Architecture and Acoustics

Monday, September 10, 2012

Victoria Newhouse, author of Site and Sound: The Architecture and Acoustics of New Opera Houses and Concert Halls, is joined by Carl Rosenberg, an acoustician with the Acentech sound consultants, and Raphael Mostel, a composer and critic. They’ll discuss the aesthetics and acoustics in concert halls and opera houses of the past and future, and new technologies used in new buildings.

Victoria Newhouse narrated an audio slideshow of China's new concert halls on Take a look—and listenhere.

Courtesy of Archives of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
New York State Theater
Koch Theater
Paul Maurer
National Performing Arts Center
Shanghai Grand Theater
National Performing Arts Center Opera House Theater
Shanghai Grand Theater
Shanghai Grand Theater
Taipei Super Theater
Iwan Baan
GuangzhouOpera House Main Auditorium
Coop Himmelb


Raphael Mostel, Victoria Newhouse and Carl Rosenberg

Comments [17]

Russ from New York

A lot of inaccuracies on the discussion as it related to Carnegie Hall, Berlin Philharmonie and Avery Fisher. Surprised the author did not research her work better and surprised Leonard had an out of town acoustician trying to discuss the acoustics of New York halls...

Sep. 21 2012 04:40 PM
Tom from UWS

Speaking of changes in venues developing changes in music, that is exactly what happened when architectural evolution changed the shape and materials of churches in Europe. The larger and more echoing cathedrals required a different kind of music and singing than the smaller structures with more wooden surfaces.

Sep. 10 2012 01:58 PM
Robert from NYC

One of those clips was Callas in Traviata. I think the Zauberflote clip featured someone else.

Sep. 10 2012 01:57 PM
Ben Treuhaft from nyc

about today's show, can you ask the participants if there is such a thing as a hall for piano?  Piano sounds so diffuse in a hall because the tone all goes up to the lid, then is weakly bounced to the audience off the lid,  and the other half of the sound goes under the piano to the floor.  I think the only good seat in the hall is underneath the piano.  

I am a tuner so I can often get away with lying there.  -Ben Treuhaft

Sent from my iPaderewski

Sep. 10 2012 01:55 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I was in the band at college. One time we played in a church, & it wasn't so much that we couldn't hear the players on the other side as that there was a delay, so the sound from 2 sides wasn't in synch. It was very (this one's for you, Leonard, but also true) disconcerting.

Sep. 10 2012 01:54 PM
Elizabeth from Stuyvesant Town

In the carts for this particular (great) program, Maria Callas (is that right?) sings beautifully. What is the music? Where can I get it?

Sep. 10 2012 01:49 PM
Dan K from NYC

Is it true that the great acoustics of Carnegie Hall are an accident, that the builders just got lucky?

Sep. 10 2012 01:44 PM
Willie from brooklyn

If horseshoes have been preferred, why not an oval or a circular room for sight, sound and seating capacity?

Sep. 10 2012 01:40 PM
Robert from NYC

Well, T&B from B, you just shot down your own argument: Ms. Newhouse managed to offend you!

Sep. 10 2012 01:40 PM
Robert from NYC

Tear down Avery Fisher Hall!

Its interior is ugly and sounds lousy. Start over.

Sep. 10 2012 01:37 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

Ms. Newhouse seems to subscribe to the "straddle-the-fence-so-I-don't-offend-anyone" mentality; acoustics are indeed a science! Of course, the science of acoustics is comprised of so many variables that it might be easier to say that it's not, but there are definitely reproducible effects and if one would take the time to reproduce exactly (although with natural components like wool and wood, this is difficult) one of the former great concert halls, she would perhaps be less likely to make this claim.

Sep. 10 2012 01:37 PM
Richard Kahn from NYC

Could your guests discuss the acoustics of the 'football stadium' at Chichen Itza, the Mayan ruins in Mexico, where sound travels across the field without it being heard off the field? Can such a building with such effects be built today?

Sep. 10 2012 01:36 PM
Brendan from East Vilage

Concerning the amazing Pritzger Pavillion in Chicago: Please ask your guests to describe the extraordinary web of cables that suspend speakers over the heads of the audience members in that outdoor space. I think the visual would be very informative for your radio audience.

Sep. 10 2012 01:34 PM
Fred from Kew Gardens

Despite all attempts to correct its acoustics, why is Avery Fischer Hall such a conundrum?

Sep. 10 2012 01:33 PM

A conductor once told me that the acoustics at Kleinhans Music Hall (Saarinens, in Buffalo) had such perfect (fast and precise I think) acoustical feedback it's a challenges.

I used to live in the Lincoln Center area - box seats at Avery Fisher Hal had terrible acoustics (blocks the sound) but I thought the orchstra section was OK. I remember being amazed at the clarity of sound and the emotional power of Theresa Stratas singing at the Met - as far up in the nosebleed as possible (standing room)

Sep. 10 2012 01:29 PM
Kevin from New York City

Another great book on this topic is "The Acoustics of Performance Halls: Spaces for Music from Carnegie Hall to the Hollywood Bowl" by Carl Rosenberg's Acentech colleague J. Christopher Jaffe:

Sep. 10 2012 12:51 PM
Joe Adama from Bergen County

Could the guests discuss the legendery Liederkranz Hall which was used in many classic big band recordings? More than 20 years ago I heard a former band leader say that the resulting recordings were so good that they didn't allow the janitor to sweep away the mouse droppings out of a fear that it would reduce the high quality.

Sep. 10 2012 08:36 AM

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