Quietness, Comfortable Sound and Excellent Acoustics NAGATA ACOUSTICS

News 08-01 (No.241)

Issued : January 25, 2008

[ Japanese Version ]

Nagata Acoustics Monthly Newsletter Reaches 20th Year

by Dr. Minoru Nagata, Founder of Nagata Acoustics

This month's Nagata Acoustics Newsletter, in its Japanese-language version, is Issue No. 241. I regularly take notice of each month's issue number climbing ever higher without thinking about the corresponding passage of time. So when company president Satoru Ikeda recently mentioned at our Monday morning staff meeting that the January, 2008 issue marks the newsletter's 20th anniversary, his announcement made my thoughts tread back across this publication's 20 years to some of its more memorable milestones.

We printed the first issue of this newsletter—at the time, only in Japanese—in January 1988. The timing was shortly after the first anniversary of the opening of Suntory Hall. This is also the period when our Tokyo main office was our only office, and it was located in the Shinanomachi section of Tokyo.

<< The "Why" and "How" of the Newsletter's First Issue >>

The First Issue of Nagata Acoustics Newsletter
The First Issue of
Nagata Acoustics Newsletter

The civic auditoriums being built throughout Japan with our acoustical design and especially the debut of Suntory Hall, the first classical music concert hall in the greater Tokyo metropolitan area, clearly made a strong and permeating impact on the auditorium projects. The critical value of acoustical room design suddenly gained recognition from the Japanese architectural world and the governmental decision-makers responsible for public works projects. However, the Japanese classical music community's level of appreciation and understanding for Suntory Hall's sound and acoustics lacked consistency, and some of the commentaries confusingly intertwined subjective assertions and "urban legends" to appear as common sense knowledge of the physical world of sound and acoustics.

It was in response to this set of circumstances that I resolved to establish firm footing and a path forward for both the new hall's reputation and the future prospects for our professional room acoustics design services. I became convinced that the way to accomplish these goals was through the public relations medium of a newsletter.

I discussed my idea with Nagata Acoustics' employees and even organized a newsletter team. But in the start-up-like work environment of those days, with many of us working long extended hours and under pressure to complete tasks and acoustical consulting work products for our clients, it would have been unconscionable for me to impose newsletter writing assignments on top of everyone's already heavy workload. Instead, I realized that, for the foreseeable future, I would single handedly be writing the newsletter's text, making the printed copies and getting the copies to the post office.

During the last days of 1987 and during the 1988 New Year's holiday that followed, I wrote the first issue's articles. Borrowing the help of my wife and daughter, the three of us successfully worked towards the first issue's target publication date of January 15, 1988.

The newsletter's first issue had a print run slightly exceeding 100 copies. It included an article I wrote about the kinds of events filling Suntory Hall's calendar one year after its opening and a bibliography I compiled of all the papers and articles about the hall that had been published to date in academic acoustical journals, various industry publications and newspapers. I also included an article I wrote about the installation of a pipe organ in Matsumoto City's Harmony Hall.

In deciding to move forward with the newsletter's first issue, I was making a commitment to myself to continue with this effort every month—unaided—for as long as might be needed to have the newsletter become a set of regularly repeated tasks within our company. At the time, I typed the articles on a Toshiba word processor and added graphs and charts I found in our company files by photocopying the originals and pasting the copies to the hard copy text from the word processor. Then, I made each issue's 100-plus copies using an old photocopier I had at home. Anyone would agree that this manual work was quite a chore, but my energy level stayed high because of the inexhaustibly large supply of topics I was eager to address in print.

<< Passing the Baton of Creating the Newsletter >>

Well, I continued to pen almost all the newsletter articles through about Issue No.50, and then I slowly began to ask the employees among Nagata Acoustics' professional staff to write certain articles. Occasionally, I reached out to individuals outside our company for contributions on specific topics.

Today, selecting the content for each newsletter issue is a recurring agenda item for Nagata Acoustics' regular editorial meeting. One person—currently, Akira Ono—is responsible for managing the newsletter's detailed planning, while all employees participate in a monthly rotation to prepare the printed newsletters for mailing. Nowadays, we have smoothly incorporated the steps needed to publish our monthly newsletter into our normal operational work flow. It is a notable success that all employees came to realize the importance of public relations through the work of publishing the newsletters.

<< Memorable Newsletter Milestones >>

Now Japanese newsletters are available to readers from Issue No.1 (January,1988) via the Nagata Acoustics website, and we added English translations from No.112 (April,1997). Our translator, Laurie Piotrkowski, is a former Tokyo resident with knowledge of Japanese culture and the Japanese classical music world. Several of you have shared comments that confirm our confidence in her work. When I reread the articles in their English-language version, I experience the content through fresh eyes and, also, from time to time, I sense something akin to a kind of trembling.

After our publication of the newsletter's Issue No.50, we published the first 50 issues in book format, and we followed this first book with two subsequent volumes of the next 50 issues and the 50 issues thereafter. We published the volume of Issues No.1 - 50 in March, 1992, the volume of Issues No.51 - 100 in April, 1996, and the volume of Issues No.101 - 150 in June, 2000. For a while, we distributed more than 600 printed copies per issue. With our readers' increasing preference for receiving the newsletter by e-mail delivery service, the number of printed copies we mail each month now numbers less than 300. Across the changing classical music landscape of the past 20 years, the newsletter has ably served us as a public relations tool. This is especially true now that the newsletter can be accessed from our website's homepage. On the other hand, precisely because the newsletter represents us to the public in print, we must always remember to exercise care in choosing the words and tone we use to communicate with our readers.

<< Renewing Our Dedication to Thought-provoking Content with Heart >>

Before writing this article, I reread the early newsletter issues and I felt the sense of wonder and astonishment that touched everyone involved with concert halls and classical music during that era come alive for me anew. By comparison, while the current newsletter font is easier on the eyes, the photos and charts more attractive, the formatting more professional and the printed copies more expertly prepared, the text through which we introduce halls now seems to be mostly dispassionate summaries of project information.

Surely, presenting accurate information in easily understandable language is an important mission of the Nagata Acoustics Newsletter, but with Japan's concert halls caught in the eddies of a number of stormy issues, it seems to me that we have the ability to open new perspectives on these topics that will enlighten our readers. Examples of these approaching "storms" include the decreasing numbers of people who listen to classical music, the need for changes in halls' approaches to management and operations, problems in Japan's architecture industry that have been uncovered by the media and shaken up that industry, and, in the field of acoustics, issue of speech transmission of PA system in concert halls and churches. We should cultivate the serendipitous appearance of newsletter content ideas as we pursue our daily work and we should deliver these ideas in articles spiced with the kind of piquant commentary and mettle worthy of the sharp-tongued editorials of Japan's Edo Period "kawaraban" handbills.

In closing, I have a request of our readers. If I could receive your opinions and critiques of our newsletter articles, your comments would be our greatest inspiration and deeply appreciated. Here at Nagata Acoustics, I am well known for my outspokenness and I would ask the same of you. Without reserve, please let us know what you like about this newsletter, what you wish we would change and any other suggestions you may have. I look forward to hearing from you.

Kuwana City's Civic Hall Renewal Project

by Akira Ono

Exterior of Kuwana City's Civic Hall
Exterior of Kuwana City's Civic Hall

Known in times past for its prodigious clam catches, the coastal city of Kuwana retains this bygone fame in a still-used Japanese proverb that first appeared in an Edo Period work of literature, Shank's Mare, completed by novelist Jippensha Ikku in 1822. In the novel's account of two friends' journey on foot from Edo (Tokyo) to Kyoto, the protagonists Yajirobe and Kitahachi pause on their way to Ise Shrine for a respite of Kuwana baked clams and a drink of saké. There they coin the proverb about clams and Kuwana by making a pun on the place name "Kuwana's" resemblance to Japanese slang meaning "I won't eat" as they assert, "I won't be taken in (eaten) by that shell game (baked clams)." While Kuwana's clams and beachside clam sellers all disappeared by the second half of the 20th century, the city's tasty history remains very much alive in Japanese language and arts.

Kuwana City's civic auditorium was built 40 years ago. This past September, 2007, we participated in completing a project that renovated the old auditorium building's interior and adds new space and facilities. The project's architect, design firm Daiken Sekkei's Nagoya Office, won the opportunity to do this project by submitting the winning proposal in a competition among six architectural firms. Nagata Acoustics provided the acoustical consulting services for the project.

<< Project Highlights >>

The renovation portion of this project aimed to achieve two main goals: seismic upgrades to the 1,388-seat large hall and the building's foyer, and improvements to the room acoustical characteristics of the large hall. The latter goal included a comprehensive redesign of the finishing and shape of the hall's ceiling and walls. The project's new construction encompassed the addition of a 300-seat concert hall and a new entrance hall to the building.

Renovating the Large Hall for Improved Acoustics

Interior of the Large Hall

Interior of the Large Hall
Interior of the Large Hall

Before the renovation, the civic auditorium served as a multipurpose venue for a wide variety of performing arts and event genres. As the first, preliminary work of planning the renovation design, we investigated the current state of the facility and found multiple deficiencies that contributed to an inhospitable sound environment for classical music performance. The problems included

  • Short reverberation time
  • Insufficient early sound reflections to the first floor audience seating
  • Large gaps between the sound reflection panels of the stage's orchestra shell.

In developing our plan to remedy the hall's acoustical deficiencies we accommodated the key constraints of making no changes to the building structure and no changes to the location of the audience seating in the hall. We entirely removed the existing interior walls and ceiling and replaced them with a design that lengthened the reverberation time and increased the propagation of early sound reflections to the first floor seating. Our design increased the reverberation time to 1.8 seconds when the renovated orchestra shell is deployed (at 500 Hz, in an unoccupied hall) and improved the sound experience for patrons in the first floor seating sections.

Designing the Small Hall for Ease of Use

Interior of the Small Hall

Interior of the Small Hall
Interior of the Small Hall

The new small hall built in the project's addition to the original structure seats 300. Intended primarily for the performance of classical music, we designed this hall to have a shoebox configuration. The size of this hall will make it an appealing venue to local performers and amateur groups, so we devised an easy-to-operate system of fixed reflection panels that can be adjusted to accommodate a range of performance genres, such as theater productions, speaking engagements and popular music performances. The reflection panels, located at the sides of the stage, open and close using a vertical shaft mechanism. This hall's reverberation time measures 1.4 seconds with the reflection panels in their closed position and 1.0 seconds when the reflection panels are opened and a stage curtain is deployed (both measurements taken at 500 Hz, in an unoccupied hall).

Providing Sound Isolation for Simultaneous Use of the Facilities

In addition to the small hall, the new section of the building houses a rehearsal room, exhibition room and ancillary rooms, as well as dressing room space designed to be accessible to both the large and small halls' performers. We provided enhanced sound isolation performance for this dressing room space so that it can also be used for rehearsal sessions when not being used as dressing rooms during hall performances. As for sound isolation between the two halls, by keeping the large hall's original building and the small hall structurally separate, we entirely eliminated any detection of solid borne sound transfer. Each of the two halls can schedule performances during overlapping timeframes without concern about the programming planned for the other hall.

<< A New Role and Purpose for the Building's Entrance >>

Entrance space
Entrance space

The most novel aspect of this project's design was the intentional design programming for the building's entrance space. The planners labeled this area a "forum," a term that in Japanese buildings often refers to a plaza or courtyard surrounded by shops. Instead, this building's entrance space "forum" will be both a kind of indoor crossroads for people accessing each of the halls, students coming to practice in the rehearsal hall, and presenters and visitors on their way to the exhibition room, and it will also be an information hub and community destination in its own right. The design of this space aims to encourage the city's idea that this space should become more than an appealing passageway to the building's facilities and a convenient spot where people choose to meet. City residents will be able to come to this Forum for some relaxation time and to find information about public programs and services.

One Tokyo governmental agency ran a survey to learn what expectations senior citizens have for public services. It found that the most frequently mentioned reply was for "a civic center where people can engage in conversation and spend time in groups of people with like interests or taking classes to pursue hobbies." We have mentioned this need and goal in some of our other articles about regional civic halls and facilities. While the survey was done in Tokyo, it is in the regional parts of Japan that communities feel the aging of our population the strongest. Older members of the community want places that not only enable them to stay active, but where they also mingle with younger generations. My hope for the newly renovated Kuwana City Civic Hall's Forum is that it becomes a model space where Kuwana residents of all generations gather and simply hang out, a place to stay and talk, as well as a place on the way to the building's fine new halls and other facilities.

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

(US Office)
2130 Sawtelle Blvd., Suite 307A,
Los Angeles, CA 90025, U.S.A.
Telephone: (310) 231-7818
Fax: (310) 231-7816

E-mail: info@nagata.co.jp

[ Japanese Version ]