Quietness, Comfortable Sound and Excellent Acoustics NAGATA ACOUSTICS

News 11-06 (No.282)

Issued : June 25, 2011

[ Japanese Version ]

Olympus Hall Hachioji, Hachioji City's New Civic Hall

By Akira Ono

Complex exterior
Complex exterior

On May 4, 2011, Olympus Hall Hachioji held its inaugural concert. This new civic hall is conveniently located in a recently completed complex built at the southern end of JR Hachioji Station.

<< Project Overview >>

Olympus Hall Hachioji occupies space in Southern Sky Tower Hachioji, a complex built for the Hachioji Station South Entrance District Redevelopment Program that began 40 long years ago. The unsuccessful first redevelopment attempt was given a second chance 20 years ago with the establishment of a Redevelopment Planning Association. After many revisions to the association's plans, the Southern Sky Tower complex finally reached completion in November, 2010.

One wing of Southern Sky Tower Hachioji houses shops on lower floors and, on its upper floors, Olympus Hall Hachioji, the city's new civic hall. The adjacent, 41-story, high-rise tower has shops and a bank of floors for all of the Hachioji City municipal offices. Commercial space and apartment homes fill the tower's upper floors.

Olympus Hall Hachioji
Olympus Hall Hachioji

Obayashi Corporation served as the general contractor for the entire complex, including program planning, design and construction phases. For the municipally owned portions of the project, NTT Facilities prepared the constructiondrawings and provided construction management services, Theatre Workshop was the theatre consultant and Nagata Acoustics served as the project's acoustical consultant.

Planning, design and installation for the hall stage included three vendors. Sansei Yusoki installed the stage equipment, Marumo Electric Co., Ltd. was responsible for the stage lighting and Victor Company of Japan provided the sound system and its installation.

<<Client Participation during the Project >>

Hachioji City assigned two employees, Mr. Tadashi Yagi and Mr. Toshiyuki Araki to be its technical managers on this project. While government representatives on this kind of construction project often leave all of the daily details to the contractor and other construction professionals, both of these gentlemen came to all of the on-site general and team-specific meetings, maintained an excellent grasp of construction progress, took responsibility for compliance-related decisions and directly signed all relevant reports.

In addition to working side-by-side with the project team to complete project milestones, Mr. Yagi and Mr. Araki expressed a willingness to make decisions that would ensure excellent acoustics in the hall and they repeatedly asked us to provide input so that they could do their part towards this goal. The passion and sense of mission exhibited by these two men influenced the attitudes of everyone on the project, including the construction workers. In my opinion, Mr. Yagi and Mr. Araki's active participation and enthusiasm contributed to the high quality of the completed hall.

<<Sound Isolation Design>>

Because of the project site's proximity to the JR Hachioji Station entrance and the train tracks, we were able to predict-even before taking formal measurements-that significant anti-noise and vibration strategies would be needed on this project. To quantify the specific needs, we conducted vibration measuring surveys on the vacant site prior to the start of construction and we used the data we gathered to determine the noise and vibration isolating structural requirements for each of the spaces that comprise Olympus Hall.

Based on our evaluations of the collected data, we implemented a noise and vibration isolation structural design we call the "box-in-box" design for the rehearsal room located directly below the hall stage. We also selected this structural noise and vibration isolating design as the most appropriate approach to effectively isolate the entire hall from the apartments and offices in the adjacent high-rise tower.

As a result of implementing our design strategy, we achieved sound isolation for sounds > D-85, both between the hall and the rehearsal room and between the hall and the offices in the adjacent building. These results completely satisfied our goal of isolating the noise generated in the rehearsal room and in the hall. Also, the noise and vibration from passing trains cannot be heard or felt at all in the hall.

<< Room Acoustical Design - Understanding How the Hall Will Be Used >>

Olympus Hall's programming concept and basic architectural design aimed to create a venue that would distinguish itself in a complementary way from the city's existing, 802-seat Gingko Hall ("Ichou Hall" in Japanese), a specialty hall with acoustics designed for classical music performances. To this end, Olympus Hall's programming focuses on popular music, ballet and musicals. The project requirements therefore prioritized achieving good sight lines to the stage from all audience seating and the ability to produce enhanced theatrical stage effects.

The programming plans for Olympus Hall puts it in the same class of halls as Tokyo International Forum's "Hall A" (in downtown Tokyo's Marunouchi district) and Nakano Sun Plaza Hall (in the Nakano district). In western Tokyo, Olympus Hall is the first public venue of its kind with seating capacity for 2,000 people. Given the hall's size and very convenient location at Hachioji Station, the hall's planners anticipate that the hall will also be used for classical music concerts. Nagata Acoustics provided a room acoustical design that takes into consideration all of the potential uses of the hall, from amplified popular music, musical, ballet and other theatrical fare to classical music concerts.

<<Room Acoustical Design - Bringing Sound Reflections to the Hall's First Floor Center Seating>>

Olympus Hall has seating capacity for 2,000 people in an architectural space that would typically accommodate 1,600-1,700. By designing the hall with multiple balcony levels and overall careful planning, the architectural team found ways to fit seating for 2,000 people into the available space.

In addition to the hall's large seating capacity compared with its footprint, the hall's seats have generously wide proportions. Unfortunately from the acoustical perspective, these conditions also increase the distance of the hall's side walls from the center of the hall.

Side balcony seating
Side balcony seating

In the hall configuration of the architects' design, almost no sound reflections reached the center portion of the main floor audience seating area. To remedy this acoustically undesirable situation, behind the second floor side balcony seating we installed glass louvered panels that direct sound reflections to the center portion of the first floor seating. Through this creative design solution we obtained fine acoustical conditions for the first floor center audience seating.

<<Room Acoustical Design - Effective Sound Diffusing Elements >>

To promote sound diffusion in the hall, we added accordion-style pleats to the hall's wall surfaces and we also made abundant us of ribbed wood paneling. The wood finishes give the hall a feeling of warmth and, together with the black-colored ceiling, create a refined and sublime ambience.

We proposed the use of ribbed wood panels for acoustical reasons. The architectural team adopted this motif and incorporated this material into the interior design in a way that blends well with the hall's other design elements.

<<Olympus Hall's Artistic Direction and Inaugural Performances>>

Olympus Hall, designed to ensure excellent sight lines from every audience seat, nevertheless chose a classical music conductor for its first Executive Producer, appointing Maestro Tomomi Nishimoto. For this reason, the hall's programming seems to me to be aimed at classical music performances. Ms. Nishimoto's initial contract runs for three years and it is expected that she will stage a number of concerts and operas each year.

The hall's inaugural concert featured Maestro Nishimoto conducting the New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra. The program featured Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. The music performance was synchronized with a computer animation work created at the Hachioji Production Studios of Digital Hollywood University. As part of the animation creation process, Maestro Nishimoto discussed the imagery she desired for each movement of the suite with students at Digital Hollywood University and they developed the accompanying animation.

Digital Hollywood President Tomoyuki Sugiyama says that through this inaugural concert collaboration both he and Maestro Nishimoto became very excited about the possibilities for future music performance and animation collaborations. One avenue he hopes to pursue is the use of computer animations in the scenery of opera productions. Mr. Sugiyama's eagerness to collaborate surely means that audiences can look forward to enjoying new visual stage art as animation artists and performers experiment together.

The large seating capacity of Olympus Hall brings new opportunities to enhance the cultural life of both Hachioji City and western Tokyo in general. Now, residents of this part of Tokyo will be able to enjoy high quality performances without the hassle of traveling to central Tokyo. I expect Olympus Hall to quickly become a popular destination venue for a great many Tokyoites.

The Olympus Hall Web site can be found at http://www.olympus.hall-info.jp/pc/index.html.

Helsinki Music Centre Completion and the Orchestra's First Rehearsal in the Hall

By Yasuhisa Toyota

the Orchestra's First Rehearsal in Helsinki Music Centre Concert hall
The Orchestra's First Rehearsal
in Helsinki Music Centre Concert Hall

In Finland's capital city, Helsinki, the long-extended project to build a new concert hall (Helsinki Music Centre) recently completed and, on May 5, 2011, I listened to the first orchestral rehearsal in the hall. For this project, I first visited Helsinki in April, 1998 to participate in planning the architect's competition that was to be held in 1999-2000. Thirteen years have passed since my first visit. After being repeatedly put on hold and surviving various twists and turns, the project has finally achieved completion.

The new, 1,700-seat hall was planned and designed as a concert hall specifically for the performance of classical music. With seating on all sides of the stage, the so-called vineyard configuration of the hall is a salient characteristic of its design. Finland's two major orchestras, the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra will use the new concert hall as their home hall.

<<Opening Galas and First Rehearsals-An Acoustical Consultant's Perspective >>

In general, when a new concert hall comes into being everyone focuses on the new hall's acoustical characteristics. Reviews, critiques and discussion about how the hall sounds abound. Mass media representatives crowd the audience for the hall's inaugural concert and generate a great flurry of commentary. Whether a new concert hall has good or bad acoustics is a matter of supreme importance for any hall and it is natural for this question to attract intense scrutiny and discussion. However, from an acoustical perspective, a different milestone event ranks even above the hall's gala opening in determining the hall's initial reputation among both the acoustical design team and other key project stakeholders. For us, the day we always look forward to with anticipatory jitters is the first day an orchestra rehearses in the new hall.

Concert halls are like homes to the orchestras that perform-or more aptly "take up residence"-in them, and the analogy of a concert hall being like a home extends to a new concert hall being like a newly built, not-yet-lived-in house. Just as a family needs time to accustom itself and truly feel at home in new surroundings, so orchestras need time to become intimately familiar with a new hall's acoustics.

To ask the simple, thumbs up or thumbs down question of whether a hall's acoustics are good or bad does a disservice to the complexity of the situation. At first, an orchestra's musicians may assert that they cannot get used to their new hall, or during the period while they are acclimating to their new hall assorted rumors about the hall's acoustics may begin to circulate. As time passes, these same musicians become comfortable in their hall and, as a result, they praise its acoustics. I've experienced this cycle multiple times.

<<The Process of Becoming Comfortable in a New Concert Hall >>

For musicians to become comfortable performing in a new hall requires time. Typically, after the substantial completion of a concert hall's construction, we make minor adjustments to the hall's measurable and quantifiable physical acoustical characteristics. The duration allotted for this task usually ranges from a week to, at most, 10 days, after which can begin the necessary time period for the orchestra to become accustomed to performing in its new concert hall. We refer to these tasks as "tuning the acoustics" and we aim to reserve several months before a concert hall's gala opening to accomplish the hall's acoustical tuning.

Concert hall stakeholders often ask me to define the ideal duration required to tune the acoustics of a new concert hall. From the acoustical consultant's perspective, the more time we have the better. I even know examples of halls that took two to three years to reach their ultimate stable acoustical conditions. However, it would be unrealistic to suggest that at the end of the construction phase of a concert hall project the schedule include two to three years' duration for acoustical tuning. In practice, three to six months' duration is the norm.

The Helsinki Music Centre schedule provided a duration of four months for the hall's acoustical tuning. The first rehearsal took place on May 5, 2011.

<<Helsinki Music Centre's First Rehearsal Day >>

What were the orchestra's impressions on that important first day? Reassuringly, the first music they played sounded far above average. The hall delivers rich, full-bodied sound and individual notes sing clearly throughout the hall as well. The two very important acoustical characteristics of richness and clarity can sometimes be antithetical goals, and I place strong emphasis on achieving a high level of performance for both of these acoustical elements.

Often, the lower-range string instruments, specifically the cello and double bass, cannot be sufficiently heard during the initial tuning period. However, in the Helsinki Music Centre Hall these instruments sounded strong from the very first day. Also, the musicians reported being able to hear each other well on stage.

Comparing the first and last pieces played on the first day of rehearsal, the ensemble sounded decidedly better at the end of the day. The musicians were already becoming accustomed to their new acoustical environment and the results could be heard in how the hall sounded to a listener (me) sitting in the audience seating. The more the musicians spend time playing in the hall, the better the hall will sound. I look forward with eager anticipation, and with no jitters, to the gala concert hall opening on August 31, 2011.

Recommended Reading: "A Piano Tuner Achieves the Ultimate Tone-The World of Pianos Unknown to the Rest of Us"

reviewed by Dr. Minoru Nagata, Founder of Nagata Acoustics

'Choritsushi, Saiko no Oto wo Tsukuru' by Yu Takagi, published by Asahi Shinsho (2010)
"Choritsushi, Saiko no Oto wo Tsukuru" by Yu Takagi
published by Asahi Shinsho (2010)
208 pages, hardcover: 700 yen

Yu Takagi, the author of "A Piano Tuner Achieves the Ultimate Tone-The World of Pianos Unknown to the Rest of Us" learned the profession of piano tuning at Steinway & Sons in New York City. I first became aware of Mr. Takagi from his 2008 book "The Steinway War" ("Steinway Senso" in Japanese, published by Yosensha.) That book stirred up much debate in the piano industry. The book that is my focus in this review takes a critical look at the work of professional piano tuners and piano technicians and introduces a game-changing system he has implemented to enable pianists to perform on pianos that suit them ideally.

Mr. Takagi shares the following four key observations that formed the rationale behind the system he developed.

  1. The piano sound that originally mesmerized Mr. Takagi is the same sound cherished by the piano virtuosos of the 20th century, namely the sound produced by the pianos built by Steinway & Sons in New York City during the latter part of the 19th century.
  2. Significantly, each pianist's ideal tone color and tactile preferences differ in subtle ways from the ideal tone colors and tactile feel preferred by any other pianist. Naturally, each pianist cherishes the specific musical instrument that matches his or her ideal sound and touch preferences.
  3. In the case of most musical instruments, with violins being an obvious though by no means exclusive example, the musician owns the musical instrument she or he plays at performances. However, pianists use the musical instruments provided by their performance venues.
  4. Apropos of the foregoing observations, performance venues typically allow only two hours prior to the pianist's rehearsal for tuning and adjusting of the piano. In addition, the performance venues restrict the scope of the tuning and adjusting that a piano tuner may do. If the piano tuner makes adjustments beyond the permitted scope, he or she must tune and adjust the piano back to its previous state.

In the face of the above circumstances, Mr. Takagi designed a system that offers pianists the use of musical instruments perfectly suited to their sound and touch preferences. His system combines a technological solution with a tradition pursued in the past by Steinway & Sons, which used to rent pianos specifically chosen by pianists for their performances and have Steinway & Sons be responsible for transporting the pianos as well as tuning and adjusting them.

To implement his system, Mr. Takagi began purchasing pianos made by the world-famous Steinway & Sons company, overhauled the pianos and restored the musical instruments to perfect condition. He now has 17 concert-size Steinway pianos for classical music and jazz genres at his company, Takagi Klavier, in Tokyo. The company rents pianos to pianists based on the pianists' preferences.

The most significant issue Mr. Takagi faced in this endeavor was how to transport the concert Steinway pianos, which each weigh about 500 kg (1,102 lbs). Mr. Takagi, who enjoys tinkering with all sorts of mechanisms and has technical ingenuity as well, overcame this hurdle by building a special vehicle to transport the pianos. This unique vehicle, which he affectionately refers to as "Gobu-chan", even has climate control capability. But most importantly, the vehicle has a mechanism that Mr. Takagi can operate with just one finger to load and unload a piano.

Pianos are musical instruments that concert halls own as standard pieces of equipment. Mr. Takagi's book gives readers a piano tuner's perspective on concert halls and he makes some valuable points about where pianos should be installed in concert halls. As I read the book, I began to reflect on the similarities between the piano tuner's work of creating a musical instrument's tones and Nagata Acoustics' acoustical design work of creating sound in the unmovable "musical instrument" that is the space of a concert hall. I realized that the piano tuner and acoustical consultant indeed have something in common in the way we think about sound.

Nagata Acoustics Inc.

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

(LA Office)
2130 Sawtelle Blvd., Suite 308
Los Angeles, CA 90025, U.S.A.
Tel: +1-310-231-7878, Fax: +1-310-231-7816

(Paris Office)
75, avenue Parmentier
75011 Paris, France
Tel: +33 (0)1 40 21 44 25, Fax: +33 (0)1 40 21 24 00

E-mail: info@nagata.co.jp

[ Japanese Version ]