Title means "Quietness", "Comfortable Sound" and "Excellent Acoustics"

Nagata Acoustics News 03-05 (No.185)
Issued : May 25, 2003

Fujimi Culture Hall "Kirari Fujimi" Opens in Saitama Prefecture

by Ayako Hakozaki

Layout drawing
Fujimi Culture Hall (actually there are more than one facilities under this name) opened in Fujimi City, Saitama Prefecture in November, 2002. The publicly funded project commemorates Fujimi City's 30th anniversary of incorporation as a city. Fujimi City is a Tokyo suburb accessed via the Tobu Tojo Rail Line. The new hall is a 10-minute drive from Fujimi-no Station, an express stop, and a 5-minute drive from Tsuruse Station. The site resides among other city buildings such as the municipal administrative office building, a community athletic center and a municipal library, all of which are on land designated as a "community park."

<< Project Personnel >>

The culture hall's Executive Producer is Japanese playwright and director Oriza Hirata. A&T Architects were responsible for the design and construction management of the project and A.T. Network performed the theater design consulting. Nagata Acoustics served as acoustical consultant for the room acoustics, sound isolation and noise control design. Mitsui Construction built the facility.

<< Scope and Layout of the Facility >>

Fujimi Culture Hall includes a Main Hall, a "Multi" Hall, four practice studios, a combined exhibition hall and conference room, other exhibit rooms, and an artists' atelier, all designed with the objective of supporting the community's cultural activities. The complex forms a horseshoe shape around a man-made pool of water called the Cascade and the Lagoon.

<< The Main Hall >>

Main Hall
The Main Hall is a theater-style multipurpose hall with a seat count of 802, arranged as a main floor of seating with blocks of balcony box seating surrounding the main floor audience. A corridor runs behind the rear walls of the balcony blocks. At the border between this corridor and the balconies, the louvers of rectangular bars are installed architecturally. We installed glass panels behind the louvers to reflect the room's sound towards the audience seating. In addition, we designed the angles of the balcony blocks so that they serve as sound reflecting surfaces for the main floor audience seating.

The Main Hall's proscenium measures 16.3 m. (53 ft) wide x 9 m. (30 ft) high. The highest part of the audience seating is about 12 m. (39 ft) from the stage floor. The distance from the front edge of the stage to the last end of audience seat measures just 26 m. (85 ft), and because of this compact design, the visual perspective from the balcony seating gives the impression of being very close to the stage.

When the hall's lighting is dimmed, the red walls of the corridor beyond the balcony cast a glow through the glass behind the louvers. The added color envelopes the audience in a warm ambience.

When the Main Hall's stage is set up with reflection panels, its reverberation time is 1.9 seconds (with the hall unoccupied) and 1.5 seconds (fully occupied). With the stage curtain in use, the reverberation time is 1.4 seconds (with the hall unoccupied) and 1.2 seconds (fully occupied).

For sound isolation planning, since the Main Hall is located at a distance from, and in the same horizontal plane as the Multi Hall and the other facilities, we did not implement a special sound isolation structural design for this hall. However, the complex's site stands close to the Fujimi-Kawagoe Toll Turnpike, and noise from the turnpike caused us concern from the start of this project. Because the Main Hall's layout puts the stage closest to the potential noise source, we specified double-layer shutters and sound isolating doors for the hall's stage loading dock.

<< Multi Hall >>

Multi Hall is designed to be a multifunctional use hall with a flat floor and deployable tiered seating for use with an end-stage configuration. As its name implies, the hall can be converted to multiple different configurations. When the room is configured with both the deployable, tiered seating and additional stackable chairs, the room has a maximum seating occupancy of 255 persons. The wall between this hall and its foyer can be rotated open to create one combined space. In addition, the glass panels that separate the foyer from the outdoor deck that overlooks the Cascade can also be fully opened to create an unobstructed indoor-outdoor space.

Multi Hall's reverberation time is 1.3 seconds when the hall is set up as a flat-floor hall and is unoccupied. When set up to have a stage at one end, the reverberation times are 0.84 seconds, unoccupied, and 0.78 seconds, fully occupied.

<< Studio Practice Rooms >>

The facility's studio rooms are comprised in "Support Culture Zone." There are four studio rooms (Studios A, B, C and D) of varying size, with the two smallest, middle rooms (B and C) being intended for the loud sound volumes typical of rock music. We designed these two rooms with anti-vibration and anti-noise structural specifications. Our design achieved high anti-vibration and anti-noise performance levels both between the studios and between the studios and Multi Hall.

<< Community Participation and Volunteer Support >>

The local community has participated in the development and operation of Fujimi Culture Hall in numerous ways. Recently, I spoke with Mr. Tetsuro Omi of A.T. Network to learn the details of the center's extensive volunteer program. Mr. Omi became the hall's operations advisor from the time of the hall's opening.

In 2000, an Operations Study Committee was formed which included 26 community members recruited as volunteers from the general public. In addition, in 2001, an Inaugural Celebration Implementation Committee was established, in which the general public was also invited to participate, and 50 local residents joined the committee as volunteers. The volunteer participants created the programming and production for much of the hall's opening celebration. The hall's name of "Kirari Fujimi" ("Sparkling Fujimi") was also chosen from some 300 suggestions submitted in response to public service announcements requesting ideas for the hall's name.

In 2002, the hall began a volunteer recruitment campaign and organized an ongoing volunteer group named the "Kirarists." The volunteers form the hall's art and publicity staff, designing posters and brochures for locally sponsored events and managing community art exhibits, and they also work at events as ticket-takers and ushers. In the future, the hall plans to enlist the participation of volunteers to support hall staff in stage craftwork and backstage activities as well.

<< Opening Series New Year Concert >>

This past January, I attended a New Year's Concert performed by the Wiener Ring Ensemble. The concert was part of the Main Hall's Inaugural Concert Series. The New Year's joyous spirit pervaded the festive and enjoyment-filled concert and the audience showed its pleasure and appreciation exuberantly.

Even though this hall's design focused on a theater-style multipurpose hall, the blocks of balcony seating apparently were able to enhance the hall's acoustics favorably, so that when the stage reflection panels are set in place, the hall serves admirably as a venue for live classical concerts. The team of volunteer receptionists performed their role with politeness and professionalism, rounding out the gala experience of the occasion.

For more information on Fujimi Culture Hall "Kirari Fujimi," visit the hall's website (Japanese text only) at http://www.city.fujimi.saitama.jp/culture/index.htm . The telephone number is +81-49-268-7788.

Reviews of Two New Pipe Organ-related Books

by Dr. Minoru Nagata

"Soothing Musical Instrument of Vengeance: The Pipe Organ and Politics" ("Iyashi no Gakki")
by Atsushi Kusano, published by Bungei Shinsho, \714 (US$6.00)

Author Atsushi Kusano appears weekly on Sunday morning television in Japan as a political analyst on Sunday Project, a program produced by the Asahi TV network. His area of expertise is politics, and one might think that a political pundit in the musical world of pipe organs would be like a fish out of water. But Prof. Kusano is so well versed in music that he once passed the preliminary steps for acceptance to the Conductor's Program at Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku ("Tokyo University of Fine Arts & Music," aka "Geidai") and sat for the entrance exam. He is also an avid fan of organ music and keeps a practice organ in his home.

Prof. Kusano's new book marks the culmination of a year of research he performed around Japan during a sabbatical from his professorship on the Faculty of Policy Management at Keio University. He visited 40 halls with pipe organs, investigating the operational policies of these halls and the details around the selection and installation of their pipe organs. His resulting discoveries and conclusions read like an expose of Japan's pipe organ world.

In the course of his book's nine chapters, Prof. Kusano aims to document how the guild-like nature of Japan Association of Organists and the Japanese government's bureaucracy created exclusionary policies for pipe organ use at public halls and restrictively determined the makeup of pipe organ selection committees. He delves into the still-smoldering troubles around the pipe organ at Tokyo Geijutsu Gekijo ("Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space") and the convoluted bidding process used in connection with the acquisition of a pipe organ for Geidai's Music Department.

Actually, I count myself among the members of the Japan Organ Society that is the butt of this book's criticisms, and I have been a member since first joining the society about 20 years ago. During this period, I briefly served once as the society's chairman and, on a number of projects, I have been a member of the organ committee and participated in the selection of pipe organs. This being the case, the names of the Japanese pipe organ professors and experts that Prof. Kusano mentions in his book are people I have known for a long time: The book points out the connection between Garnier organ builders and Prof. Masaaki Suzuki (of Geidai) whose music activity I am supporting.

It might be instinctively appropriate for me to take the position of defending Japan's organ world. On the contrary, however, with regard to exposing the closed-door policies and elitism that pervade Japan's organ world, as well as the governmental ignorance and bureaucracy that have led to a power structure of backroom cronyism and vested interests, I send my applause to this book's author for "going the extra mile" in speaking out about this situation as much as he did.

On the topic of restructuring Japan's pipe organ world, I have contributed my thoughts in an essay published in the Japan Organ Society's "Organ News" publication. Given the small population of the entire Japanese pipe organ world, the division of allegiance into two organizations--the Japan Organ Society and Japan Association of Organists--due to certain individuals' personal frictions, is an untenable situation. I belong to a number of other professional and academic societies, beginning with the Acoustical Society of Japan, and such an institutionalized separation as exists in the organ world would be unthinkable among any of these other professional or academic groups. Most musical and architectural societies include both research activities (the focus of the Japan Organ Society) and observation or touring events (the focus of Japan Association of Organists) on their program schedules. But as for the two organ societies, this is never the case, as I know from when I was Chairman and suffered the bitter experience of having my suggestion to hold a joint observational tour summarily rejected.

That Japan Association of Organists' nasty and unconscionable, particularistic guild identity and elitism are alive and well today is revealed in Prof. Kusano's anecdote about his request to test play a hall's pipe organ being denied on the basis that he is not a member of Japan Association of Organists. At certain well-known halls, Nagata Acoustics' engineers have similarly experienced that if the hall's own house organist is not on hand, we are not even allowed to open the pipe organ's cover.

A pipe organ is an extremely low-tech instrument, not the kind of object prone to breakage from normal handling. A piano's percussion mechanism, by comparison, is a much more delicate apparatus. If the pipe organ was not as durable as it is, then these instruments would not have withstood the several hundred years of European climate that they have endured, separated from the elements by just the stone masonry of tall organ balconies. The pipe organ's unnecessarily delicate image is the unhappy result of the attitudes, public relations approaches and policies of certain organ builders, organ importers and governmental bureaucracies.

Regarding two topics discussed by Prof. Kusano, namely, the controversy surrounding Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space's problems with its Garnier organ and the issue of the specifications used in the open-bid process selecting Geidai's Garnier organ, I want to share my personal opinions. Regarding Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space's organ selection, I was a member of the selection committee and I feel a sense of responsibility for the decision the committee made.

At the time, everyone on the organ selection committee eagerly approved the Garnier Company's novel idea to build an instrument that, by rotating it, could be transformed into a modern, baroque or renaissance organ. It seems to me that the kind of problem with the rotation functionality that occurred at the concert hall's opening was an incident that could have been averted if the functionality had been checked at the builder's shop. Also, it is inconceivable to me that the rotation problem was allowed to remain unreported to the organ selection committee once it was discovered. Rumors that the organ still experiences rotation problems continue to surface even now, more than a decade after the organ's installation. At this point, wouldn't it be best if an independent, third-party committee were formed to work out a solution that will address the root cause of the difficulties?

Prof. Suzuki's single-minded devotion to Garnier organs stems from his being an organist. It is entirely natural, as well as irrefutable, that he holds the opinions he does. However, as Prof. Kusano writes, there is clearly something artificial and strained about the written text of specifications Geidai published with its request for organ-builder bids. Wouldn't it have been more straightforward to have electively pursued a contract with Garnier from the outset? The specification-based selection process used was no less unprecedented than if a committee were to commission a painting by having artists complete specification documentation in order to determine which artist to select. It seems that pieces of these puzzles are still missing, but I have nothing more to contribute other than the points I make here.

At present, even in Europe, organ music occupies only a small corner of the music world. However, organ music has been a major well-spring nurturing the development of classical music. I have the sense that Japan's music world has re-tapped into that musical source. If the members of Japan's pipe organ community would broaden their vision and make the allure of organ music more universally appealing, their efforts will have extra meaning as a way to deepen Japan's musical foundations. Japan's pipe organ community currently enjoys yearly additions of new, young and talented organists who perform wonderful concerts. I would like to see these young musicians at the core of reforming the closed-door elitism of the organ community's old-style guild collective. In this essay, I have crossed over the boundary of book review into the realm of expressing my personal opinions. In this regard, I ask for the lenient understanding of this website's readers.

The information and analysis in Prof. Kusano's book are not news to those of us who have professional connections with Japan's pipe organ community. However, I would be pleased if the bureaucrats in Japan's national and local governments would read this volume, as it could be an eye-opener for them.

"The Pipe Organ: Its History and Mechanism" ("Pipe Organ: Rekishi to Mechanism")
by Michio Akimoto, published by Chopin Publishing Company, \1,890 (US$16.00)

"The Pipe Organ: Its History and Mechanism" is a purely didactic guide on the subject of the pipe organ. The resume of the book's author, Prof. Michio Akimoto, includes a long tenure as a professor at Tokyo University of Fine Arts & Music ("Geidai") and a period as Chairman of Japan Association of Organists. Today, he ranks among the "elders" of Japan's pipe organ community. Though now of an advanced age, he continues to enjoy good health and lead an active life, and he has just recently completed the pipe organ study published in this new book.

Each pipe organ is an instrument crafted one-by-one, constructed on a scale and with a personality, features and a visual appearance created for it alone. Installed at the front of a hall stage as if seated on a throne, its very presence conveys a sense of majesty that makes people reticent to approach it. But the pipe organ is also unique in the coloration of its sound, coloration that profoundly touches and entrances many people. Moreover, the mechanism by which an organ's pressed keys result in the organ's pipes generating sound is truly a craftwork technology. Unlike today's computers, the inner workings of a pipe organ can be observed with the human eye, and the organist's ability to feel, through his or her fingertips, the organ's mechanisms in motion, is one of the appealing aspects of the instrument.

Prof. Akimoto's book covers the history of the organ, its mechanical structure and even an introduction to how to play the instrument. Specifically, the book's five chapters are organized as follows:

Chapter 1: Origins and Evolution of the Pipe Organ
Chapter 2: From the Golden Age of Bach to Today
Chapter 3: Features of a Pipe Organ Console
Chapter 4: Introduction to How to Play the Pipe Organ
Chapter 5: Organists and Performances

This book is written in a style that is easy to follow and even those with no background in the pipe organ will easily understand this text. Since the author is himself an organist, the book naturally approaches the subject of the pipe organ from the performer's perspective.

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Nagata Acoustics News 03-05(No.185)
Issued : May 25, 2003

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