by planning productions that can travel to the hall in each of these towns. By pooling some of their budgets, the halls can create fuller-scale productions and programs and schedule more repeat performances. Two years ago, the halls planned the "Chisako Takashima and Mino Kabasawa Heartful Concert" featuring two of Japan's most popular performers, and the halls were able to bring back these musicians for repeat performances last year as well.

Building on the past two years' successes, the four halls established "Gunma-net Club," which residents of the region can join in order to receive periodic information about upcoming events at each of the four halls. I know that Japan's public and private large halls, in the major metropolitan areas such as Tokyo, Osaka and Sapporo sometimes work cooperatively to bring special programming to their respective regions. But this kind of cooperative approach to hall programming occurs less frequently at the regional level and may be a valuable strategy for maximizing regional halls' limited economic resources. I hope that this kind of cooperative effort will help other regions' halls add appealing programming to their schedules.

<< Bunkamura "Wins" a Midori Goto Recital >>

To mark the 20th anniversary of the debut of internationally-famous violinist Midori Goto, Sony Music Foundation decided to partner with 13 public halls in Japan to produce recitals that the foundation describes as a "total experience." In response to the foundation's publicity about the anniversary event, it received 170 applications from halls throughout Japan and Oizumimachi Bunkamura was one of the 13 halls the foundation selected. The decision-making process was not made public, but my guess is that at least part of why Oizumimachi Bunkamura was selected is the strength of its (human) "face." Midori's concert at Bunkamura will be on July 13, 2002.

When I visited Oizumimachi Bunkamura in preparation for writing this article, I learned how one musician and the people of a town found in Bunkamura a common ground and a place to focus and communicate. The relationship brings added vitality to the community and is truly a win-win situation. In Oizumimachi, I clearly saw the face of the performing arts facility, and reaffirmed that the facility's "face" is the people who make it a success.

Oizumimachi Bunkamura can be contacted through the Oizumimachi Sports and Culture Promotion Association. The telephone number is +81-276-63-5250.

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Nagata Acoustics News 02-3(No.171)
Issued : March 25, 2002

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