Quietness, Comfortable Sound and Excellent Acoustics NAGATA ACOUSTICS

News 13-01 (No.301)

Issued : January 25, 2013

[ Japanese Version ]

USC Brain and Creativity Institute Building Opens

By Motoo Komoda

View of the Hall interior from the audience seating
View of the Hall interior from the audience seating

View of the Hall interior from the stage
View of the Hall interior from the stage

The University of Southern California ("USC") opened in 1880 as the first private university on land along the Pacific coastline of the United States. The school is located in Los Angeles and in 2012 had the largest enrollment of foreign students of any university in the United States. USC has numerous architects, movie directors and other highly accomplished artistic talents among its graduates, such as Frank Gehry and George Lucas. The school's medical and communication sciences schools also rank prestigiously high. Before the 1998 establishment of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, USC served as the primary administrative body assigning IP addresses. On a more local level and of interest to classical music fans, the classical music station KUSC that serves Los Angeles and nearby cities is a broadcast service of USC.

<< About BCI, Its New Building and The Hall >>

Dr. Antonio Damasio and his wife, Dr. Hanna Damasio, established the USC Brain and Creativity Institute, known as BCI, in 2006. As this research institute's name implies, BCI studies how the human brain works and the institute conducts research to uncover the relationship between our brains and creativity. In their laboratories, Dr. Damasios use equipment such as MRI and brain wave measuring devices -perhaps originally intended for patient diagnoses- as tools to help them study the nature of human creativity.

BCI has gathered some of today's best and most capable minds to pursue the institute's research goals. Now, the new building provides an appropriate home for these scientists and their important work. The institute's new building project includes an adjacent hall -a concrete realization of the institute's pursuit of understanding the connection between neuroscience and the arts.

The new BCI's building has a scale of approx. 1,850 m² (20,000 sq. ft) and an initial budget of $9 million. Architect Michael Maltzan created the building's conceptual design and the firm of Perkins+Will served as architect-of-record. Nagata Acoustics participated on the project as Acoustical Consultant, with responsibility for both room acoustics and sound isolation.

Hall plan view
Hall plan view
Hall cross-sectional view
Hall cross-sectional view

Sound absorbing curtain
Sound absorbing curtain

<< Acoustical Room Design of the Hall >>

Named the Joyce J. Cammilleri Hall, BCI's new hall seats 100 people and is designed for both classical music performances and as a venue for lectures and presentations. From the hall's lobby, audience access to the hall follows a gently spiral-shaped path. Upon entering the hall, the black color scheme might at first give the impression of an experimental theatre space. Then, as your eyes adjust to the space and you see the slightly curved and protruding, horizontal sound diffusing wall elements of the side walls, the steeply stepped audience seating, the additional seating on the stage side of the hall and the stage that is at the same height as the first row of seats, the hall's sense of intimacy and its sense of tranquility draw you into the room and pervade the hall's space.

To determine some key measurements for the hall's room acoustical design, we posited use of the hall for a chamber music concert and set the height of the hall's ceiling at 13.5 m. (44 ft) when measured from the center of the stage. The physical volume of the hall measures 1,100m³ (39,000 cu. ft).

For the stage floor, in order to ensure the appropriate acoustics, we created a layer of air below the surface and used an entirely wood-framed substructure. In addition, we gave special consideration to the exact shape of this basically horseshoe configuration to prevent focusing echoes from occurring and we promoted sound diffusion by specifying detailed uneven surface treatments throughout the hall, including around the stage area. As a result of these design efforts, the hall is 100% echo free.

Because the hall will be used both as a concert hall and as a venue for lectures and other speaking engagements, we provided two means to control the liveliness of the hall for these kinds of uses. Behind the stage we installed a manually operated curtain and on the upper wall we installed an electrically operated sound absorbing curtain that can be adjusted to cover virtually the entire upper wall. We calculated that the hall's reverberation time measures 1.1 seconds, at 500 Hz, with the hall fully occupied. This level of reverberations provides rich sound for chamber music and similar performances. When the upper wall's sound absorbing curtain is set to fully cover the wall, the reverberation time measures 0.8 seconds under the same conditions as mentioned above. This is a significant difference that can be clearly discerned by the human ear. The configurable sound absorbing curtain achieves the desired dampening of the sound reverberations for speaking engagements.

<< Performances in the Hall >>

On May 2, 2012, after construction completed, I had the pleasure of hearing violinist Midori Goto perform briefly in the hall. Midori, who holds the Jascha Heifetz Chair at USC's Thornton School of Music, played fabulously and her skill was palpable at the close range of this hall's seats. It was at this moment that I was able to feel truly confident that we achieved our desired acoustical goals in this hall. Midori has been teaching at USC since 2004.

On November 6, 2012, BCI held the building's official opening, including the de rigueur tape cut. After the tape cut, attendees enjoyed a brief performance of two works in the hall. First, Martin Leung performed Liszt's Tarantella for piano. Mr. Leung performed this energetic work with large sound. Perhaps because of the hall's high ceiling, the sound did not overwhelm the hall. Instead, the performance delivered a delightful sound in the hall.

For the second piece, Ralph Kirshbaum performed the Sarabande from Bach's Cello Suite No. 5. Mr. Kirshbaum gave a wonderfully serene performance which was a pleasure to hear. Both performers gave excellent performances to the obvious satisfaction of everyone in attendance.

From this unique research institute, we may one day learn of a tremendous breakthrough in our understanding of the human brain and creativity. I am full of hope that this little concert hall will somehow be a catalyst or in some way contribute to that future stupendous scientific breakthrough.

On March 25, 2013, Midori will give a concert in the hall.

Among the media reports of the new building's opening, these two provide excellent summaries and links:

Glass Expert Junichi Yoshimura Speaks at Nagata Acoustics

By Toshiko Fukuchi

Dr. Junichi Yoshimura
Dr. Junichi Yoshimura

The use of glass in the architectural design of buildings has become very popular in recent years and it has become almost commonplace for large surface areas of buildings to be made of glass. When a client or project architect adopts a hall design with glass exterior walls, expert knowledge about the acoustical properties of glass materials becomes essential to Nagata Acoustics' consulting work.

As part of our series of company training seminars, we decided to focus a training session on the sound isolation properties of glass. For this session, we invited Japan's premier expert on the acoustical properties of glass, Kobayasi Institute of Physical Research's Junichi Yoshimura to be our guest speaker. Dr. Yoshimura drew upon his many years of experience to share with us important information about the sound isolation properties of glass that will immediately benefit us and our work in practical ways.

<< A Summary of Dr. Yoshimura's Credentials >>

After graduating from the Department of Architecture at Nihon University's College of Science and Technology, Dr. Yoshimura joined the Kobayasi Institute of Physical Research where he has continuously pursued research on the sound isolation properties of glass. In addition, Dr. Yoshimura is an active member of the Architectural Institute of Japan, the Acoustical Society of Japan and the INCE (Institute of Noise Control Engineering of Japan). In addition, he has strong expertise in ISO standards and specifications, having represented Japan on ISO architectural acoustics committees.

<< Sound Transmission Loss, the Coincidence Effect and Critical Frequency >>

Sound transmission loss of various kinds of glass
Sound transmission loss of various kinds of glass
("↓ fc" indicates the critical frequency where coincidence
effect results in greatest sound transmission.)

Dr. Yoshimura began his talk by discussing the sound transmission loss of glass and how sound transmission loss is affected by the dimensions of a piece of glass and how it is attached to the structure. The Flat Glass Manufacturers Association of Japan funded in-depth research by Dr. Yoshimura to investigate and systematically measure the sound transmission loss of various sizes and types of glass. Dr. Yoshimura used the data to evaluate the effects of glass size and type on sound isolation performance.

Dr. Yoshimura also spoke about the significant coincidence effect that can occur when glass material is used. Below the critical frequency of the coincidence effect, there is a tendency for sound isolation performance to be diminished as the surface area of the glass becomes larger. However, the extent of the change in sound isolation performance is not large. For frequencies above the critical frequency, the attachment method becomes more important than the kind of glass used, to the extent that the attachment method should not be ignored.

<< Aspects of the Coincidence Effect and Cautionary Tips >>

A fascinating phenomenon occurs with the coincidence effect and the reduced sound isolation performance at the critical frequency. For any given material, the thicker the material (that is, the more rigid the material) the lower the critical frequency at which the material's sound isolation performance diminishes. Single pane glass exhibits a significant decrease in sound isolation performance at the critical frequency and lower frequencies, but the decrease in sound isolation performance at the critical frequency is smaller for multi-pane glass that has two layers of glass and a layer of film sandwiched between the layers.

Dr. Yoshimura informed us about another aspect of this phenomenon that deserves consideration. Temperature affects the film's loss coefficient such that in cold climates the multi-pane glass performs no better than single pane glass. This caveat would not be apparent simply by reading the product specifications in glass manufacturers' catalogs.

Dr. Yoshimura gave us another cautionary tip regarding the incidence angle of the sound waves. This angle also affects sound isolation performance. The sound isolation performance of a building's glass exterior will be affected by the placement of the glass relative to exterior sources of noise, such as a nearby vehicular thoroughfare.

Dr. Yoshimura's talk was packed with useful, practical information about glass that we can apply to projects that have glass exteriors as part of their architectural design. And thinking about calculating sound isolation performance, we've realized once again that we need to apply the most suitable values on each site instead of using ones from catalogs.

Book Review: An Orchestra for the Future by Hiroe Ushio

Reviewed by Yasuhisa Toyota

An Orchestra for the Future

An Orchestra for the Future has the subtitle "Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony's Daring Innovations". The blurb on the back cover adds that Maestro Thomas and his orchestra are redefining the meaning of "orchestra" by:

  1. Revealing that creativity has many more possibilities than we thought
  2. Making innovations happen to more activities and in more ways than we imagined
  3. Proving that the people of a city can build and sustain an orchestra.

The back cover also tells us that this book is full of hints to reform and revitalize the world of classical music.

In this book, Ms. Ushio does write in detail about the San Francisco Symphony and its Artistic Director, Michael Tilson Thomas (affectionately known as "MTT"). However, the author also puts forth a more general polemic about orchestras, concerts and today's classical music industry.

<< How I Met the Author and Her Well-Researched Writings about Michael Tilson Thomas and the
  San Francisco Symphony >>

Two years ago, in January, 2011, a new concert hall opened in Miami Beach, Florida as the home hall of the New World Symphony, an orchestra of young, talented musicians recently graduated from universities and conservatories. (Each musician's stay with the symphony is limited to 3 years.) Nagata Acoustics participated as Acoustical Consultant on this New World Center Concert Hall project. In addition to his position with the San Francisco Symphony, MTT also serves as Artistic Director of this young professional orchestra.

I first met Ms. Ushio at the New World Center Concert Hall inauguration. In her professional life, Ms. Ushio is a notary public. From the perspective of people in the music industry, she would not be considered a music industry professional.

Initially, I thought Ms. Ushio was just a passionate MTT fan who had come half-way around the world to see him perform. But then she introduced me to her website (available only in Japanese). When I read her discussion and analysis about the daring innovations and new value MTT and his orchestra are bringing to San Francisco, Ms. Ushio's perceptiveness and knowledge astounded me.

For 6 years, Ms. Ushio paid for her own tickets to 62 San Francisco Symphony concerts. In addition to attending the concerts, she interviewed MTT and others multiple times. The thoroughness and breadth of the data she gathered, her insightful analysis, and her succinct yet meticulous writing style are simply not just an amateur's memorabilia collection or diary about attending the concerts of a favorite luminary.

<< Recommended Reading >>

Ms. Ushio majored in music at university and has an MBA. These academic credentials add credibility to her as the author of her chosen subject.

Her book (currently available only in Japanese) builds on the writings posted on her website and adds new material well worth reading. I recommend this book not only to classical music fans, but also to professionals involved with orchestras, music education and other aspects of the classical music industry.

An Orchestra for the Future, by Horie Ushio, is published by Artes Publishing, Inc., Tokyo, Japan (2012). The book is 286 pages and sells for ¥1900.

Nagata Acoustics Inc.

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[ Japanese Version ]