A! Magazine for the Arts

The curtains in the Grand Hall.

The curtains in the Grand Hall.

Acoustics are important for audience and performers

October 27, 2020

One of most important, but hidden, aspects of the Grand Hall and other performance spaces in the James C. and Mary B. Martin Center is acoustics. All the performance spaces are carefully engineered, and detailed plans for proper sound management have been left with the center’s personnel. This sound magic was created by David Kahn, founder of Acoustic Distinctions.

He worked with the architects, engineers and construction personnel to create the best acoustics possible.

Three aspects have to be considered: room acoustics, control of noise and sound isolation. Room acoustics is how a room sounds empty. Control of noise refers to the sounds of the heating and cooling systems and other mechanicals. Sound isolation keeps sounds from the lobby and backstage areas from intruding into the performance space.

The majority of the decisions Kahn made for acoustics aren’t visible. Some are. The walls are constructed of solid masonry with plaster coating. The wood walls are laminated to masonry behind, so that they don’t vibrate even with tympani playing in front of it. The mechanical systems are designed so that the sound of air movement is diverted to non-performance spaces.

The Grand Hall is used for theatrical and musical productions, which means the proscenium opening (the part of the stage in front of the curtain) is larger so that musician’s sound comes out into the hall.

The curtains along the wall in the Grand Hall are there to help with sound also. When a jazz or amplified group is performing, the curtains are closed to produce greater clarity. For orchestral or choral performances, they are retracted to enhance reverberations. They can be stopped at any point along their path for customized sound to fit varying groups.

The acoustics don’t just benefit the audience, they also ensure that the musicians have a greater range of expression.

Visit www.etsumartincenter.com to learn more about the center and when you can enjoy a performance.