Title means "Quietness", "Comfortable Sound" and "Excellent Acoustics"
Nagata Acoustics News 99-12 (No.144)
Issued : December 25, 1999
A Eulogy to Keizo Saji, Chairman of the Parent Company of Suntory Hall
by Dr. Minoru Nagata
Keizo Saji, the Suntory Chairman who single-handedly sponsored the construction of Suntory Hall and who may well be the preeminent 20th century Japanese patron of classical music, passed away on November 3, 1999. One month later, on December 2, 1999, the company held a memorial service at Suntory Hall. Appropriately, the program paid homage to Mr. Saji's memory with a moving program of orchestral and organ music.
(photo by Suntory Hall)
As I look back over the recent past, I cannot help but recall that each time I saw Mr. Saji he seemed to show his age more and more. Every year, Suntory Hall holds a gala anniversary concert on October 10, but this year-for the first time-Keizo Saji was not in attendance. Still, it is inconceivable to me that this man who always exhibited such vitality should have been taken from us so suddenly. Undoubtedly, the unhappy news stunned many of us. The loss of Mr. Saji is a great loss indeed.
The press obituaries lauded Keizo Saji as a magnanimous and warm individual. They praised his many achievements. In the words of writer Ryotaro Shiba, "Keizo Saji was the last great Japanese magnate." Surely, Mr. Saji was an entrepreneurial titan and philanthropist who led the privately held Suntory as it grew into a diversified, multinational company. But I want to suggest another way that Keizo Saji should be remembered. I would like him to be remembered as the founding father of Japanese concert halls-not only as the patron of concert halls in Tokyo-but as the visionary who gave birth to a new era of concert halls throughout Japan.
When Mr. Saji decided that Suntory Hall would be built in a vineyard configuration, he exercised his authority and prerogative as a company president. The decision was his alone, and from his decision the people of Tokyo-of Japan-received the wonderful gift of Japan's first vineyard-configured concert hall. At the time, in Japan, the phrase "concert hall" automatically connoted "shoebox configuration." Had we proposed the vineyard configuration on a publicly funded project, it would have been rejected as lacking precedent, and therefore too risky. Designing Suntory Hall's vineyard configuration was a challenge for Nagata Acoustics. So yes, it was risky, and the only reason we were granted the opportunity to charge forward towards this adventure into untraveled acoustical territory was Mr. Saji's one strong voice encouraging us to "go for it," and to "aim for 'etwas Neues' ("something new").
Thirteen years have passed since Suntory Hall first opened its doors. Today, soloists and orchestras alike value the hall highly, and its reputation as a world-class concert hall is uncontested. In addition, the inauguration of Suntory Hall sparked a flowering of support for the construction of other concert halls, first in Tokyo, then in every part of Japan.
On December 2, 1999, the day of Keizo Saji's memorial service and concert, cold winter rain engulfed Tokyo after a lull of unseasonably warm weather. At Suntory Hall, Maestro Takashi Asahina led the NHK Symphony Orchestra in a dedicatory performance of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony. Following the symphony, the organ music of a Bach Chorale filled the hall and, thereafter, Faure's Requiem was played. During the Bach and Faure, a procession of attendees filed on stage, where each one placed a white chrysanthemum on a podium set in front of three photographs of Mr. Saji. The first persons to pay their respects were Japanese Prime Minister and Mrs. Obuchi, then Japanese Finance Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, who was a long-time friend of Mr. Saji. Maestro Takashi Asahina then placed a flower, followed by Hideji Takashina (Director of the Japanese National Museum of Western Art), and playwright Masakazu Yamazaki. The procession continued for a long time as well-known faces from the worlds of politics, industry, academia and the arts added white chrysanthemum upon white chrysanthemum to the many others and bid farewell to Keizo Saji. The memorial's attendance by luminaries from so many different circles of Japanese society made one acknowledge once again the breadth and depth of activity that this one man, Keizo Saji, had on his country.
After the many public figures paid their respects, the family placed flowers as well, followed by the many other individuals who came to express their grief and to mourn the death of Keizo Saji. In all, several thousand persons walked across the Suntory Hall stage with a white chrysanthemum as a symbol of their sorrow. Above the mountain of flowers, the three smiling photographs of Mr. Saji reminded all of us of the man we would miss. The center photograph, taken 13 years ago, showed Mr. Saji striking the 'a' key of Suntory Hall's organ on the hall's opening day. On that day, the same NHK Symphony Orchestra used Mr. Saji's 'a' note to tune their instruments for the very first performance held at Suntory Hall.
With just two months left before the year 2,000, Mr. Saji left us for the heavens, where he must even now be cavorting in high spirits amidst the company of angels. Please, Mr. Saji, as the new century dawns, continue to watch over Suntory Hall and do everything in your power to ensure its success, as you have done so lovingly these past 13 years.
Amarume Cultural Center-HIBIKI Hall-Opens
by Keiji Oguchi
HIBIKI Hall's large hall
The town of Amarume is located in the center of the Shonai region of Yamagata Prefecture. To get there from Tokyo is just a one-hour flight to Shonai airport and then a 20-minute drive into town. Traditionally a farming village, Amarume's vistas include the beautiful peak, Chokai, to the north and one of the Dewasanzan trio of mountains, Gassan, to the south.
HIBIKI Hall, which opened on October 1, 1999, stands on a site where the town landscape changes to farmland. But the hall was a world class stage on the day that pianist Hideko Nakamura, youngest prize winner of 7th Chopin competition, graced the hall's inauguration concert with a stirring piano recital.
<< Overview of HIBIKI Hall >>
HIBIKI Hall's exterior is exposed concrete, but the exterior is painted in two contrasting colors and the roof is shaped to resemble the graceful curve of a soaring bird's back so that, overall, the building is appealing to the eye and inviting to visitors. Inside, the facility houses a 504-seat large hall designed primarily for concerts, a small amphitheater with 205 seats, practice rooms and ancillary space.
Yamashita Sekkei's Tohoku Branch led the design management, and Nagata Acoustics participated as the acoustical design consultants. Construction was managed by a joint venture of Tokyu Construction Company, Tsuruoka Kensetsu and others.
In this article, I will discuss HIBIKI Hall's large hall. I will save my comments on the small hall for future's News & Opinions when we will feature articles on "in-the-round" facilities.
<< The Large Hall's Multipurpose-adapted Concert Hall Design >>
When we began the acoustical design planning for HIBIKI Hall, the large hall was conceived exclusively for concert hall use. However, as the design meetings progressed, a course correction was made, and we adapted the functionality of the hall to be a multipurpose hall. Nevertheless, our design approach retained the concept of designing a concert hall as our base, to which we added as much multipurpose functionality as possible.
The large hall is a shoebox configuration with a sloped audience seating area. The hall is 15m (49.2 ft) wide and has distances of 11.5m (37.7 ft) from the stage to the ceiling and 15.5m (50.9 ft) to the ceiling at its highest point above the audience, giving the hall an ample margin of height relative to its width.
<< An Orchestra Friendly Stage Design >>
Our final design drawings included an 80 cm-wide proscenium arch on both sides of the stage. However, the local amateur orchestra, the Sakata Philharmonic, exerted its influence to change this design to one that is more acoustically desirable. We responded by redesigning the front of the stage area to be more expansive, by removing the proscenium arch and having the audience seating extend seamlessly to the stage edge.
<< Versatile Side Balconies >>
Above the left and right sides of the audience seating are multipurpose balconies with easily removable seating. When the seating is deployed, the balconies serve as additional audience seating areas. Or, the seating can be removed and the balconies used as production galleries for lighting fixtures and other special effects equipment. This versatile balcony/technical gallery design implements ideas that we first developed in our design of Tanakura Cultural Center.
<< Stage, Overhead and Side Reflection Panels >>
The depth of the stage is approximately 10m (32.8 ft), and we designed the rear wall to serve as a fixed reflection surface. We maximized the benefit of this permanently fixed rear reflection surface by designing a rather large zigzag, sound diffusing wall. Additionally, we installed indirect lighting in the upper portion of the overhang.
For the ceiling and side reflection panels, we employed orthodox suspended panels. We selected each panel as a single large surface in each, in order to minimize the amount of gaps between panels.
<< The Large Hall's Warm Interior and Acoustical Room Design >>
The large hall's flooring is cork tile, and the walls have wood paneling, creating a warm visual environment. Our acoustical interior design requirements-to obtain the best reverberation characteristics-included sound absorbing techniques for the hall's rear wall and part of the ceiling, with all of the remainder of the interior surfaces designed to reflect sound.
The hall's side walls, ceiling and orchestra shell, all have under-layers of composite board covered either with wood veneer or paint. These surfaces are designed in a progression of layered thickness with the side walls having the least layers, the ceiling having more layers, and the surfaces near the stage area having with the greatest number of layers. The purpose of this variance is to attenuate the vibration of the layered panels near the sound source, so that these surfaces perform better as reflectors of low-frequency sound.
This hall was not designed especially to enable variable reverberation time setups. However, when the curtain at the rear of the stage is deployed, the hall's reverberation time decreases from its usual 1.9 seconds to 1.3 seconds. (Both measurements are at 500 Hz, with the hall empty.) Making this change also reduces the low-frequency reverberation time from its usual 2.2 seconds to 1.6 seconds.
<< Dame Nakamura's Recital: A Nostalgic Return for the Famous Pianist >>
The town of Amarume decided to purchase a Steinway D-274 grand piano for its new hall, and it sent the town mayor, Mr. Okayama, as emissary to Dame Hiroko Nakamura, to ask her in person if she would perform the hall's inaugural concert. I am told that she readily accepted the invitation. Apparently, performing in the Shonai region of Yamagata Prefecture was a nostalgic "homecoming" for the world-renowned pianist. It was at the tender age of 13 that Ms. Nakamura performed her first professionally staged concert, in this locale, before she became the youngest pianist to win a prized Japanese competition, and went on to become an internationally acclaimed musician.
The inaugural piano recital began at 7:00 p.m., for an audience that sold out both the regular seating and the balconies to overflowing. Ms. Nakamura performed an all-Chopin program, the same program she planned to perform soon thereafter at a Suntory Hall concert commemorating the 40th anniversary of her career debut. When Ms. Nakamura concluded the first piece of the evening, a brief silence conveyed how overwhelmed the audience was by her dynamic, full-volume performance. There were a few gasps of awe, then the hall was again filled with sound-this time, the thunder of the audience's applause. Despite the relatively small size of this 500-seat "large hall," this observer found in the hall's environment a pleasurable sense of spaciousness and an appropriately ample-not constricted-setting for the recital's large volume of sound.
<< Summarizing the New Hall in Print >>
In synch with the inauguration of the large hall, HIBIKI Hall published a unique brochure to introduce itself to the world. The brochure begins with a fold-out spread featuring a message from Dame Nakamura. Then, after an interview with the facility's architect and us, the brochure combines comments from townspeople who want to see and use the facility with descriptions and explanations of the functionality of each part of the building. At the end is a greeting from the town's mayor, construction and functional specifications, and specifics about the hall's operational organization.
I was honored to be included in this publication, for which I wrote the following thoughts: "A hall's acoustics-its 'sound'-changes after the hall is built, and it continues to change in a constant evolution. It improves . . . both performers and audience listeners hear this evolution as they habituate themselves to the hall's unique sound . . . HIBIKI Hall has the essence needed to embark on this acoustical evolution. Come here often and you surely will hear it, and make it so."
For more information on HIBIKI Hall, contact the hall directly at +81-234-45-1433.
The Amarume town home page (in Japanese only) is http://www.ic-net.or.jp/home/amarume/index.html.
Sound Isolation in "Lifelong Learning Centers"
by Hideo Nakamura
"Lifelong learning centers" are the newest focus of public works
construction projects in Japan. The phenomena are still so recent that
many people may wonder what a lifelong learning center is and whether it
has any relevance to their own lives. Therefore, let me begin with an
overview of the concept's origins and a general description of the
facilities found in these centers.
<< 1990: Japan and UNESCO Advocate the Value of Lifelong Learning >>
As the name implies, lifelong learning centers evolved from the
recognition that ongoing learning and personal growth are important
throughout people's lives and that the government should provide venues,
facilities and information resources to support these activities. In
1990, Japan demonstrated its support for UNESCO's advocacy of lifelong
learning by enacting the Lifelong Learning Promotion Law, which gave
governmental support of lifelong learning the status of official national
Prior to the enactment of the Lifelong Learning Law, in Japan, the
government restricted its concern for education and learning to school
issues, and adult learning was left to private industry in the form of
on-the-job and company sponsored training. From the perspective and scale
of providing opportunities for learning across the entirety of citizens'
lifetimes, Japanese facilities are lacking in both the "hardware" of
physical locations and equipment and the "software" of information
resources, instructors and educational programs. Accordingly, we
anticipate increased building of lifelong learning centers, in Japan, for
the foreseeable future.
<< The Purpose of Lifelong Learning Centers and their Functional Areas
The purpose of lifelong learning centers is to promote grassroots
initiative and activity. The ultimate objective is to support individuals'
efforts to enhance the meaningfulness and vitality of their daily lives.
Planners of lifelong learning centers typically aim for maximum
versatility of functional areas and equipment, so that the persons who
use the facility can exercise as many activity options and as much
freedom of expression as possible. Consequently, the floor plans of
lifelong learning centers tend to crowd many rooms into limited space.
In one example, a lifelong learning center housed rooms for counseling
and for lectures, studios for dance, cooking, and music, conference and
meeting rooms (both western-style and Japanese, tatami-mat-style), audio-
visual appreciation rooms, other practice rooms, and an information
resources and computer corner. Some lifelong learning centers also have a
small auditorium that seats from 100-200 people.
<< The Critical Role of Sound Isolation Design >>
Appropriate acoustics are essential to efficient operations and
pleasurable use of lifelong learning centers. Without effective sound
isolation, the center cannot host the activities that were planned for
it. In particular, preventing vibration transference from the impact of
people walking on upper floors is critical. This is not just a
theoretical question, but one that creates nagging problems for
facilities that did not adequately consider their buildings' acoustics
prior to construction.
Lifelong learning centers often have numerous small rooms situated in
close proximity to one another, both on single floors, and above and
below each other on multiple floors. These layouts are not very different
from those of office buildings and multiple-unit dwellings. However,
because lifelong learning centers host many diverse activities, the
people in one room may create loud noise and large vibrations while the
people in the next room are engaging in an activity requiring quiet. This
diversity of purpose distinguishes the requirements of lifelong learning
centers from office buildings or multiple-unit dwellings.
<< Post-construction Woes >>
Unlike the sponsors and planners of concert halls, the people and
organizations that sponsor the development of lifelong learning centers,
and the construction companies that build them, often do not
automatically make a connection between the needs of their project and
acoustics. The results of this oversight only become apparent after the
lifelong learning center opens. When objectionable sound transmits into
adjacent rooms, restrictions may need to be implemented to prevent
simultaneous use of nearby rooms or remedial construction work may be
contracted. In either case, not only are the center's clientele
inconvenienced, but in addition, the monetary costs may also be high.
<< Taking the Right Precautions at the Right Time >>
When acoustical evaluations and checks are included from the earliest
stages of the project, not only does the need for post-construction
claims diminish greatly, but more importantly, the center will be built
to function properly so that it can be utilized as intended. An
acoustical consultant should be included in the planning and design
stages, as well as during the construction and project completion phases.
Since these precautions ensure that sound isolation problems will not
suddenly appear after the lifelong learning center opens, remedial post-
construction work and the accompanying expenses are avoided. The positive
impact of these savings on a project's total budget invariably far
outweighs the cost of including acoustical professionals on the project
<< How Materials and Building Techniques Affect Sound Isolation >>
Buildings constructed of steel frames with drywall room partitions are
especially susceptible to sound transference between rooms. While
professional acoustical expertise is not essential to determine what
sound isolation specifications are required for room partitions (because
this statistical information is readily available), the actual building
of a facility so that it meets these specifications does require the
guidance and input of an acoustical engineer.
What aspects of interior building construction can result in poor sound
isolation between rooms? The wall-to-floor and wall-to-ceiling
connections, door frames and door gasketing, and pipes and electrical
conduits that pass through interior walls all have the potential to
negatively impact the sound isolation performance of room partition
materials. If even one of these construction components is designed
without attention to acoustical design performance, the sound isolation
between the rooms may deteriorate significantly.
Acoustically correct designs and measurement techniques to ensure high
standards cannot be obtained from manuals or guidebooks alone. They
require the direction and on-site supervision of acoustical professionals
with hands-on expertise.
The installation of room partition walls is just one example of a
construction process that will impact the overall acoustical comfort of a
facility. When we understand the complexity of this one process, and
multiply it by the many other processes and work efforts involved in
building a lifelong learning center, the prudence of hiring acoustical
professionals to ensure the facility's acoustical excellence becomes self-
<< Construction Phase Supervision >>
Once the design phase is completed and the construction phase begins, the
acoustician's role shifts to on-site inspection responsibilities. If
construction and installation work is not inspected from an acoustician's
perspective, the likelihood of mistakes and later problems increases
significantly. Our experience in the field confirms that many acoustical
engineering mistakes occur during the construction phases of projects.
Regardless of how well the architectural drawings are drafted, it is
impossible to include every detail of the complex specifications on the
drawings. As work progresses at the job site, the specifications that
affect sound isolation must be reviewed?and sometimes modified?through
discussions and communication with the tradespeople performing the work.
Mistakes made during construction can defeat the intended purposes of
even the most acoustically excellent architectural designs.
<< Inspecting the Construction of "Floating" Foundations >>
When a project calls for excellent sound isolation performance, "floating"
foundations are often used to achieve this goal. But floating foundation
construction is particularly susceptible to construction errors that
impact sound isolation performance. The arrangements for this
construction technique are so complex and detailed that even professional
acousticians must exercise extra caution in managing and supervising this
If mistakes are made in the construction of a floating foundation, and
they are not detected during the construction phase, the problem is later
compounded, because installation of the building's interior will hide the
foundation?and sound isolation features?from sight. Even if one
becomes aware of the sound isolation problem immediately following the
interior installation phase, it is both extremely difficult to find the
exact location of the problem and very costly to rectify. When building
owners and sponsors seek help from acousticians at this stage of a
project, they may be greeted with sympathetic yet exasperated sighs. It
is essential to perform thorough acoustical inspections and measuring of
the foundation work before the interior installation begins. If problems
are uncovered at this point, they can usually be corrected at minimal
expense and without causing a project crisis.
<< Application of These Cautionary Notes to Other Structures >>
In summary, I wish to add what may be obvious: that the importance of
acoustical input throughout a project is not limited to lifelong learning
centers, but applies equally to the construction of convention centers,
seniors' activity centers, social service facilities, community centers,
and many other projects. Whenever a structure puts rooms with many
diverse?and, sometimes, not predetermined?uses in close proximity,
sound isolation becomes a significant factor in the facility's
performance. Projects to construct these kinds of facilities aim for high
density, maximum use of limited land area, low cost construction and an
outcome of convenience and accessibility for a diverse population of
users. Certainly, design conditions and innovations must be developed to
address these objectives. In doing so, the importance of effective sound
isolation should always be one priority that remains high on everyone's
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Nagata Acoustics News 99-12iNo.144j
Issued : December 25, 1999
Nagata Acoustics Inc.