News 16-10 (No.346)
Issued : October 25, 2016
National Taichung Theater Opens in Taiwan
By Chiaki Ishiwata
National Taichung Theater Building Exterior
(Courtesy of TOYO ITO & ASSOCIATES, ARCHITECTS)
The Opening Ceremony in the Grand Theater’s Foyer
The Inaugural Performance Audience
Taking Their Seats for the Inaugural Opera
La Mode “La Mode” in the Playhouse
(Courtesy of TOYO ITO & ASSOCIATES, ARCHITECTS)
The Playhouse Foyer
Black Box Theater
“Toyo Ito’s Dream Theater” at the Toyo Ito Exhibition
On September 30, 2016, the National Taichung Theater in Taiwan held its official opening. Before the inaugural opera performance in the Grand Theater, an Opening Ceremony was held in the theater’s foyer with Taiwan’s Vice President in attendance. The proceedings in the foyer were streamed on the wall surface of building’s facade and temporary seating was set up in the plaza that is in front of the theater for the general public’s use so that they could join in the celebration along with the invited opening ceremony guests.
The new theater complex is located in Taichung City, which is a one hour ride from Taipei on the Taiwan High Speed Railway. Taichung is Taiwan’s third largest city.
This project began as the “Taichung Metropolitan Opera House”. In 2014, it was decided that the project become a complex under the auspices of the central government and the scope expanded to 3 venues and the home of one orchestra as a major national venue for the performing arts. In August, 2016, Taichung City officially gifted the project to Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture.
Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects were selected as the architect through a competition process held in 2005. Nagata Acoustics has participated in the acoustic design and construction oversight of the project’s acoustics from the competition phase.
<< Opening Performances >>
The Opening Season of performances and events will continue throughout at least the rest of this calendar year. The diversity of performances and events will take advantage of not only the 3 new theaters that form the primary facilities of National Taichung Theater, but also the numerous supplementary spaces that include an exhibition hall and multipurpose room, practice rooms, restaurants, shops, etc.
On the same evening as the Opening Ceremony in the theater foyer, inaugural western opera was performed in the 2,007-seat Grand Theater. This venue was designed primarily for Western and Peking opera performances. And the inaugural program featured the Asian premiere of a production of Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold directed by Mr. Carlus Padrissa of the Spanish urban theatrical group Fura Dels Baus. The performance was a co-production of Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia and Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. Taiwan National Symphony Orchestra--the resident orchestra of Taiwan’s National Performing Arts Center--performed the opera. As was done for the Opening Ceremony, the entire opera was simulcast to the plaza outside the building.
The acoustics of the Grand Theater gave the performance a fine sense of volume and delivered the singers’ voices with excellent clarity. In addition, the production showcased the very robust equipment planning of the Grand Theater’s stage, which was designed with opera productions in mind. The fabulously enjoyable performance included performers splashing puddles of water, using flame of fire on the stage floor, and moreover suspended in mid-air.
On the following 2 evenings, the 796-seat Playhouse had its inaugural performances. This venue is designed primarily for drama and musical productions. The inaugural program featured the collaboration performance “La Mode” by Italy’s Spellbound Contemporary Ballet and the Netherlands-based pianist and visual artist Ms. Tomoko Mukaiyama. Architects Toyo Ito & Associates created the production’s sets and textile designer Ms. Yoko Ando was in charge of the textiles used in this new opus about the meaning of fashion. The Playhouse performances were the world premiere of “La Mode”.
The creators of the “La Mode” production’s stagecraft used textiles to evoke and symbolize an entire architecture of curved surfaces placed vertically above the piano and above the dancers. In the Playhouse space the sound of the piano, the dancers moving in response to the sound and the stagecraft of the sets all blended into a single holistic work of performance art.
For this production the audience was seated in both the regular, fixed seating of the Playhouse and also on the stage behind the performers. For the audience seated in the regular, fixed seating, we had the unusual experience that as we watched the dancers’ moving on stage we also had in view the audience seated in the behind-the-stage seating. The novelty of this experience was spellbinding.
The 200-seat Black Box Theater celebrated its opening performance on the same nights as the Playhouse with concerts by the Taiwanese ballad singer Mr. Ara Kimbo, who is known as the father of Taiwanese ballads. I had the pleasure of attending the second night’s concert. The Black Box Theater has large doors behind its stage that, when opened, reveal a bowl-shaped outdoor theater space behind Black Box. The seats of the outdoor theater face the Black Box Theater so that the outdoor and indoor spaces can be integrated into a single concert venue. Just as Mr. Kimbo’s concert was about to begin, the large doors behind the stage opened and the Black Box space and outdoor theater became a single concert venue with audiences filling the seats both inside and outside to enjoy this inaugural concert. Listening to the heartfelt ballads and blues sung as only Mr. Kimbo can, I felt fulfilled with delightful satisfaction for the Theaters’ felicitous opening.
In addition to the inaugural performances in each of the theaters, the Opening Season schedule includes lectures and other events. In the exhibition space, an exhibition orchestrated by architect Toyo Ito has been open since mid-August and drawn many visitors.
<< One Thought on the National Taichung Theater Project >>
This architecture has unique shape. Of course, the hallmark curves of the architectural design made the undesirable focusing phenomena. The theaters required acoustics that would function superbly in support of their intended uses and, to achieve these goals, the curved spaces created a difficult challenge for the theaters’ room acoustical designs.
We performed many study including a 1/10 scale model test to evaluate the spaces from the acoustical perspective. The study results was adopted in the design flexibly by the architect, preserving the overall design concept. Therefore, the unique National Taichung Theater successfully came into the world and is taking its place on the world’s arts and culture stage.
Music Instruction at Special Needs Schools
By Akira Ono
Cover of the Report “The New Era of Music Instruction for
Learning Disabilities Education at Special Needs Schools”
Nagata Acoustics was given the opportunity to assist in the planning for a special needs school in Tokyo. The school contacted the architect to design this facility because it wanted to enhance the facility where it does music instruction and, in particular, the school desired to have a space where the students can freely make loud sounds. The special needs school places great importance on music instruction as a way to improve communications skills and students’ self-expression.
Until recently, Japan’s education laws stipulated separate schools for special needs students based on each student’s disability, such as separate schools for non-sighted students, hearing impaired students and students with general learning or physical disabilities or chronic poor health. In 2007, the Japanese government recognized the changes in teaching guidelines and the availability of a variety of new instruction methods, as well as the need to instruct students with more than one type of disability and converted the schools previously established for one or another disability into special needs schools. The law’s amendment and the changed focus of each school created an immediate and much-discussed challenge for the teachers at the special needs schools because teachers would now need to consider each student’s individual capabilities and personality and create teaching plans and programs that would be effective for the more diverse student population.
In the midst of the discussions about how to proceed, the Japanese Board of Principals of Special Needs Schools for Learning Disabilities Education edited and published a report entitled “The New Era of Music Instruction for Learning Disabilities Education at Special Needs Schools”. This report compiled and recorded in one document all of the music teaching activities--including music therapy--that special needs teachers across Japan were already doing. The report revealed that music instruction and music activities at the schools does not follow a cookie-cutter approach but is unique to each school. Also, the teachers reported a strong consciousness and passion about the music instruction and activities being pursued with heartfelt joy and the positive results that ensue when music instruction and activities are done with this kind of intention.
In the Board of Principals report, as well as in the MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) guidelines and Japan’s laws relating to persons with disabilities, the phrase “self-reliance” appears repeatedly. It seems to me that the concept of “self-reliance” informs how we think about music instruction in the context of special needs students. For each student to become self-reliant and nurture the qualities needed to contribute to society, the special needs student must learn and adopt skills and techniques that overcome the difficulties created by the student’s disability. Music and other artistic instruction is reported to be a beneficial method towards this goal.
It has been pointed out that MEXT’s focus is on training special needs students in techniques that have clearly verifiable impact and results and that lead quickly to practical self-reliance, rather than in the kind of thinking abilities and sensibilities nurtured through music activities and instruction. This aspect of education has not been on MEXT’s “radar” in planning for special needs education, but artistic endeavor--including music--is a medium beyond words that human beings use to share what is in their hearts. Arts education surely has a connection to enhancing students’ ability to communicate and to express themselves. There is general awareness about the power of music in this regard.
Special needs schools fall under MEXT’s jurisdiction, but the portion of music activities discussed in the above-mentioned report under the designation of music therapy fall into the realm of healthcare and therefore under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, which oversees the regulation of integrative medicine, including acupuncture and moxibustion as well as Western medical techniques. Music therapy is a technique of integrative medicine that in Japan is used in Western medical institutions and institutions for the elderly. Academic and clinical research on the efficacy of music therapy is ongoing and, in particular, Associate Professor Masayuki Satoh at the Institute of Medical Life Science of Mie University conducts and studies the effects of music therapy on elderly people with dementia. According to Professor Satoh, the psychological effects of music are well understood, but when it comes to considering music as a medical treatment, sufficient scientific evidence is lacking. Prof. Satoh wrote about this in an edition of the Journal of the Acoustical Society of Japan (Vol. 69 No. 1, 2013) that featured the topic of music therapy.
Experientially, no one disputes that arts education, including music instruction, has powerful benefits. But how can we translate the effects that teachers feel and see at first hand during instruction into collected data and training manuals? Because one-size-fits-all doesn’t work for this kind of instruction and therapy, it is difficult to capture statistics or develop manuals of repeatable methods. We need a broader vision and approach to understand the value and effects of arts education for special needs students.
Special Session Topics from the Autumn Meeting of the Acoustical Society of Japan in Toyama
By Fumiaki Sakamaki
For 3 days—from September 14 to September 16—I attended the Autumn Meeting of the Acoustical Society of Japan, which was held this year at Toyama University. Nagata Acoustics presented summaries of 4 recent domestic and international projects at the meeting and we attended sessions on several topics. In the below paragraphs I will share some highlights from 2 of the sessions.
<< Aircraft and Airport Noise and Anti-Vibration Topics in Connection with the 2020 Olympics >>
A special session on the topic of noise and anti-vibration mitigation for aircraft and airports had timely implications because of the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Japan plans increases in airline flight capacity at the airports have and there are concerns about related increases in air traffic noise. In particular, the Olympics are expected to attract many visitors to Japan from overseas and discussions are underway to expand the landing and departure capacity of Tokyo’s airports in time for the games. The expansion will naturally result in increased noise levels from the air traffic and this issue is part of the discussions regarding the planned expansion.
At the special session, Mr. Miyakawa of the Civil Aviation Bureau of Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism explained the measures Japan has in place with regard to airport and aviation noise and he presented examples of specific measures implemented at Haneda Airport to control noise.
Mr. Miyakawa described 3 different kinds of strategies to address aircraft noise. Some strategies address the noise at its source. Other strategies focus on structural improvements to airports and their vicinities, such as building soundproofing barriers around areas where planes move in and out of runways or around an entire airport. Yet other strategies make changes to the environments of neighborhoods near airports where noise is of a certain magnitude and may involve zoning decisions, construction to improve the soundproofing of residences and installing or upgrading the HVAC systems of homes to mitigate aircraft noise. Also, this kind of strategy may include designating certain land as buffering greenbelts between airports and residential neighborhoods. For each situation, the Civil Aviation Bureau looks at the effectiveness of all 3 approaches and adopts one or a combination in what it calls the Balanced Approach.
Mr. Miyakawa also spoke about the importance of ongoing internationalization and greater interconnectedness of Haneda and Narita airports in the Tokyo area as well as functional upgrades to these airports. At Haneda Airport, runway use patterns and flight paths are being reviewed as the airport considers how to strengthen its services by increasing the annual number of arrivals and departures by 39,000 flights.
Together with increasing Haneda Airport’s functional capabilities, the Civil Aviation Bureau aims to redesign flight paths to the highest possible elevations (above 4000 ft [1.2 km.]) and also is negotiating with the air carriers for them to use quieter aircraft. In addition, the bureau has aims to provide comprehensive information about noise levels to local populations and works to ensure safety from possible falling objects. In these ways, the bureau pursues a multifaceted approach to aircraft and airport noise control and related public safety.
Mr. Yamada of the Airport Environment Improvement Foundation also spoke at this talk. He said that because of the implementation of GPS and satellite use combined with RNAV (Area Navigation) systems, the distribution of arrivals and departures to and from Haneda Airport has greater precision of flight paths than in the past, but the flight paths are more concentrated over Chiba City. The noise level of each plane is less than 70 dB which, by itself, is not such a large amount of noise, but planes now fly overhead with a frequency of one every few minutes and this situation has resulted in increased complaints from residents.
To resolve the problem of quieter planes but increased frequency of flights overhead, one possible strategy mentioned involves an understanding of how humans perceive the direction from which a sound is approaching. The goal of this strategy is to control the distribution of flight paths so that people on the ground below will not have the perception of planes constantly flying overhead.
<< How Acoustic Technologies to Support Hearing Impairment Can Benefit Everyone >>
On the second day of the meeting I attended a session on barrier free technologies and specifically about “How Can Acoustic Technologies Support Assistive Hearing Needs?” A number of examples of audible information services for the sight-impaired and conference microphone systems for the hearing impaired were introduced.
Among the products showcased, the product demonstration by Mr. Aoki of Shamrock Records particularly caught my attention. Shamrock Records has an application named “UD Talk” (“Universal Design Talk”) that uses speech recognition technology. The UD Talk application is designed for use with smartphones and tablets. Since its launch one or two years ago, the precision of the application has increased by leaps and bounds so that it now uses very precise speech recognition technology to convert conversations and speech to text in real time.
Mr. Aoki demonstrated the UD Talk product by talking at a rather fast pace while the audience watched the application convert his words to text on a screen. I am not sure if Mr. Aoki’s facile way of speaking perhaps helped the accuracy of the speech to text conversion, but my impression from listening and watching the totally stress-free demonstration was that the application converted speech to text with better than 80% - 90% accuracy. When a mistake did appear, Mr. Aoki was able to correct it using a remote-control device and, even if the few mistakes would not have been corrected, I think the text that converted accurately provided sufficient context to understand the few errors.
In addition to speech to text functionality, the UD Talk application has implemented a feature that combines speech to text with translation. This feature can be used both to convert speech to text and, conversely, text to speech as well. These features make UD Talk more than a communication tool; it can also be used to create a record of what is said in meetings and other gatherings, replacing the need for a person to use a keyboard to scribe minutes.
The UD Talk app is being considered for adoption as a tool for the sight- and hearing-impaired at companies and schools, and it is also starting to be used at events for real-time subtitle display. The voice recognition technology that began as a means to aid people with sight and hearing impairments seems as if it will have a bright future as a general communication tool.
It may be very soon that TVs will commonly make available voice recognition technology in the same way that many now have available the display of sign language. The broad implementation for general use will also benefit people with sight and hearing impairment because use by the general public will encourage more enhancements to the tool to everyone’s benefit.
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