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

Nagata Acoustics News 99-9iNo.141j
Issued : September 25, 1999

Tokushima City's "Awa Odori Kaikan" Opens

by Chiaki Ishiwata

Awa Odori Kaikan
On August 12 - 15, 1999, Tokushima City was filled with the annual sounds of its famous Awa Odori festivities. For four days and nights the city's streets fill with dancers (odori means "dance"), and revelers. A traditional festival chant encourages everyone to join in the fun:

"Oh, how great! How great! Yoi...Yoi...Yoi! Foolish the one who dances and foolish the one who watches! If you're gonna be foolish anyway, it's your loss if you don't dance!"

This year, the media reported a turnout of 1.5 million people. Once upon a time (actually, until this year) the season for Awa Odori was limited to hot August summers. Now, with the opening of Awa Odori Kaikan, the people of Tokushima City can celebrate Awa Odori the year round.

Capitalizing on its role as a new tourist attraction, Awa Odori Kaikan opened its doors at 2 Shinmachibashi, in Tokushima City, on July 30, 1999, just days before the start of the outdoor Awa Odori Festival. The new building is just a 10-minute walk from Tokushima Station. Its location is at the foot of Bizan Mountain, which offers a panoramic view of the city.

TOHATA ARCHITECTS & ENGINEERS provided the project's architectural design and project management. A joint venture led by SHIMIZU CORPORATION served as general contractor.

<< A Hall for Dancing Awa Odori From Noon to Night >>

Fig.1 Facilities guide



Ropeway station



Rehearsal rooms









Concourse plaza

The second floor hall of Awa Odori Kaikan (shown in Figure 1) is designed especially for Awa Odori performances. During the daytime, the hall's own dance troupe, Awa Odori no Kaze ("Winds of Awa Odori") performs. In the evening, the famous troupe that formerly performed in the city's Civic Center Planetarium perform "The Daily Awa Odori." The city's planetarium stands immediately in front of Tokushima Station, near enough to the new Awa Odori Kaikan that tourist routes will not have to be changed.

<< The Folk Art of Awa Odori >>

Awa Odori dance troupes are called "ren" in Japanese, a word written with the Chinese character meaning "to be connected" or "in a row." Each ren is composed of several dozen dancers, and each ren has its own steps and unique musical accompaniment. At Awa Odori Kaikan, in addition to the presentation of dances, the performance programs include a talk and, at the end, an opportunity for the audience to join in the dance.

<< The Entire Building Highlights the Art of Awa Odori >>

On the third floor of Awa Odori Kaikan is a museum about the dance form. The fourth floor has a rehearsal room and classrooms for lessons in both the musical accompaniment and steps of Awa Odori. The museum is a resource for anything and everything one could wish to know about Awa Odori. The rehearsal and lesson rooms are used by all of the different ren, preserving the diversity of the steps and music.

<< A Look at our Sound Isolation Design >>

Nagata Acoustics provided acoustical consulting for the sound isolation, room acoustics and sound system for Awa Odori Kaikan.

* Loud Music in a Quiet Neighborhood
Awa Odori's musical accompaniment (ohayashi in Japanese) includes: a gong that sets the beat; large drums (not as large as the large Japanese otaiko, but at least 80cm in diameter); small "shime" taiko that are held at the side of the body and played by pulling and loosening cords along the length of the drum to vary its sound; flutes; and shamisen (the Japanese string instrument sometimes compared to a banjo). The large drums have a deep lower range.

The musical accompaniment for the performances of The Daily Awa Odori include only about 10 musicians, but at its most stirring moments, the sound level from the music reaches 110 - 120 dB. This is a loud sound volume.

Awa Odori Kaikan is located near residential housing, so it was imperative that the loud music of the performances not be audible outside the building. In addition, Nagata Acoustics paid special attention to issues of sound isolation between the various rooms and facilities inside the building.

* The Performance Hall's Roof, Ceiling, Exterior Walls, and Floor
To prevent sound leakage to the exterior of the building, we designed the performance hall's roof using steel sheets and cemented chip board. In addition, we designed a double-layered ceiling of PB15t to further prevent vibration and to ensure the hall's sound isolation. For the exterior walls, we chose two materials, reinforced concrete and cinder blocks, to form a double- layered wall. We further improved the hall's sound isolation by implementing a floating floor structure beneath which we installed glass wool. For further vibration control we added anti-vibration supports to the interior ceiling and walls of the performance hall.

* Interior Sound Isolation and Vibration Control
To ensure sound isolation between the rehearsal room and the floor below it, we used a floating floor structure for the rehearsal room floor. For the windows, we installed double layers of air-tight frames having air strata of t=>300mm. In front of the curtained wall that faces the rehearsal room, we added a retractable room divider to provide additional sound isolation.

* Successful Results
When we took measurements during actual performances of Awa Odori music in the hall and the rehearsal room, the sound level at the far side of an eight meter-wide street outside the building registered a noise level of at most 55 dB(A). This means that noise from the music was virtually inaudible. On the concourse plaza beneath the performance hall, and in the museum beneath the rehearsal room, low register sound from the musical accompaniment could be heard slightly. (Their sound isolation capability is obtained 70dB(at 500Hz)). However, because both of these areas are characterized by the constant going and coming of visitors, the slight noise level does not adversely impact their ambiance.

<< Room Acoustics >>

In designing the performance hall's room acoustics, we gave consideration to the likelihood that the hall will be used for the performance of folk art genres such as Joruri ballad dramas (accompanied by Shamisen), in addition to the regular performances of Awa Odori. Our planning reflected our understanding that the hall should have a reverberation time that would allow speech to be heard clearly. Accordingly, we aimed for a reverberation time somewhere between "the golden mean" and a rather "dead" sound.

The interior walls of the hall have a "halved" configuration, and absorptive finishings are dispersed along the walls and the ceiling to produce sound diffusion throughout the hall. With 150 people in the hall, its reverberation time measures 0.6 seconds. (The cubic volume of the hall is 1,200 m3 [approx. 42.3 thousand cubic feet] and the average absorption rate is 0.3.)

<< Practice Makes Perfect in Tokushima, the City of Awa Odori Dancers >>

Dancing "Awa Odori"
(photo by Mr.M.Miyawaki,
Shimizu Corporation)
The people of Tokushima love to dance Awa Odori. As early as May, if you walk around the city at about 7:00 p.m., as people return home from work, you can see dancers gathering in their neighborhoods to practice, and the sounds of ohayashi pervade the air. The perfection seen in the dancers of the annual summer Awa Odori Festivals is the result of these months--and years--of practice. It is only natural that anyone who hears of this dedication to the folk art of Awa Odori will want to experience the August outdoor dances. But even if you do not make it to Tokushima in the heat of the summer months, you should visit the city at another time. For now you can experience real Awa Odori at Tokushima's Awa Odori Kaikan any time of the year. A word of caution, though. If you get hooked on the graceful steps of the ren and refuse to leave, please don't blame me.

For more information on Awa Odori Kaikan, call the hall directly at 81-88-611-1612, or visit http:// www.city.tokushima.tokushima.jp/sande/adance/adance13.html

Casals Hall Discontinues In-house Concert Production What Are the Impacts?

by Yasuhisa Toyota

Ever since its opening in 1987, Casals Hall's in-house concert planning and production activities have contributed unique, first-class concert programs to the Tokyo music scene. The hall has established a well-deserved reputation, both in Japan and internationally, for its excellent programming. Yet this past March, Casals Hall announced that it will discontinue its in-house concert production work. To paraphrase the announcement precisely, the hall will complete the programming it has planned through this fiscal year (ending March 2000), but will not pursue any concert production thereafter. Instead, the hall will become nothing more than a rental hall.

<< Casals Hall's Leadership Role >>

Casals Hall has been a leading force in concert production among Japanese concert halls. Regional halls have used Casals Hall's imaginative programming as a resource and inspiration for their own planning and production. An informal network developed-with Casals Hall functioning as the hub and the regional halls as supporting satellites-that enabled all of these organizations to present similar programs to diverse geographic audiences throughout Japan. In this environment, Casals Hall's decision sent large shock waves into the Japanese classical music industry.

<< Economic Belt-tightening Is the Cause >>

Why did Casals Hall make this drastic decision? According to some articles on the newspaper, Casals Hall's parent company, the publisher Shufu-no-tomo, is in the midst of a corporate restructure which requires new investments by the company's banks. The banks are said to have told Shufu-no-tomo to shut down Casals Hall's unprofitable in-house production unit as a condition of the banks' willingness to participate in Shufu-no-tomo's restructure.

<< Concert Halls Nurture Culture, not Profits >>

But no concert hall operates in the black. Funding may come from municipal or other public sources, or may rely on donations from the private sector, but without some kind of outside support, concert halls cannot exist.

When I participate in the construction planning and design processes for publicly-funded halls, I often hear the representative from the governmental body state, "we're not looking to make a profit, but we would like to plan so that we do not operate at a loss either." If halls could cover their expenses and not inevitably incur deficits, there would be no need for publicly-funded halls. Private companies and organizations would enter the hall management business and find a way to make it profitable. Unfortunately, the reality is that deficits are a given of concert hall operation.

The purpose of concert hall ownership and operation is the nurturing of culture. The correct question to ask is: Will we spend money to nurture culture? We do not seem to be clear about why we spend money on culture. Is it: (1) because we happen to have a surplus of funds; or, (2) because we want to nurture culture and affirmatively choose to use what money we have for that purpose? Until we answer these questions, we will not succeed in establishing concert halls with long-term, ongoing operations. In the case of publicly-funded halls, setting policy on this issue is in the hands of the government and, ultimately, the direction is set via the political process and politicians' decisions. When the government's policy and direction on this issue are ambivalent, it is understandable that critics complain about the choices Japanese administrations make.

<< Empty Halls after the Building Boom of the 1980s and 1990s >>

>From the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, in the heyday of Japan's building boom, new concert halls were built in every corner of Japan. (In Japan, these years are called the "Bubble Period" because the "bubble" then burst and left Japan in an economic downturn.) A fair number of these halls were planned and built simply because the bubble economy was filling government coffers with taxpayers' yen, public works' spending had funds to spare, and someone casually suggested, "Why not build a hall?" Typically, once construction was completed on these halls they immediately suffered from insufficient staffing and too small operating budgets. The insufficient staffing was not caused only by the small number of people assigned or hired to work at the hall. Rather, there were few qualified individuals with the expertise to organize and run the halls' operations.

Many of the halls built during the bubble economy are operated solely as rental facilities. When these halls are underutilized, they become a target for attacks by the media and others who are critical of government administrations. Common criticisms include both: (1) that for governments to build halls that sit deserted and unused is a waste of taxpayers' money; and, (2) that the halls are too elaborate and, therefore, too expensive to operate and maintain.

<< Getting True Value from Concert Halls and Other Specialty Halls >>

Recently, in Japan, hall projects are increasingly planned and constructed as concert halls and other specialty performance halls, rather than as multipurpose halls designed to suit any kind of performance. In addition, hall owners and sponsors increasingly demand that their new facilities incorporate advanced functionalities and specifications, and that the performance characteristics of their halls meet the highest standards. When such specialty halls are run solely as rental halls, it is natural that their rate of utilization will be less than it would be for a more versatile multipurpose hall.

When hall planners decide to build a concert hall--or other specialized hall--their decision should reflect a commitment to that specific cultural genre. Their decision should indicate the planners' desire to nurture the genre, and the planners' willingness to actively promote and foster the chosen art form. To provide the community with a specialty hall run solely as a rental hall is clearly an unfair and lopsided approach to promoting cultural growth.

As a fundamental rule of thumb, halls that will be operated solely as rental facilities should be designed as multipurpose facilities, and the decision to build a concert hall should, ipso facto, include the decision to produce in-house programming. Moreover, the purpose of in-house programming is not merely to increase the hall's frequency of utilization. The in-house programming should be the means by which the hall's owners/sponsors bring a concert hall's larger purpose to fruition. For concert halls, the goal is enriching the community's cultural life through performances of classical music. No matter how wonderful a concert hall may be from an architectural or acoustical perspective, if it is left unused, the physical structure becomes just another "box." Its value is only revealed when live performances fill the hall with music and audiences.

<< Concert Hall Operating Costs: How Expensive is Too Expensive? >>

Those who criticize concert hall operating costs for being too expensive are shortsighted and entirely miss the reason concert halls are built and operated using public funds. In Japan, a portion of the mass media has fanned the flames of this criticism against governmental spending for concert hall programming. Certainly, the current state of the economy may require reductions in unnecessary expenditures, but cutting concert hall budgets will only make the government workers who staff public halls even more timid about proposing creative and innovative programs. Today, budget cuts are strangling more and more halls. While belt-tightening is laudable in principle, cuts in the operating costs of publicly-funded concert halls cause a valuable community resource to lie fallow. This compounds waste rather than diminishing it. The bottom line remains that an unused concert hall loses its value and becomes nothing but an empty "box."

After Japan's "bubble economy" burst, every level of Japanese governmental administration implemented spending reductions. In these circumstances, politics is behind the decisions of which budgets to cut and which to spare. When times are good, there is little difficulty apportioning funds; it is a job almost anyone can handle. It is when times are tough that true skill and wisdom in budget management comes to the fore.

Today, our communities are inundated with loud voices that insist "Who can think about music, who can think about culture? Those are just luxuries. Now we have to concern ourselves first and only with putting food on the table!" In reply, we must question whether Japan has ever truly paid attention to nurturing culture and the arts, even when the economy was good and funds were readily available. Did Japan really promote cultural and artistic growth during those years, or did we only spend money to build more and more empty "boxes," facades of cultural development without sustained content inside them. If Japan builds halls in times of wealth, but spends money only on "putting food on the table" in times of economic recession, then we deserve the name "economic animal" that has been levied against us in the past. The Japanese economy may be in a slump, but our standard of living surpasses anything we could even have imagined possible prior to the economic growth of the 1960s and 1970s. Our present circumstances present us with an excellent opportunity for evaluating with open eyes how we want to spend public funds and what we want our considerable economic prowess to achieve.

<< Is there a Mandate for Corporate Sponsorship of Halls? >>

At the outset of this article, I wrote about Casals Hall. Casals Hall is not a publicly funded hall. It is 100% privately owned. Private or public, the economics of hall operation do not change. Halls require ongoing infusions of money to continue their concert production and program planning activities. In Japan, there are other privately-funded halls, such as Suntory Hall, Orchard Hall and Kioi Hall that continue to receive funding from the companies that founded them and sponsored their construction. The companies that stand behind these halls do derive some publicity value from their association with the halls. But the expenses these companies incur to support the halls are far too large to be justifiable solely in terms of corporate advertising. Rather, these companies underwrite the halls because they have made an affirmative and ongoing commitment to contribute to the cultural life and growth of our communities.

The economic realities of Shufu-no-tomo's restructure may indeed require an end to its sponsorship of Casals Hall's in-house concert programming. But I wonder how the banks involved in the restructure evaluated the commitment and investment Shufu-no-tomo has made--over the past dozen years--to the cultural life of Tokyo and Japan. Since all corporations rely to a greater or lesser extent on the reputations they maintain with banks and other financial institutions, perhaps we need to ask how the financial sector appraises and encourages, or discourages, corporate support and contributions to cultural and other not-for-profit community endeavors. Japan's banks should not be allowed to act like "economic animals" concerned with nothing but profits and the bottom line. Since the banks have themselves become the beneficiaries of infusions of taxpayers' money and bail-outs, it is now especially appropriate that they be held accountable for how much they "give back to the community". The banks have a responsibility to reflect good corporate citizenship through their investment decisions and policies.

Is it too late to reconsider the drastic decision to stop funding Casals Hall's in-house programming? Is it too late for the banks to reevaluate the worth of this valuable cultural asset to the cultural life of the nation? The answers to these questions will affect more than the fate of one small concert hall. They will indicate whether Japan, as a nation, is prepared and dedicated to sustaining and fostering our cultural worth.

Start of a New Article Series on Concert Hall Management

by Hideo Nakamura

As Japan's economy continues to stagnate, Japanese local, provincial and national administrations are being pressed to reduce spending in response to reduced tax revenues. The Japanese media have put governments' "box-building" public works projects in the spotlight, criticizing administrations for funding the construction of halls that now require more spending to cover ongoing operational costs. The media has especially targeted those community centers that were designed as venues for cultural events and now suffer from low utilization rates.

While the Japanese media can fairly be accused of exaggerating the problem, it is a sorry state of affairs if regional communities with now limited tax revenues see their expensive, publicly-funded halls going unused and deserted. By contrast, there are other halls throughout Japan that are thriving. In the current economic environment, virtually no hall is awash in money to cover its operating expenses. Therefore, the difference between halls that succeed and those that do not must lie in the passion, dedication, creativity and innovative thinking of the people involved in running the halls and the communities who use them.

Because Nagata Acoustics has provided acoustical consulting expertise on the construction of many Japanese halls, we strongly desire that all halls realize their mission to serve as vibrant cultural centers, flourishing and enriching their communities with art and cultural events. Because of our interest in these goals and our concern about the current situation of many halls, we plan to present a series of articles focusing on the operations of individual halls, highlighting their unique characteristics, their innovations and roadblocks they have overcome or continue to face. We hope that this new article series will help in the exchange of best practices among halls that are striving to meet similar objectives. Look for the first installment of this series in next month's News & Opinions.

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Nagata Acoustics News 99-9iNo.141j
Issued : September 25, 1999

Nagata Acoustics Inc.

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