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

Nagata Acoustics News 97-4(No.112)
Issued : April 25, 1997

Welcome to the English version of the Nagata Acoustics Web-site

by Hideo Nakamura, president

Nagata Acoustics is pleased to announce that beginning this month (April), the information on our web-site is also available in English. In addition to providing you with an introduction to our areas of expertise and professionals, you can now read our monthly Nagata Acoustics News, containing timely, insightful, and thought-provoking articles about acoustical engineering developments, concerns, issues, and our works in progress and completed both in Japan and around the world. We hope that you will send us your opinions, ideas, and suggestions about this web-site and the contents of the English version and we look forward to your visiting the news portion of our web-site again next month.

Thoughts on How Motives Influence Results

by Minoru Nagata, founder and executive advisor

On March 9, 1997, I heard a critique by Kyoto University Professor Haruo Hayashi about the mass media's coverage of the Hanshin Eearthquake that hit the Kobe area of Japan just one year ago. Prof. Hayashi criticized the media because, he said, instead of reporting the reality of what was occurring on the scene as it was taking place, the media began with a preconceived framework of the story they wanted to tell, and gathered information so that the outcome would indeed support the news as the media wished to portray it.

It seems that this approach to news coverage is rampant. As Yasuhisa Toyota pointed out In the January 1997 edition of our Nagata Acoustics News, the media recently reported that the secret to a certain hall's acoustics had been uncovered and that the hall's sound was the result of jars that had been left behind the interior material! But distorted reporting is not limited to the mass media. As I reviewed the Spring Meeting of the Acoustical Society of Japan, which met in March, I began to have doubts about the vantage points and motives of the topics addressed by some of the papers presented. The point I wish to raise, and the question we should keep in mind, is what are the perspective and motive of the researcher who presents a paper, and whether or not we are too lax in checking for predispositions that may be affecting the opinions and outcomes that we present. While some human creations, such as the music of Mozart, may be flawless enough to be viewed as revelations from some higher source, and thus uninfluenced by any ulterior or subjective motivations, for most of us simple humans, our motives can lead to many problems. Looking only at the realm of research, I am struck by the number of topics that reflect either an attachment to some preconceived idea, an obvious influence by some current trend or fad, a smug approach combined with insufficient preparatory investigation, a forced connection with a particular project, or some other example of the damaging impact of the researcher's motives on his or her research.

Let us look at the method of signal processing known as synchronized addition. Synchronized addition enables a signal that is hidden by noise to be detected and extracted. In addition, statistical methods can be used to extract a plurality of axes from complicated phenomena in which they have been submerged. But despite the development of this kind of objective measuring method, at present, the results of these tests are often either given too much weight, or large discrepancies and the undesirable segments of observed data may be dismissed, in the same way that the media people who reported on the earthquake only sought out news that would support the story they wanted to tell. No matter whether we have established systems and our research complies with them, when motives impact our handling of research data, valuable real-life findings may be discarded in the midst of seemingly miscellaneous and superfluous information. Because acoustics is a complex phenomenon, it is dangerous for us to try to explain all acoustical experience based on a single theory or assertion. In his most recent book, the U.S. acoustician L. Beranek introduced a bold method to rank the acoustics of concert halls using certain specific and independent parameters. In his method of evaluation can be seen his predisposition towards the acoustics of shoebox-configured halls such as those of the Boston Symphony and Vienna Philharmonic. However, we no longer live in an era in which concert halls are limited to the shoebox configuration. From such a doyen of the world of acoustical engineering, I would have hoped for a more unobstructed perspective on today's new concert halls.

Our experience of the acoustics at any concert performance includes factors such as the music genre, the scope and content of the performance, one's seat location, and personal preferences; without taking account of these factors it is impossible to completely grasp the full acoustical experience. Given just the variables inherent in the playing of instruments, who the performer is, and the program selections, a specific performance can produce acoustical results one has not heard in the same room before, or can make sitting in the very first row of a room -- the textbook example of undesirable seating -- a most moving acoustical experience. What acoustics now needs is an approach that incorporates these factors that until now have been the very stuff our laboratory evaluation research disregarded. Isn't it time we imbued our hall's acoustics with our hearts and with open-mindedness, and from such a vantage put forth a new approach to the acoustical challenges and topics we wish to tackle next?

The Pros and Cons of Electrical Enhancements of Opera Performances

by Hideo Nakamura

On March 20, 1997, one of Japan's three major presses, the Asahi Newspaper, ran a large article with the headline, "Live Opera-- Is the Sound Secretly Amplified?" The article asserted that the new Japanese National Theater could not be trusted to present pure live opera performances now that recent advances in digital technology make it possible to amplify the human voice in such a way that the audience does not know it is hearing an amplified performance. The Asahi Newspaper asks whether amplified performances are the inevitable result of technological progress or a betrayal of the trust of audiences. As I have been closely involved in the planning and design of the stage acoustical equipment for the New Japanese National Theater (intended especially for opera performances), and this topic was discussed at length by the Theater's Construction Committee, I read the Asahi article with great interest, noticing that the reporter did seem to have all of the facts as I myself know them.

Classical music and opera are artistic forms whose growth, long tradition, history, and transmission necessarily required the use of natural, live voices. In the past, the only way that the beauty of these art forms could be experienced was when audiences came together in special halls and theaters to hear the live performances. Today, most of the people who make up the audiences want to be moved by the same wonderful sensation of live human voices. It is fair to say that electrical enhancement of performers' voices without the audience's knowledge constitutes deception and a make-shift solution that would eventually be found out. If I, personally, was a ticket-holder at such a performance, I certainly would not accept or condone such treatment. However, if the audience is advised before purchasing their tickets that electric enhancement will be used, or if it is obvious that the only way a certain classical music event can be realized is through the use of electrical amplification, then I do not see a problem. For example, when the "Three Tenors" concert was staged at Tokyo Dome (a covered baseball stadium), it could be safely assumed that no-one in the audience expected that the concert would be held without electrical amplification.

Acoustic preferences are always based on individual tastes. There are already some listeners who are unperturbed by the use of electrical acoustic enhancements. Quite possibly, future generations will also be less resistant to the use of technological supports for the human voice. However, the question remains whether electrical acoustic enhancements truly benefit audiences who come to attend live performances. Before switching to reliance on electrical acoustics, thought should be given to training and hiring singers with voices that project better, and if a decision is made to use electrical acoustic enhancements, this should be clearly announced to prospective ticket-buyers and audiences. The capabilities of electrical acoustic equipment will become only more and more advanced, and the difference between a natural and an amplified voice will become so controllable no listener will be able to differentiate between the two. This makes it all the more important that caution be exercised in implementing electrical acoustic enhancements and that time be given for the concert-and opera-going public to arrive at a general consensus. If the present situation of unannounced electrical acoustic usage continues, the price may well be a decline in ticket sales as the audience reacts to its sense of betrayal by staying away from performances.

The need for caution in using acoustical equipment in concert halls and opera houses does not mean that these venues can skimp on electrical acoustical equipment. In much of Europe and the United States, it is already common for speakers to be set inconspicuously inside each audience seat and state-of-the-art equipment proliferates in acoustical control rooms. The main purpose of this equipment is not to provide amplification of singers voices; rather, it is used to create special sound effects. In the past, artificial sound effect devices were utilized, but these have now been replaced by electrical acoustic equipment. Since sound effects have always been artificially produced, audiences are not bothered by the switch to the more technologically advanced electrical acoustic equipment. In fact, sound effects created using electrical acoustic equipment are enjoyed by audiences because they are more impressive and realistic than the sound effects produced by former methods. Electrical acoustic equipment reduces the possibility of technical mistakes as well. Even in concert halls where the electrical acoustic system may be minimally used during actual concerts, it is essential for emergency and other spoken announcements and for amplification in any concerts or events that include the spoken word or speeches.

In an effort to emphasize their commitment to pure live performance, some concert hall and opera house planners mistakenly try to deny all need for electrical acoustic equipment, or they insist that small speakers and only the most modest equipment is sufficient. While this kind of reasoning may at first seem persuasive, it is actually short-sighted and unrealistic. For example, even if the sound effect needed is something as simple as thunder, large speakers and a large amplifier are essential to creating the realistic sound desired. Similarly, a concert hall may have no need of sound effects, but if a speech is given, more speakers are needed to ensure that the spoken human voice will be transmitted clearly than would be needed in a multipurpose hall. Through my work at the New Japanese National Theater, I gained first-hand experience in educating and persuading opera directors, musicians, and architects about the short-sightedness of minimizing the electrical acoustic equipment. This topic was the primary reason for many long hours of debate.

The appearance of the Asahi Newspaper article has force me to think again about my work for the New Japanese National Theater. The unannounced electrical enhancement of an opera performance is symptomatic of the quick-fix approach and narrow vision that I previously encountered my planning and design consulting for the electrical acoustics of this Theater. In my opinion, the future of the opera genre in Japan may rest on the ability of this Theaters' decision-makers to rethink how they adapt to and improve their relationship with technologies that are definitely here to stay, and then how they communicate the role of electrical acoustics to their audience.

Casals Hall Gets Pipe Organ

by Toshiko Fukuchi

Arendt Organ Installed in Casals Hall, Tokyo
This year marks the 10th anniversary of Casals Hall, the 511 seat concert hall in Tokyo named after Pablo Casals, and one of my early room acoustics projects. As part of the anniversary festivities, the hall has just installed a pipe organ. The foundation was constructed last October; this March the organ itself arrived from Germany and is now a prominent feature of the hall, adding splendor where previously there was a plain white wall as the backdrop to the stage. The organ is the work of Jurgen Arendt and has 41 stops and a three-tier keyboard.

As soon as all the adjustments for the organ were completed, on March 19, 1997, a private concert was held by Mr. Arendt's Italian friend, the organist Lorenzo Ghielmi. The organ's sound mirrored its visual ornamentation, both being delicately beautiful, and during the performance the organ's sound spread gently throughout the hall. Personally, I would have preferred a somewhat more weighty performance, and I believe that the gentleness of the organ's sound was due in large part to the performer's style.

When Casals Hall has its gala 10th anniversary festival this coming autumn, Wolfgang Taylor will perform the Opening Night Organ Premiere Concert. Then, the Casals Hall pipe organ project will truly have completed all stages from acoustical design to planning to installation and inauguration. I am surely looking forward to the Organ Premiere concert on October 10, 1997.

The Spring Meeting of the Acoustical Society of Japan and ASVA

by Keiji Oguchi

Beginning last year and on into this year as well, one acoustical organization after another is celebrating a significant anniversary. The spring meeting of the Acoustical Society of Japan (ASJ) was held from March 17 to 19, at the New Tanabe Campus of Doshisha University, where the Society's Kansai (Western Japan) Chapter celebrated its 60th anniversary. The topic for the special session on room acoustics was "Evaluation and Design of Sound Fields." Reviews and research papers were presented on the prediction and physical indices of concert hall acoustics and active sound field control. Nagata Acoustics participated with poster sessions on our Nadya Park, Toyama Metropolitan Culture Hall, Nagaoka Lyric Hall, and Queensland Conservatory projects.

Following right on the heels of the Kansai meeting in Kyoto came the joint symposia of the 60th anniversary of the ASJ and 20th anniversary of the Institute of Noise Control Engineering, Japan. The joint symposia was held from April 2 to 4 at Waseda University's International Conference Center in Tokyo. The title of the ASVA '97 was "International Symposium on Simulation, Visualization, and Auralization for Acoustic Research and Education." Many of the paper presentations and poster sessions made highly effective use of computers to visualize and auralize sound and vibration, making the symposium an excellent source of new ideas for presentation techniques. Nagata Acoustics used posters and sound from our model testing to present the features and application limits of computer simulations, optical model testing, and acoustical model testing for room acoustics, using as examples our recent projects: Disney Concert Hall, Kyoto Concert Hall, and Sapporo Concert Hall.

Beginning with the Third Joint Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America and the ASJ, Honolulu late last year and down to the most recent symposia, we have now had the opportunity to overview the entirety of trends in modeling sound fields for acoustical prediction and evaluation purpose s. In computer simulations, a technology for auralization such as convolutes a dry source (reverberance-free music and voice) with the calculated impulse responses is being widely implemented, while still setting aside the sound scattering, diffraction, etc. that are so difficult to account for in geometric acoustical computer simulations.

Recently, in an effort to achieve more accurate impulse response estimates that take into account wave phenomena, research that solves wave equations approximately is enjoying much popularity. As a result of digital signal processing advances, in acoustical model testing, it is now possible to measure high quality impulse responses even in a physical model smaller than a 1/10 model, and it is also possible to listen to convoluted music. However, it is still a difficult proposition to suggest that one can absolutely evaluate the acoustics of a new hall using these methods. If one reproduced a dry source from a non-directional loudspeaker on the stage of an existing hall, recorded it through a dummy head, and then used that recording to perform the evaluation, would not this produce a subjectively feasible accurate results?

From the above discussions, it is clear that acoustical estimating and evaluating are likely to be the subject of ever more detailed and specialized academic research, creating a gap with the day-to-day practical work of acoustical consultants. It is very timely that the April issue of the ASJ Journal has a special feature section entitled, "The Present Situation and Issues of Room Acoustical Design." On the opening page of the special section, Tokyo University Professor Emeritus Kiyoteru Ishii aptly writes, "In addition to continuing research on room acoustical design at the academic level, what we need is research t hat will serve as a bridge to the practical acoustical work of acoustician s in the business world." I would like to support his opinion.

Nagata Acoustics News 97-4(No.112)
Issued : April 25, 1997

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