Page 30 - Spring 2019
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The Art: of Concert Hall
Acoustics: Current Ti-en ds
and Questions in Research
and Design
Kelsey A. Hochgraf Concert hall design exists at the intersection nfart, science and
Addms: engineering, where ncousticians continue to demystify aural excellence.
33 Mmmnn Street What defines “excellence” in concert hall acoustics? Acousticians have been seek-
Camb,,idge'Ma5sachu5ens ing perceptual and physical answers to this question for over a century. Despite
02138 the wealth of insightful research and experience gained in this time, it remains es-
USA tablished canon that the best concert halls for classical orchestral performance are
' the Vienna Musiltverein (1870), Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam (1888), and
Emml: Boston Symphony Hall (1900; Beranek, 2004). Built within a few decades of each
kh°ch3m£@aCEmedLc°m other, the acoustical triumph of these halls is largely attributable to their fortuitous
“shoebox” shape and emulation of other successful halls. Today, we have a signifi-
cantly more robust understanding of how concert halls convey the sounds of musi-
cal instruments, and we collect tremendous amounts of perceptual and physical
data to attempt to explain this phenomenon, but in many respects, the definition of
excellence remains elusive.
This article discusses current trends in concert hall acoustical design, including
topics that are well understood and questions that have yet to be answered, and
challenges the notion that “excellence” can be defined by a single room shape or set
of numerical parameters.
How Should a l.‘.anca'-I: Hall Sound?
This is the fimdamental question asked at the outset of every concert hall project,
but it is surprisingly difiicult to answer succinctly. The primary purpose of a con-
cert hall is to provide a medium for communication between musicians and the
audience (Blauert, 2018). There are several percepts of the acoustical experience,
diiferent for musicians and listeners, that are critical for enabling this exchange.
On stage, musicians need good working conditions so that they hear an appropri-
ate balance of themselves, each other, and the room. For a listener in the audience,
articulating the goals is more diflicult.
Listeners want to be engaged actively by the music, but the acoustical implications
of this goal are complex and highly subjective. This question has been the focus of
rich and diverse research for decades, including notable contributions by Beranek
(1962, 1996, 2004; summarized in a previous issue of Acoustic; Today by Markham,
2014), Hawkes and Douglas (1971), Schroeder et al. (1974), Soulodre and Bradley
(1995), and Lokki et al. (2012) among others. These studies have established a com-
mon vocabulary of relevant perceptual characteristics and have attempted to distill
the correlation between listener preference and perception to a few key factors,
but it remains true that acoustical perception in concert halls is multidimensional.
Kuusinen and Lokki (2017) recently proposed a “wheel of concert hall acoustics,”
ea 1 AI:uunI:II:I Tbcily 1 Spring mm | volume 15. issue] ©2fll9Ac0u:tical Society afArner1ca. All rights merved.

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