Don’t Touch That Dial by Gayle Austin

Posted: October 16, 2011 by gayleaustin in 2011

I was carried into the world on the rhythm of sound.

Parramatta Road, usually go go go with cars and trucks and trams and shops alive, dead quiet like all main roads on Christmas day.   In that silence my mum screams.  The ambulance wails.  And my own bewildered greetings to the intersection that took trams across to Balmain peninsula, echo in sleepy bohemians’ breakfast at 5.20 in the afternoon. I was born of the sounds of Sydney, into noises of pubs, where men celebrated or drowned their sorrows when more kids came along.

I was born a couple of kilometres from the Broadway gateway to the city proper, on the wrong side of the tracks, with the sounds of poverty and heat sizzling on treeless streets and domestic violence a sharp contrast to the sounds of the big end of town.  The two five-story Grace Brothers buildings, which, in times past, dominated Sydney social life with sounds of dances, fashion parades, and children’s pantomimes, quiet from public holiday desertion now sighing the beginning of  ‘me’ through their twin clock towers supported by four winged lions.   Four years after I screamed past those lions in the ambulance, Queen Elizabeth II during her first royal trip to Australia inspired the sounds of massive crowds when she visited those towers for a look.

Just up the street a little, Broadway morphs into George with Railway Square and Central Station sounding the southern boundaries of the CBD. The clang clang of 1950s trams heads past Chinatown and it’s ‘slanty-eyed’ merchants with  clack clack of dice and across the road, shouts from the Anthony Hordern Palace Emporium offering a cuppa tea, a chance to post a parcel, make a phone call, have a wee or get some money out of the Commonwealth Bank.  Shoes step up and down running boards before slapping sounds on wooden seats, or swinging out, arms anchoring groaning masses as money hits leather bag and tickets are ripped. The conductor travels as a one person show, and electricity sparks up metallic washing lines across the city, linking all excursions to a central source.

‘Next stop’ The Sydney Town Hall  – inspired by the Hotel de Ville in Paris – and across the road, the Queen Victoria building taking up a whole block’s sounds of stained glass, colonnades, balustrades, arches, tailors, barbers, and florists, all boasting the glory days of Her Majesty’s colony, long before her great great granddaughter came for a look and I was born on Parramatta road and the tramline carried citizens down George street. Next stop Martin Place and the General Post Office, real posh petering off to the clutter of smaller shops with residences above, and tram stops outside front doors carrying workers to convict built warehouses in The Rocks or – on the other side of the road – to Circular Quay with its ferries whoooo wooooing under the Sydney Harbor bridge, across the swish and creaks of one of the most beautiful harbors in the world.

My family left Sydney when I was three years old, just 18 months after my eyes were operated on to correct a squint.  It was directly after that operation, with my mother banished to the waiting room, and bandages stopping sight, that I must have realised, sound was all I really had to rely on. Sound.  All new.   Voices and clanging instruments, and water swishing, and trolleys being wheeled on wooden floors.

Then there was the sound of tyres on all sorts of roads as we travelled around the country.   Accents broadening and slowing right down so that the silences between the words gave you time to think.  The sound of the desert, and the bush, and the rivers that rushed and gurgled and popped with fish as the birds sang and the campfires crackled.  There was also always, as the wheels crunched dried up clumps of clay on red monotonous roads, the sound of mum singing, and when I got a little older, the car radio.

When I was 17, the radio spoke to me like a mystical experience from on high.  I was in Grace Bros in Chatswood, when a loudspeaker in the ceiling over ‘girls fashion’ told me there was a job in the record library of 2CH.  I imagined listening to Top Forty all day as I rushed back to my grandmother’s place to phone the number, then dress in my best clothes for the appointment just four hours away.  The sounds of my uncle making love to his girlfriend in his room provided only moments distraction as I rushed out the door and into the swish of traffic and the sound of a bus that would take me to heaven.

It wasn’t Top Forty that I would be listening to.

2CH was a station that played music from all eras.  And besides, I was to be a typist for the music director, because that’s how all girls began in those days.  It was a beginning.   Soon, in my spare time, I was taught by the older girls in the library how to put programs together.  I was working with music.  I was also working with all sorts of rhythms, and beats, and types of sound.   I think I was one of the last people in Sydney to learn the now ancient art of programming music before Top Forty undercut possibilities, and cardboard boxes which held the station selection were in turn replaced by computerised playlists.

You’re listening to Gayle Austin on 2 Double J, broadcasting from planet earth.  If you can hear us, turn back.  You’re going the wrong way.

By the time I was twenty-three, I had six years of programming music for Sydney radio under my belt and was in the right place at the right time.  The Whitlam Government had decided to open up the airwaves by granting a new license to the ABC to set up a youth station.  I was the only woman they could find (outside the ABC) who actually worked in radio.   I stammered and stuttered and ummed and arred, and my voice went high from tension, and I spoke too quickly to be understood, and understood too little to sound as if I knew what I was talking about.  I was on air.

“It doesn’t matter what you say, just say it with confidence,”  I was told when I sought advice.  It was the sound that they were interested in.  The sound of confidence.  Programming my heart out to cover for the fact that I had none kept me afloat while I took the program home every morning and listened to see what I could do better.  I had to first make it sound right in amongst all the best of the young talented males who staffed the station.   I was the only woman on air on Double J, and one of only two women broadcasters in the entire country, so the spotlight was on me.   I asked for advice again and was told that I should listen to some of the male broadcasters.  I didn’t want to listen to and copy the men.  I was a woman.   How do women sound on air?

Well, that led to great discussions about microphones being designed for men’s voices, and that was why it wasn’t really an ideal job for a woman.  And besides, only men’s voices carried authority.

It was during those years that I played with sound.  The different sounds of the music, my own voice, the voice of guests, live, on the phone, on tape.  They all became sounds to mix and match, and blend, and use for a lift or a lull or a full stop, or a pause. I stayed on midnight to dawn for 5 years.   I nightly sought to turn all these sounds, including myself, into an ephemeral soundscape of the city, and other women started thinking they might be able to do it too.  The sound of the station started to change.    The sound of the whole industry started to change.  We were all in the right place at the right time.

By the beginning of the 80s, the Government decided to open up the FM band, and Double J became Triple J.  To prepare ourselves for this big change, we did seminars on the difference between AM and FM.   We got different microphones.  The sound waves for AM are very different to the sound waves for FM.  When you broadcast on AM, you are advised to sit back from the microphone and almost shout, to cut across the AM airwaves.  The  FM airwaves are far more sensitive and you can in fact almost be touching the microphone as you speak.  It is much more intimate, warmer, no shouting required.   The word was also out that AM was more suitable for speech.  FM was better for music, although I didn’t believe that.  The voice is also an instrument.  To have a proper dialogue with the music you must first recognise and be in control of the music in your own voice.  This is only the very beginning of making sense.  If the sound aint right, nobody is going to want to listen to the incredibly insightful things you feel the need to say.

Gayle Austin (in white boots) with Angela Catterns, Jill Emberson, and Annette Shun-Wah at 2JJJ in 1986. Photo courtesy Sydney Morning Herald.

On Triple J, flanked by a growing number of women announcers, I played with sound across the day.  On 10 – 1am the world was my oyster, the sounds of late night became a glimpse into where my work would eventually lead me. One listener once told me that listening to my program was like traveling on the trans-Siberian express, you never knew what you were going to hear, but you knew it would be diverse and interesting.  I would grab a bunch of records from many different countries around the world, and then listen to them as I did the mix ‘live to air’.  I didn’t know what I was going to hear next, until it was on the turntable and it felt right.  That’s a good thing about sound, if it feels right, you can’t argue with it.   In the 6 – 10pm shift I played with a tight format of music that the rest of the station played.  My objective was to play exactly the same music as everyone else, and to make it sound different.  This is where you had to get very creative in how you sat tracks next to each other.   In Drive the sound is shorter spurts of music linked by voice, and traffic and time checks, and interviews, and news all to the rhythm of people driving home in cars in peak hour, with an overall sound that is soothing the nerves, exciting the imagination, uplifting the spirits.  Breakfast sound is there to wake you up and inspire you to get out into the day, and Morning is a bit more laid back and talkative, like over a kitchen table, or comfortably in the background while you are working.

These days I am back on Broadway, just up the road a bit from where I was born. A couple of blocks away from the old Grace Bros winged lions, community radio station 2ser 107.3 is all about giving people a voice, and I want to extend that a little.  I’m working on a sound that’s universal and inclusive. Broadcasting to the world, while at the same time speaking intimately to each and every listener, no matter which country they come from, what religion they are, and what colour shoes they choose to wear.  In New York, London, Paris, Mumbai, people listen to Curved Radio, ‘live’ and streaming.   It may be 1am in Sydney, but in the northern hemisphere it’s prime time.  Yeee   haaa.


Curved Radio photoshoot with Gayle and the dadamama


Norimichi HIRAKAWA

Posted: October 14, 2011 by younu84 in Uncategorized


HIRAKAWA Norimichi was born in 1982. He creates works with computer programming and real-time processing, focusing mainly on image/sound installations. Using intuitive interfaces and interactive expressions he creates works that enable viewers to experience on macroscopic scale events that are ordinarily difficult to perceive. These works encourage people to reinterpret the everyday affairs through new senses, stimulating observers’ imaginations as a device that enables people to rediscover the world.

He mainly uses audio and video. Also he uses many other kinds of media depends on the work, on his motive, such as both three-dimensional objects and photographs.

He’s recent work contains more logical elements. Since he major in college was a media art, it was natural for him to be theoretical. He believes that without being theoretical programs won’t run. So it’s important to be a bit logical in that respect.

He enjoys brainstorming part of production phase the most that he would like to produce. And he also enjoys when the work is nearly finished. According to him, it’s almost like a mount climbing. People get excited when they getting to the top.
And talk about how he approaches producing his work, he doesn’t think he’s a programmer so he doesn’t posses the spark for programming. Yet, he’s passionate about setting the theme. He initiates his work in the theme, at the point of initiation; he considers which media is best to fit the approach of the theme and how to marry a work plan that is feasible to it.



On his exhibition, he introduced two installation art pieces and photographs.

The first installation artwork was for the audience to observe the computer, which simulated gravity.  This simulator showed coordinate value and 3D plotting on the monitor.  There was also a video camera, which recorded the image on the monitor to create an atmosphere as if the audience became a part of the simulator.

The second installation artwork was to visualize the sound of a computer calculating.  To visualize sound, sound sample of a computer fan and hard disk were collected.  After all the data had been processed, it was projected on 8:3 wide screens.  In addition, there were noise effects when the data was projected on the screen and these noise effects were generating irreproducible images on the spot.

The work of photography was about the universe.  Photos of fixed stars that were shot in two different methods were displayed.  One method was using photographs of the observable universe, which is based on billions of years worth of calculation.  The other ones were one dot computer generated photographs that were calculated in a few second by the computer.  The resolutions of both types of photos were adjusted so that it was hard to recognize what was being seen by the naked eye.

“Real time” was the key theme for this exhibition.  He wanted to create a space where an audience could be able to feel the moment of the work.  He wanted to help them imagine the phenomenon.

He also wanted this exhibition to be as a place where he can reexamine or reunite my expression method.


Reaction to the exhibition and how he communicated with the audience

There was a wide range of people, from young children to the elderly, who came to view the exhibition.  He felt that the work was a bit complicated for the audience to fully absorb though.  Even for the people who are familiar with these kinds of topics had found it hard to fully understand.
Most of the audience was able to feel the works intuitively.  After observing the mass dots, which were geometrically arranged, an eighty year old female doctor said that she saw a “Life” through this work.  Even one child stated that he felt the “Universe” when he saw the machinery that was painted in black.  Those comments made an immense and permanent impression on him.

Finding the better approach of communication through work is a very difficult process. Of course it must depend on the quality of the work and he thinks that since computer has an interactivity element, the creator can program a physical reaction. When the audience views this prepared reaction, they tend to stop thinking or imagining past the prepared reaction.

At this exhibition, he prepared installation artwork that didn’t involve an interaction element.  He created a closed space where the audience was allowed to only observe.  The creator only prepares spices, and these spices triggers the audience’s imagination.  As long as there is a space for the audience to think or imagine, it is not always necessary to understand the whole meaning behind the work.  This is one way of communicating with the audience.


Creating visuals with programming geek

Because these are art pieces, it is important to include attractive visuals for an audience.  By capturing their attention by visuals, it generates enough time for the audience to think and imagine.  He started as an amateur programmer, so he often approaches the visual creating first, instead of the programming.  Perhaps his peculiar process has an effect on his visual making skill.




It is an algorithmic installation art.  It will capture the audience’s movements by using algorithmic technology and it will hyper link endlessly. The audience will become one of the parameters and will wonder around in the cyberspace.  The objective of this project is to exhibit structure of the Internet and the vast information that is involved in the system.  It is a complete nonlinear system that eliminates the audience’s control over to browse through contents.  There are various versions in exists now but the most recent version is called a “version –1” and that is not an interactive version.




It was reconstructed by computer programming based on an accumulation data of GPS log data. The project was made from images and sound that were recorded by a fish-eye lens camera and microphones that were installed on the roof and around a car. Then recorded a collection of sound and imagery of major landmarks and cities that were synchronized with the non-virtual world by computer and then was projected onto a screen.  As opposed to the previous work, “Global Bearing”, which took on a sphere shape in order to resemble the earth, this work was presented as a horizontal image.  He wanted the audience to visualize the image as if it was stretching out to the world horizontally.



a circular structure for the internal observer

A computer-generated image projected onto the wall is transformed by sounds generated by the computer that originally drew it. That is to say, the image changes in accordance with how actively the computer is operating. The work is structured so that when the image transforms, a load is placed on the computer, causing the sound of the drive to change, which in turn impacts the generated image again.

Just as holding a microphone to the speaker to which the microphone is attached causes howling, in systems where there is an output for every input, the action of inputting the output back into the system is called “feedback.” This work has a circular structure in which the sounds generated by the computer are input as parameters and images generated in real time. Once the system is started up, it continues generating images and sounds in a closed system, but because outputting the noise of the computer through the speakers means that noise is constantly being input into the system, it is said to be impossible for this system to generate exactly the same image twice. Internal observation refers to observing an observed object not from the outside but from the inside of the system, and in this work the transformation of the projected images is also impacted by the degree of noise in the exhibition space as visitors move through.



1982, Born in Shimane-ken,JP.
2005, graduated Information Design Department of Tama Art Univ.
2007, completed graduate school of Tama Art Univ.
He reconstructs universal and underlying phenomenon in sensory level of audience and releases as installations.
His work centers around not only device design or algorithm design which enables analog input for digital system, but also AV programing and spacial design.
He does the total implementation of artworks.


Exellence Prize : Art Division @ Japan Media Art Festival 2004 [8th]. ( GLOBAL BEARING )
Grand Prize : interactive category @ SFC Digital Art Awards 2004. ( GLOBAL BEARING )
Grand Prize : interactive category @ 10th Student’s CG Contest. ( GLOBAL BEARING )
Awards for Exellence : interactive art @ Asia Digital Art Award 2005. ( GLOBAL BEARING )
Exellence Prize : interactive category @ 11th Student’s CG Contest. ( DriftNet )
Jury Recommended Works : Art Division @ Japan Media Art Festival 2005 [9th]. ( DriftNet )
Grand Prize : interactive category @ SFC Digital Art Awards 2006. ( DriftNet )
Finalist Prizes : interactive art @ Asia Digital Art Award 2006. ( DriftNet )
Award of Distinction : interactive art @ Prix Ars Electronica 2008. ( a playting for the great observers at rest )


2003 :
Frontiers of Communication @ NTT ICC , Tokyo JP.

2004 :
installed sences @ old-Mikawadai Junior High., Tokyo JP.
Exhibition ” Ex- ” @ Media Center / Tama Art Univ., Tokyo JP.

2005 :
Japan Media Art Festival 2004 @ Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Tokyo JP.
DESIGN X ART (Graduation Works Exhibition) @ YOKOHAMA AKARENGA, Yokohama JP.
Where am I ? @ Miraikan, Tokyo JP.
The Exploration of Time @ YCAM, Yamaguchi JP.
Japan-Korea cultual exchange exhibition @ COEX Pacific Hall No.4, Seoul KR.
Shizuoka Contents Valley Festival @ Old-Fuji Bank Building, Shizuoka JP.

2006 :
transNonFiction @ BankART Studio NYK, Yokohama JP.
Japan Media Art Festival 2005 @ Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Tokyo JP.
The Art of Passat-ism @ Marunouchi oazo, Tokyo JP.
Yokohama EIZONE @ BankART1929 Yokohama, Yokohama JP.
ZeroOne San Jose: A Global Festival of Art on the Edge / ISEA2006 @ San Jose, CA, US.
Re:search @ Sendai mediatheque,Sendai JP.

2007 :
Power of Expression, JAPAN @ NATIONAL ART CENTER, TOKYO, Roppongi JP.
AUTAMATICA @ BankART Studio NYK,Yokohama JP.
Invisible Garden (Art Installation for LEXUS @ MILANO DESIGN WEEK 2007) @ via savona 35,Milano IT.
scopic measure #04 @ YCAM, Yamaguchi JP.
Japan Media Art Festival in Shanghai @ Shanghai Sculpture Space, Shangai CN.

2008 :
transmediale.08 @ The House of World Culture, Berlin, DE.
LandmarkProject III @ BankART Studio NYK,Yokohama JP.
CyberArts2008 @ OK Center, Linz AT.
Digital Art Festival, Taipei @ Museum Of Contemporary Art, Taipei TW.
Solo Exhibition: observers @ Iwami Art Museum, Shimane, JP.

2009 :
measuring ice @ Koriyama City Museum, Koriyama, JP.
I mondi di Galileo @ San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice IT.
Festival della Scienza 2009 @ Palazzo della Borsa, Genova, IT.
Digital Art Festival, Taipei 2009 @ Museum Of Contemporary Art, Taipei TW.

2010 :
Solo Exhibition: Global Bearing in Irreverisible @ Kapelica Gallery, Ljubljana SI.
log/score – measuring ice @ MONKEY GALLERY, Tokyo, JP.
Japan Media Art Festival Istanbul @ Pera Museum, Istanbul TR.


A circular structure for the internal observer [installation 2008] []

DriftNet interactive [installation 2005] []

APMT5 []

A playing for the great observers at rest [installation 2007] []

DriftNet Ver1 []

Global bearing, 2005 []

Compath, 2006  []

A playing for the great observers at rest  []



COUNTERAKTIV, viewed 27 August 2011,,,

ALICEONNET, viewed 5 September 2011,

DESIGN YOUR DREAM, viewed 5 September 2011,

ICC ONLINE, viewed 25 August 2011,

NORIMICHI HIRAKAWA, viewed 2 September,

HITSPAPER, viewed 3 September 2011,

MOTIONDJ, viewed 1 September 2011,

Sydney Opera House Concert Hall – Rose Tracey

Posted: October 13, 2011 by utsrosiet in 2011

Report focus:

This report will examine the various practices used to address the historical and confounding acoustic inadequacies of the Sydney Opera House’s Concert Hall.

 Sydney Opera House

Created as a “premiere venue for music and culture”[1] the Sydney Opera House (SOH) was originally envisaged as a venue for Sydney that would foster, attract and inspire both international and local artists and that could and would be enjoyed by all[2]. Since it’s completion in 1973, the Sydney Opera House has earned a reputation not just as a world-class performing arts centre that has arguably evolved as a symbol of both Sydney and the Australian nation[3].

However, this reputation, despite the earlier controversies[4] and the “compromised” final construction ultimately recognises and celebrates almost exclusively in regard to its significant contribution to modern architectural design.

In June 2007, this was acknowledged by UNESCO in listing the SOH on the World Heritage List, stating that it “represents multiple strands of creativity, both in architectural form and structural design…it stands by itself as one of the indisputable masterpieces of human creativity, not only in the 20th century but in the history of humankind.”[5]

But the silence in regard to its acoustic achievements is deafening. Since the SOH opened in 1973, both performers and critical listeners have acknowledged the acoustic deficiencies of the Concert Hall [6]. While at the time it might have been considered to be one of the top 10 concert halls in the world[7], this was not necessarily in regard to its acoustic quality. Advancements in live performance expectation, experience and technologies have seen the Opera House’s Concert Hall voted the 18th worst in major classical music venue in Australia in a recent poll conducted by Limelight Magazine of 200 performers, critics and industry experts[8]. Even David Claringbold, SOH Technical Director, acknowledges that “up until recently, changing audience and industry expectations had resulted in a lessened reputation for the SOH.” [9]

It’s acoustic deficiencies has long been a source of ongoing riddle to renowned acousticians and sound engineers who manoeuvre around the various acoustic inadequacies. These include, inconsistent sound, patchy sound, whirls in the roof cavities, sound leakage between the venues, and the difficulties modifying the space for more complex sound requirements arrangements (including the placement of the PA).

These requirements can neither understood or solved in isolation.  Their solution requires a multi-faceted approach that considers all range of technical, logistical and aesthetic requirements central to the performance needs and audience experience.

“Over a long period of time it has involved acquiring expert advice and balancing that advice with financial and artistic resources as well as the enhanced functionality and ultimate quality to be balanced””[10]. Often one solution causes additional problems that again have to be compensated for.

Heritage imperatives, the politicization of the arts and costs to government and at times conflicting goals constrain much of the decision making. The absence of revenue and the lack of adequate performance space available to the SOH while modifications are tested let alone conducted further constrain these decisions.


There are a number of challenges and obstacles that confront the SOH in finding a solution to the sound deficiencies in the Concert Hall.

Intended design and purpose

Originally intended for the Opera, the Australian Broadcasting Commission (and owner of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra) successfully lobbied for the Major Hall to be dedicated to Symphony (as a way to get the SSO out of Sydney Town Hall)[11]. Against Utzen’s wishes, this demand was met and the Opera was relegated to the smaller performance Hall.

In 2009, Kirkegaard Associates[12] ensapsulated the problems beholding the Opera House as follows: “Ultimately the Concert Hall is a dramatic architectural space inserted into a void which had been intended for an Opera Theatre. From that basic fact derive the series of compromises which have created dysfunctional aspects of the concert hall”

These limitations include a “fraught”[13] sound reinforcement in the Concert Hall which has “long been a source of frustration”[14] to the highly knowledgeable technical staff.

Today, the acoustic performances (of the Symphony) also have technical requirements in relation to recording and live broadcasting performances on radio, live broadcast on radio, television and the internet as well as amplified “sounds” within the specific scores.

Space configuration

The Concert Hall is uniquely almost triangulated shaped, located within the largest of the Sydney Opera The Hall and the sails are themselves a compromise of original design. Specifically Utzon’s competition winning Opera House design had envisaged a very different and lower ceiling arrangement to the Hall[15].

House sails. The ceiling crown is a staggering height of 25 metres. The ceiling void is narrow and also confined and lined with technical equipment and stage support machinery including electricity, phantom power, airconditioning, fire hoses, comms and pagine systems. Laying any new cabling requires complex navigation.

Options to modify internal or external features are limited to say the least. No modifications that can be done externally to the sails. Limited Options to expand beneath the stage and floor are prevented by the presence of structural concrete beams the run the full length of the Hall.[16]

Demands of multiperformance venue

The demands on a international multiperformance space are constant and challenging both in terms of technology and staff and not always obvious to the program planners. Today, the Opera House houses four resident companies: Sydney Symphony, Opera Australia, The Australian Ballet and the Sydney Theatre Company. It has seven primary venues, including the much vexed Concert Hall. The Concert Hall’ primary function had since the completion of its construction, had been to host acoustic orchestral performances. The Symphony alone plays 120 days a year in the Concert Hall. But in 2009, of the 303 performances in the Concert Hall, 197 required amplification[17] for all performances that were rock, jazz and other genres. But even some of the acoustic performances are recorded for live or pre-recorded broadcast on radio, television and other platforms such as internet. These also require the Hall to be able to also manage these requirements in regards to the PAs, microphones, reverberation and fold back.

Developments in modern music and ambitious artistic programming technological aims has required regular modification to the Hall’s amplified sound and acoustic configurations. The Hall is required to be a space that is somehow able to seamlessly adapt to its technical and sound requirements efficiently and with no impact on the audience experience. As Taylor and Claringbold discuss, the Concert Hall’s standard configuration is for symphony, but on any given day, the Hall is used for both acoustic and amplified events. The more commercial events require a “sophisticated overlay of temporary staging, lighting, rigging, sound and audio visual elements”[18]. The turnaround of these events is crucial to the Opera House’s income.

The SOH has both an artistic and commercial need to create a venue that international artists wanted to perform at. But the venue also needs to cater to the Ballet, visiting international artists, modern music concerts, cultural events and School Speech days, Australian Idol finals, dance, opera, spoken word events, literary readings, physical theatre. The Hall has even been converted to a Dolby Cinema for the Star Trek 11 World Premiere. And host (and live stream) the Youtube Symphony.

Impact of renovating the Hall

The development to the Concert Hall’s acoustics must be holistic and complimentary to the SOH’s programing and operational needs. Therefore, any recommended modifications represent time no revenue is being generated, and hence represent a multi million dollar commitment.[19]

New approaches to these sound deficiencies recently adopted include:

New PA sound system & arrangement of speakers

Interestingly enough, visual trials were required as a first step in the testing of modifications to the PA for the Hall[20].

Arrangement of the speakers originally focussed central speaker cluster which was replaced in 2009 and has “substantially improved the quality of amplified sound and the visual aesthetic of the hall”[21].

The non-central placement of the speaker arrangement was acoustically required to be arranged in way that was not balanced visually but the visual requirements for balance (from the audience perspective) required visual symmetry which did not equate initially with a balanced sound experience. Other compensations were sought.

But after a second Sound Out, a new configuration of speakers was agreed upon for the hall. This configuration saw a left/right hang of J Series and J subs, E3 Front fills and Qs for first position and side hang and out above the upper stalls for delays[22].

The new configuration allowed for the delay speakers to remain in the hall, regardless of performance which has saved the Opera House endless hours of packing and patching a variety of different sound systems to cater for its diverse program, including subwoofers for rock concerts.

The speakers are suspended via a hanging system comprising of 14 lines operated by electric winches and 4 additional maintenance winch sets.[23] Improved amplified sound and a significant improvement on the turnaround time between productions [24]. There is now also a large cavity in the rear stall areas that allows the permanent placement of a console, processing equipment and pre-configured cables, which again significantly reduces the set up time and greatly enhances the over all sound quality.

This was considered to have the least impact on audience visibility and was selected. However, agreeing on the preferred PA was only the first chapter. Permanently installing the new one system was another challenge altogether. “Integrating the cabling, the infrastructure and machinery to drive the system proved to be a serious test of skill and ingenuity”[25].

Initially the specs had required the amps to be as close to the arrays as possible – but issues relating to excessive heat and lack of serviceability drove a better solution. A platform between the inner shell in the void between the inner and outer concrete shells was found – which was cooler and slightly easier to access. Even in agreeing on this location, a labyrinth had to be charted of networks of power supply, air-conditioning ducts, existing power, fire drencher pipes, structural support. New power sources, to ensure clean power, were also provided for the system components at stage level and at front of house.[26]

Rob McCormack from Rutledge explained that the space is unique in terms of its problems and it’s configuration. [27] The roof space is so tight that it required all equipment be carried by hand up the stairs. A chain hoist was required to lift the heaviest of equipment. The system that was being replaced had included a winch for the centre cluster of speakers which to be cut out[28]


Bruce Jackson, a world regarded audio specialist, was called in to review the Hall’s sound, and formulated one of the cheapest solutions to the acoustic problems in the Hall[29]: drapes. Jackson hired $2000 worth of drapes, standard 380 GSM theatrical cloth[30], were hung above the stage to “dampen the acoustic down”[31] and contain reverberation[32] at performances requiring amplified sound. These were positioned between the lighting truss positions so as to reduce “swirling into the crown void above the stage”[33] and thus diluting sound clarity and audibility.


Earlier modifications to the Hall had previously resulted in 18 acrylic rings (often referred to as “Clouds”) placed in a moveable canopy thought to reflect sound back on to stage. The clouds were originally “hollow” so as to allow maximum ceiling light to illuminate the stage. Sound tests by Kirkegaard found that “filling” in the donuts (with clear disks) further improved the sound quality for the performers with no impact on lighting. So much so, that the SSO requested that fillers remain for all their performances so as to reduce reverberation on stage[34].

Panelling – Sawtooth Walls & Wool bordred

Kirkegaard also found that placing reflective flat wall panels in the stalls and on the stage. One metre tall wool borders were also suspended on the upper auditorium walls to attenuate high frequency reflections causing echoes. These measures were for implemented following complaints from performers and audience members alike.


David Claringbold attests that  “ The new system… now means the Concert Hall is one of the best places on earth to see a live show. Artists love playing here, and now our audiences share the thrill. That coupled with giving school speech days, community events and global superstars the same treatment is what Opera House is all about – something for us all to enjoy”[35]

It is not unreasonable to expect that a world class performance space such as the SOH would at least meet the expectations its audience and performers. The modifications have hopefully improved the acoustic experience. But it remains a final frontier of the SOH to ensure that a superb sound experience is enjoyed by and accessible to all.


Associates, Kirkegaard. “The Concert Hall at Sydney Opera House | Recommendations for Acoustics Improvements.” 2007.

Claringbold, Lisa Taylor and David. “Acoustics of the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall.” In 20th International Congress on Accoustics, ICA 2010. Sydney: ICA 2010.

Holder, Christopher. “Sail of the Century.” AV Magazine: News from AV, 2010, 42-48.

Lesnie, Melissa. “Sydney Opera House “Biggest Loser” in Survey.” Limelight Magazine, 2011.

Messent, David. Opera House Act One.  Sydney: David Messent Photography, 1997.

Sydney Opera House. “Overview | the Building.”

[1] Foundational Plaque at Opera House steps, laid on XXX 1973.

[2] David Messent, Opera House Act One  (Sydney: David Messent Photography, 1997). P 42

[3] Sydney Opera House, “Overview | The Building,”

[4] Messent, Opera House Act One.

[5] UNESCO in Sydney Opera House, “Overview | The Building”.

[6] Lisa Taylor and David Claringbold, “Acoustics of the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall,” in 20th International Congress on Accoustics, ICA 2010 (Sydney: ICA 2010).

[7] Ibid.

[8] Melissa Lesnie, “Sydney Opera House “biggest loser” in Survey,” Limelight Magazine 2011. p24

[9] Claringbold, “Acoustics of the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall.” p4

[10] Ibid. P1

[11] Messent, Opera House Act One.

[12] Kirkegaard Associates, “The Concert Hall at Sydney Opera House | Recommendations for Acoustics Improvements,” (2007).

[13] Christopher Holder, “Sail of the Century,” AV Magazine: News from AV 2010.; p 42

[14] Ibid.

[15] Messent, Opera House Act One.

[16] Claringbold, “Acoustics of the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall.” p4

[17] Ibid. P1

[18] Ibid. P1

[19] Holder, “Sail of the Century.”

[20] Claringbold, “Acoustics of the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall.” p5

[21] Ibid. p3

[22] Holder, “Sail of the Century.”

[23] Claringbold, “Acoustics of the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall.”

[24] Ibid.

[25] Holder, “Sail of the Century.” p 44

[26] Ibid. p46

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Claringbold, “Acoustics of the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall.” P4

[30] Ibid. p4

[31] Holder, “Sail of the Century.” p 44

[32] Claringbold, “Acoustics of the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall.”p 4

[33] Ibid. p 4

[34] Ibid.

[35] Holder, “Sail of the Century.” p 48


Posted: October 11, 2011 by drazumovic in 2011

About 15 years ago, I was feeling kind of nostalgic for a city where I lived for two years, Seattle. The Internet was just starting to be a big thing, so finding photos was as easy as searching online. This was the early 90’s and right about that time a small company called Apple introduced at their annual Developer Conference software tools that would change the way we view photos online.

It certainly changed my experience where by searching for photos of Seattle, I stumbled upon something very interesting. A website of an photography enthusiast who decided to make it his hobby and later his career using this new technology for transforming ordinary photos into an online immersive experience. That experience was called QTVR.

What is QTVR?

The technology in question stands for QuickTime Virtual Reality. It was used to create VR panoramas or panoramic images which surround the viewer with an environment with a sense of place. QuickTime was and still is a file format for audio and video made by Apple and QTVR was just and extension of the format, a plugin for the standalone QuickTime Player or a QuickTime Web browser plugin.

That experience was on the user’s side, but developers got the software tools for creating these VR panoramas with images taken at multiple viewing angles. Of course, technology in general was a big thing back then and naturally people went crazy for it.

It gained national attention when NBC News adapted it to create panoramas of crime scenes during the murder trial of O. J. Simpson. Simon & Schuster’s CD-ROM, titled Star Trek: The Next Generation Interactive Technical Manual, was the first retail product to use QuickTime VR. Released in November, the Star Trek CD-ROM quickly sold more than 200,000 copies.

VR photographers used special panoramic cameras, special lenses, constructed camera, mounts, tripods, rotators, worried about exposure settings and all other technical details to make the stitching of the photos seamless. To make things more difficult, it was mostly still done on cameras with film, so it needed to be developed and scanned and only then would you know if the photographs were good enough to be stitched together. Now, of course, it’s much easier with digital cameras.

The original software tool from Apple was clunky and came with a pile of documentation. It had no interface, it was command line only. It took some time for these enthusiasts to build a workflow and start shooting faster and more efficiently. Again, now there are many tools available, both hardware and software and QTVR is just one format, with some of the others being Flash or Java based.

What is virtual about QTVR?

Speaking of the term VR (virtual reality), it is not really used in the proper sense in this case because these were mostly real places represented in such a way that it seems that you were immersed in that space. Also, QTVR was the first interactive panorama format, meaning that it wasn’t static. Links could be embedded inside the first VR panorama, like hot spots, which could be represented by a door or any other object in the picture, When clicked, they would lead to another VR panorama, or open a window to a web page. The VR panoramas could be zoomed in or out, rotated, etc. The level of detail depended on how many photographs were stitched together. It could have consisted of only a few or well into double digits.

A single panorama, or node is captured from a single point in space. Several nodes and object movies can be linked together to allow a viewer to move from one location to another. Such multi-node QuickTime VR movies are called scenes. Hot spots can be embedded into the panorama, which when selected can invoke some action, for example moving to another panorama node.


Let’s step back now and talk about what panoramas actually are and a little about their history starting with panoramic photography.

Also known as wide format photography, panoramas are as old as photography itself. People have tried to take a series of photographs by rotating the camera, leaving some overlap, and later finding the right spot to cut the photo and glue or stitch them together.

I remember my father doing that, rather unsuccessfully, with a simple camera with film. He would develop the photographs, and then go on to combine them using scissors and tape.

So, VR panoramas are just panoramic images which surround the viewer with a virtual environment creating a feeling of standing inside the place and looking out. The panoramas can be stitched together from several normal photos or fisheye images taken with a circular fisheye lens, or captured with specialized panoramic cameras, or rendered from 3D-modeled scenes.

VR panoramas can be either spherical (or cubic) or cylindrical. Spherical panoramas cover a full sphere-like environment which reaches a 180 degree vertical and 360 degree horizontal field of view. Cylindrical panoramas do not include the top and bottom, so its vertical field of view is less than 180 degree.

QTVR Examples

Virtual Tours

I remember at the time there were a lot of virtual guides to cities, museums and commercial places such as car dealerships. Virtual tours were also commonly used by universities and the real estate industry where they allowed users to click in maps or interactive floor plans and open a panorama of that space. Zooming in and out, clicking on hot spots in that space which leads to the next panorama is a true “virtual tour”. Virtual tours can include other multimedia elements such as sound or text.

A great service that can be considered a “virtual tour” is used to virtually “drive on city roads” and that service is integrated within Google Maps called Street View.


The original website is now closed but the enthusiast, I would describe him as an artist, Bradford Bohonus now has a new web site that features his life’s work up until now photographing Seattle, the city he lives in. I consider him an artist because the technology is not so widespread and is still considered a niche, so the work that he does is really unique, and he pushes the technology to the limits by creating experimental QTVR’s.

VR Magazine

Later research led me to a web site that featured a Magazine done with the same type of technology. The VR Mag. The Cover page was done as a QTVR movie with active links to articles. Articles open in a new window that is only a web page, but within the articles were other QTVR panoramas.

Another enthusiast Hans Nyberg is a commercial photographer in Denmark and his web site is a collection of QTVRs from around the world. He has this to say about the technology:

Interactive panoramas is a young media and as such it has for many years been known among enthusiastic photographers and multimedia creators. An interactive VR panorama can not be seen in a book or on a printed image. If you print the panorama it gets a completely different expression. You can only experience the feeling of being at the place and look around, on a computer. You can only distribute VR Panoramas by the Internet or on CD. No other media can give you the feeling of being at the place like VR photos. And the ultimate feeling comes when you view it in Fullscreen.

Full Screen QTVR

This site presents projects with QTVR fullscreen from various publishers.

Discover places you may never have seen by traveling through space and time, enhancing your cultural knowledge without moving from your desktop.

Easy Way to Make Panoramas

Now panoramas can even be done on an iPhone. I use the popular 360 app, but Microsoft has made an interesting app called Photosynth. What is interesting about both of these apps is that they use the integrated gyro chip inside the iPhone to know when and how you are turning or holding the iPhone in space to help with the stitching of the photos taken. They also lock in the exposure for a more seamless stitching.

Final Thoughts

What has always stuck with me as the ultimate experience is that moment captured in time at a certain place. It is much more immersive than regular photographs or panoramas. And, you can interact with them!

It’s a shame that the technology didn’t gain momentum. There is still hope, because more and more photo cameras now are able to auto-stitch panoramas and produce a QTVR file, or provide a simple software solution for stitching them after, so there is still hope that this interesting technology will catch on. Perhaps even with 3D making its reappearance, these two technologies could join.

By Damir Razumovic


QuickTime VR – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, viewed 5 October 2011,

Re: History of Quicktime VR, viewed 5 October 2011,

Re: History of Quicktime VR, viewed 5 October 2011,

QuickTime VR Authoring Software for Creating VR Panoramas and Objects, viewed 5 October 2011,

Panoramic photography – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, viewed 5 October 2011,

VR photography – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, viewed 5 October 2011,

Virtual tour – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, viewed 5 October 2011,

Bohonus VR Photography, Virtual Tours, 360 Panoramas, viewed 5 October 2011,

VRMag, viewed 5 October 2011,, viewed 5 October 2011,

Welcome to Fullscreen QTVR (Quicktime Virtual Reality), viewed 5 October 2011,

360 Panorama for iPhone, viewed 5 October 2011,

Photosynth for iPhone, viewed 5 October 2011,

The Sound of “Apocalypse Now”

Posted: October 10, 2011 by tiagopaulosuts in 2011, sound










The Project

Loosely based on Joseph Conrad’s novella The Heart of Darkness, Apocalypse Now told the story of Captain Willard’s (Martin Sheen) journey into the heart of the Cambodian jungle to find the rogue Colonel Kurz (Marlon Brando).  It was one of the first projects developed by American Zoetrope, the production company Coppola founded in 1969 with the objective of making films outside of the Hollywood studio system. However, at the time the film was impossible to make without the studio’s support, and they weren’t willing to invest in it, so Coppola had to wait until 1975, after the success of the Godfather films, to finally be able to turn Apocalypse Now into a reality.


The Production War

Even though the film’s pre-production began in 1975, and shooting started in March 1976, the film was only released in 1979. The making of Apocalypse Now was a convoluted and uncertain journey that drove the crew and especially the director, who had put up all his personal assets as collateral for the financing of the movie, to near insanity. Like Francis Ford Copolla says in the beginning of Hearts of Darkness, Elleanor Copolla’s documentary about the making of Apocalypse Now, “We had access to too much money, too much equipment, and little by little we went insane”, and “My film is not about Vietnam, it is Vietnam”. Making the film was a war in itself.


This war began in production. The movie took an uncannily long time to shoot, 238 days of principal photography spread over more than a year. At the time, it became known for being a never-ending production, fraught with disaster. During the shoot, which took place at the Philippines, there was a communist revolution going on in the southern part of the country; a typhoon destroyed most of the sets; Martin Sheen, the lead actor, had a heart attack; and  Marlon Brando almost refused to take up his role as Colonel Kurtz and was overweight when he finally appeared on set. Production of Apocalypse Now  ended on May 21, 1977. For the actors and production crew, that was the end of a lengthy and painful process, but for Francis Ford Coppola and his post production crew, a long, difficult road lay ahead.

The Post Production War

If the filming took more than a year, the post production took two. With around 200 hours of footage and a scarcity of sound material with which re-create the Vietnam war ambience, due to the production sound crew’s lack of time and resources, the daunting task of putting the film together was given to Coppola’s collaborator on The Godfather and The Conversation, Walter Murch.

Murch edited half of Apocalypse Now, but did the sound for the entire picture. He had started off his film career in sound, heavily influenced by Pierre Schaefer’s Musique Concrète and by Orson Welles’ radio and film work. From the beginning, he had worked with George Lucas and Coppola, and he was already well-known for his sound work on THX 1138, American Graffiti, The Godfather: Part II and The Conversation, having received an Oscar nomination for Best Sound for his work in the latter. However, his most innovative and visionary work surfaced with  Apocalypse Now, in no small part because of the challenges he and his crew had to face when creating the sound for the film.











Mixing for Surround

One of the greater challenges was preparing the film for a release in the Dolby Stereo 70mm Six Track system. Murch’s previous work in films like American Graffiti and The Conversation had all been in mono and this was the first time he would be using stereo. At the time, Murch didn’t like stereo. He liked mono and the purity associated with it and it was only due to Coppola’s insistence that the film ended up being mixed in stereo. Coming from a generation of filmmakers (the New Hollywood generation ) that was much more aware of the vital role sound could play in augmenting the depth and impact of a film, the director knew that Apocalypse Now’s  sound would be crucial in giving the movie the epic scope he was aiming for. Murch later agreed: “At the time I looked at the way the film was shot and thought to myself, ‘Does he [Coppola] really need to do this?’ because there was so much else going on. But when I looked at it later, with the big Panavision visuals, I realized that the sound-track we did was the thing to do.”

What Copolla was looking for to complement the visuals was quadraphonic sound, with speakers in all four corners of the theatre. Knowing that wouldn’t be appropriate for large theatres, Murch contacted Dolby to develop a stereo surround system with enhanced super low frequencies. That meant having three front channels (left, centre, right), a subwoofer for the low frequencies and two surround channels (left and right). Star Wars was the first movie to make use of extra low frequencies, with three screen channels and a surround channel, to better replicate the war in space, Close Encounters of the Third Kind was the first to add a dedicated subwoofer for the low frequencies, and Superman was the first to split the surround array into left and right, therefore the first movie presented to the public in stereo surround. However, Apocalypse Now  was the first announced film to have a stereo surround format and it was initially expected to be completed before Superman. More importantly, it was the first film to make particularly good artistic use of stereo surround.

To use stereo surround to its full potential, Murch and his team carefully planned how and when to use each of the six channels. It was crucial to determine what kind of sounds to place in the surrounds so that the audience would immerse themselves even further in the movie. The wrong kinds of sounds, such as dialogue, could actually work against the film by reminding the audience that they were in a movie theatre watching a movie. Murch was “terrified of misusing the palette”. Therefore, he created a master chart with graphs of all the six channels, so as to know when the film was supposed to be mono, stereo, or make use of the full surround.

The result was a very dynamic sound experience, with skillful manipulation of the density of sound, a film that was sometimes monophonic, sometimes stereo and sometimes stereo surround. Murch and his team “ thought of the surrounds as something that could be pulled over the theatre like a blanket, and then they could melt away like snow.” They made use of this concept frequently, like in the playboy bunny scene, where the sound begins only in the front, but then opens up to the surrounds so we can feel the full impact of the audience; or the famous Do Lung sequence, where the rock music sound gradually shifts from all the speakers to just the front centre speaker, and then disappears along with all the other sounds when “Roach” turns off the transistor radio.


Density and Psychadelic Sound and Music

This mastery of the density of sound was another of Murch’s great challenges in the film. It is a movie that really explores the contrast between sound and picture. Sometimes, complex visuals, where a lot is happening, have a very simple, minimalistic soundtrack, like the end of the Do Lung sequence or the very ending of the film, where all we hear is the radio and the rain. Other times, very simple visuals, like Willard’s boat wandering through the river mists, can have a very deep, complex soundtrack. On the other hand, in scenes like the one where Col. Kilgore (Robert Duvall) attacks the Vietcong village,  the soundtrack is as incredibly dense and vivid as the imagery.

Coppola was looking for a soundtrack that was faithful to the sounds of the Vietnam war. This meant that it had to be technically faithful to it, reproducing the weapons and equipment used in the period, but also faithful to the mood of the war, which Coppola saw as a drugs and rock n roll war, with a strong psychedelic dimension. The frequent use of helicopters throughout the film serves both purposes.

The helicopter sounds were recorded at a Coast Guard station in Washington. Sometimes, they are used in a realistic way, almost as they were recorded, like during the attack on the Vietcong village. Other times, they are given a more psychic dimension, like the synthesized helicopters in the beginning of the film, where they gradually meld with the sound of the fan in Willard’s room, and they are more a projection of Willard’s mind, a sound in his head, his point of view. The use of stereo surround was ideal for the helicopters, and made their sound even more unique and spectacular, because they hover around in circles, so their movement perfectly fit the placement of the speakers in the theatre.

The helicopter rotors are sometimes also pitched to the music. The melding of sound and music is another of the innovative and challenging aspects of the film. Many of the more realistic sounds were deconstructed on synthesizers and meshed with the music to give the film an even more hallucinatory dimension. In the temple sequence at the end, the winds turning into a chorus are a perfect example of this. Murch worked closely with the music department to achieve this perfect cohesion between music and sound.


The Legacy: Sound Design and 5.1

Murch’s sound work in Apocalypse Now earned him an Oscar for Best Sound, and perhaps even more importantly, it established the term Sound Designer. Murch coined the term when was trying to define exactly what he had done in terms of sound in the film. Because he had had to design the sound for Stereo Surround, he had thought of the sound in a different, three-dimensional perspective, and he had had to create a master chart with graphs to plan precisely where and when the sounds where coming from in the different scenes of the movie. This meticulous planning made him think of a decorator’s work: “…if an interior designer can go into an architectural space and decorate it interestingly, that’s sort of what I am doing in the theater. I’m taking the three-dimensional space of the theater and decorating it with sound.” The term Sound Designer is commonly used to this day to describe the person in charge of all aspects of a film’s audio track, from the dialogue and sound effects recording to the final mix.

Apocalypse Now’s Dolby Stereo 70mm Six Track system, the Stereo Surround, was also the precursor to today’s Dolby Digital 5.1. Ioan Allen, vice-president of Dolby, calls Apocalypse Now “the grandfather of 5.1”. The film was a perfect example of how filmmakers and sound designers could use the new system to elevate cinema sound to a whole new level.



COPPOLA, FF. 1979, Apocalypse Now, Zoetrope Studios, DVD, Paramount, 2001

COPPOLA, FF. 1979, Apocalypse Now Redux, Zoetrope Studios, DVD, Lusomundo, 2002

COPPOLA, E. 1991, Hearts of Darkness, Zoetrope Studios, DVD, Paramount, 2007

HOLMAN, T, 2008, Surround Sound: Up and Running, Focal Press

MURCH, W, 1998, “Touch of Silence”, in Soundscape: The School of Sound Lectures 1998-2001, Wallflower Press, pp. 83-102

MURCH, W, and JARRED, M, Sound Doctrine: An Interview with Walter Murch, Film Quarterly, Vol. 53, No. 3 (Spring, 2000), pp. 2-11

MURCH, W, and HILTON, K, The Sound film Man,, viewed 2 of October 2011

MURCH, W, and SRAGOW, M, 2000, The sound of Vietnam,, viewed 2 of October 2011

WALTER MURCH, Internet Movie Database, viewed 2 October 2011

APOCALYPSE NOW, Internet Movie Database, viewed 2 October 2011

FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA, Internet Movie Database, viewed 2 October 2011

HEARTS OF DARKNESS, Internet Movie Database, viewed 2 October 2011


The vinyl: along its road by Claire Coriat

Posted: October 8, 2011 by klaire1990 in 2011


The vinyl. The vinyl alludes to images. Images of a black circle. A black circle that turns and turns. Turns and produces this typical sound. This loved typical sound, not digital. Little Amélie Poulain wanted vinyls to be made as crepes. Delicious crepes. Delicious sound. Who said that vinyls were dead? We want more! We’re still hungry!

Invention and technology

The invention and the evolution of the commonly known “vinyl” can’t be explained without coming back to the second half of the nineteenth century. In 1877 Thomas Alva Edison created a sound device, the phonograph. This object was particularly innovative not because of its ability to record sounds but because it could also and overall reproduce them. This was totally new, none of the previous devices allowed that, not even the French one, the phonautograph. The mechanism worked the following way: the voice created a vibration that was received by the diaphragm of the device and then transmitted to the stylus which marked the vibration into the foil. When the stylus was put again at the beginning and the cylinder started to turn, the sound could be heard.

The support was originally foil paper but some years later, for technique improvement as well as commercial reasons, Edison developed the hollow wax cylinder as a new recorder support. While Edison was working on his phonograph, another inventor, Emile Berliner patented his gramophone, which, as Edison’s work, also allowed both the recording and reproduction of the sound. But while Edison’s purpose for his device was to create individual and single records, Berliner had commercial aspirations and wanted to produce a lot of copies of a same product. For this intention he developed a disc of zinc that finally was made of shellac for better use.


At this point, the longest record you could achieve in a 78s disc was not more than four minutes. Just time enough to listen to a song…or maybe not. In the first half of the twentieth century classical music was one of the most popular kind of music, and there’s no need to remind that a piece of classical music has a longer duration than the recording capacity of the discs. But then, on June 18th of 1948, Columbia Pictures presented its new and revolutionary creation: the LP. In order to emphasized the impact of their new proposal, the president of the company, Edward Wallerstein, started playing a 78s. It was a classical music piece and after four minutes the music stopped, as everyone expected. He then took an LP and placed the needle on. The same symphony, during the four first minutes nothing strange, but then something happened: the music didn’t stop! The audience could listen to the masterpiece during twenty-two and a half minutes. This was such a revolution that during a few moments after the ending of the music the public could barely speak or applause or does anything else. After this momentary silence, innumerable questions and doubts started. How did that happened? In what did the technique consist to obtain such a result? What was the magical change? First of all, and now comes this famous designation for LPs discs as “vinyls”, this new device was made of a different material, of vinyl. This was more flexible than the shellac and “unbreakable”. The vinyl material offered the possibility to increase the number of grooves per inch and as a result to slow down the speed of play. The Colombia’s disc was a 331/3  r.p.m record, and it was 12 inches large. During the presentation the audience could also observe that the quality was improved and that the contact between the needle and the disc was nearly quiet. Another positive point of the new vinyl record was that in comparison to the shellac disc it was so much lighter and so much durable. Indeed, the 78s was quite fragile and breakable. The vinyl as we said was kind of resistant but its quality could go down if the consumer touched it too much. “Try not to scratch the surface of the LP” seems to say Travis Elborough’s mother at the beginning of his book The Vinyl Count down (2009).

The vinyl’s expansion

As we are more interested in this essay to see and understand the revival of the vinyl we are not going to expand a lot this section, just a few points.

A year later after the launch of the 331/3 r.p.m microgroove LP Columbia’s rival, RCA Victor, proposed the 45 r.p.m which was nearly half size of the Columbia’s disc (seven-inch against twelve-inch). It was the favourite for pop records but the two of them managed to coexist. Although, Columbia quickly launched a 331/3 r.p.m of seven inches large.

It is interesting to speak briefly about two situations that happened during the first few years of the LPs. Let’s mention jazz first. With the 78s that only allowed four minutes of record, the preparation of a piece of music was a need, and very rigid. With the LP the musicians had time to improvise, to really play this music of freedom. As Sartre said jazz music speaks to “the best part of you, the most unfeeling and most free”.

Also during the fifties, the comedy genre continued to expand, but television and radios didn’t allow all types of humour, that is they didn’t permit humour that could go a bit against both their own interest or that of their advertisers. LPs were so immediately seen as an alternative to diffuse satirical and humoristic messages that were kind of censured in the media.

The vinyl continued during some decades its progression; it had been the record support of all the best considered artists of the second half of the twentieth century, and from all backgrounds and styles: The Rolling Stones, Benny Goodman, The Doors, Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Beach Boys, or Eric Clapton.

(Riders on the Storm, The Doors 1971)

We can also add that the development of the vinyl had been helped by the increasing emergence of musical magazines like the still famous Rolling Stones, which started selling in 1967.

The decline

If 1978 was an extraordinary year (with hits such as Saturday night fever or Grease), for a lot of companies in the industry 1979 was a complete disaster: “in the States, sales of LPs fell by fifth” (Travis Elborough, 2009). It is known that 1979 was the year of the worldwide second fuel crisis and that it affected the economy of different countries and of their citizens; but this was not maybe the main reason of the drop of sales of LPs. There was another reason, and it was technological one that was going to become a main rival.  Indeed, if before the young audience spend her savings in buying LPs, now they were attracted also by the gaming consoles and video recorders, as Travis Elborough says in his book. Also another technology came out, and it was crucial: the possibility to have your music with you wherever you were, was now possible. Sony was the company that opened this market proposing in 1979 its walkman, a portable cassette, in Japan; it was a complete success, even above the expectations. In the US they introduced this device firstly with the name of “Soundabout” but from the moment they decided to switch to “walkman” the sales increased a lot and it became so popular that “by 1981,  “Walkman” was already listed in the French dictionary Le petit Larousse” (Travis Elborough, 2009).  The walkman also introduced a complete private music, that only your ears could listen too in that moment: “The walkman enable its user to take music wherever they go and exclude the external world and other human beings” (Michael Chanan, 1995). As we are speaking about the walkman we can mentioned that another factor that pulled the consumer to the walkman maybe was that the cassette, before more expensive than an LP, was now much cheaper. Furthermore during the seventies a “new” musical movement started to take importance and presence in this panorama: hip-hop and rap that represented a protest against the lack of resources of districts like Harlem or the Bronx. This music wasn’t firstly recorded on LPs, no. This music was on cassettes, because in the moment of its emergence it wasn’t considered maybe as worthy music. But when some companies saw the commercial potential of this music, rap started to be on vinyls (a rap disc was even one of the best sales of a company, REO). Even though this kind of music continued to be more on cassettes than on vinyls, because it was also easiest to home-self records. The vinyl was more reserved to DJs by cultural practice. It is interesting to notice that from the early eighties the LP started to disappear in the east world; in the west because of rock, pop and DJ’s music it survived more time.

During the seventies already a word echoed: digital. The command of the binary code permitted the capture of sound in its digital form in micro-processing chips support.  The main difference between analogue (cassettes or vinyls are analogue for example) and digital is that there’s a physical trace in analogue devices (a groove in the vinyl simulating a wave) while in a digital one like the CD it’s only numerical information.

Sony and Philips worked together to carry out the new device, which was going to be the compact disc, or in other terms the CD. In 1979 they realized a first sample of the possibilities of the CD and in 1983 it was in the Japanese stores. But as it coincided with a bad year for the record industry it hadn’t been sold very well. One year late it appeared in European and US markets; 1984 was a year of raise for the global economy (omitting the case of the English miners under Thatcher’s government) and it achieved better results than in Japan one year before. Even though the CD has been especially designed for classical music listening (because of its suppose better quality of sound compare to other devices) the first produced one was an Abba’s album (The visitors) and so it went on, all genres were put on CD (and classical music one of the most). Another improvement of the CD in comparison to the LP was that it offered a larger dynamic range: 96 decibels for the CD against 70 in the vinyl (Travis Elborough, 2009). Because of the effect of a better sound and a strategic campaign all around it (re-issue and added bonus like new songs) a lot of consumers had been buying the CD version of an album they’d already had at home, even though in the beginning of the compact disc its price was the double of a vinyl. The industry message to the audience was quite easy, as Roy Sucker says in Wax trash and vinyl treasures (2010), “CDs [improve] fidelity while requiring less maintenance”.  Indeed with the arrival of the CDs and of the future “multi-tasking” generation the “vinyl practice” (that is admire the cover, taking off and put the LP in the record-player carefully, place the needle, etc.) was bit by bit abandoned because the CDs were more easy and faster to use.

It’s alive! Hey guys! Vinyl is alive!

At the end of the eighties, the vinyl was a dead format for a lot of people, definitely dead. But surprisingly, in the middle of the nineties, the vinyl started its come-back: “In the US market, the number of vinyls albums sold nearly doubled to 2.2 millions in 1995” (Roy Shuker, 2010). There are many reasons for this return at the forefront. During the nineties and the twenty-first century the development of the mp3 and its success especially within the young audience has undermined CD’s popularity. Furthermore, the platforms of downloading (like Limewire, Emule), websites as YouTube, or streaming applications as Spotify have increased this attitude, and the one turned to free and illegal consumption of artistic products. But, in fact, not of all the products. Indeed we can observe a come-back to “the true sound” we could say; the consumer is tempted to listen again to the real music and its particular texture: the vinyl sound is richer. In addition, an LP was no just music, it was also visual art: the covers of vinyls were part of the charm of this device, some of them were considered as art with a big A. If we compare with the covers of CDs, they had never had this visual attraction for the consumer as Travis Elborough mentions. “You just can’t get the same image, or feeling, on a CD package” says a collector in a quote in George Plasketes’s book Romancing the record: The Vinyl De-Evolution and Subcultural Evolution. Also, in relation to what we just said, there’s a kind of nostalgic feeling in the air: “People come back for what they grew up with. […] You see their faces light up and they say, ‘Go, I can’t believe I found this’” said Jim Richardson.

Another reason, and it’s in relation with the illegal downloading, there’s an abuse of copyright because of the digital easiness: it is so much easier to do a perfect copy of a digital product using digital technology than of a vinyl with the technology of this period. So the use of vinyl from some artists for their albums it’s, in addition to the love of LP’s sound, a claim illegal copies.

Can vinyls interact?

It is important to try to discuss the possible interactive aspect of the vinyl. Two situations can be mentioned.

Internet is the archetypal interactive medium. People communicate through it, people share, people explore, people exchange. And there’s no exception, not even for vinyls. By now, LP’s record-plays can be connected to the computer and so its content can be passed into it. Using some kind of software you convert your songs into mp3. Is it not maybe a real interaction but the “consumer” can modify, alter its content: as a song is converted into mp3 it can be modified by the use of audio-edition programs, or sent to another person so they become the subject of a interaction between two people.

The second circumstance where we can relate vinyls and interaction is when we are speaking about DJs. Indeed DJs used vinyls to mix; they also alter and combine them in order to create their own personal sound. Although, the vinyls are kind of the link between the DJ and its public during parties.



We cannot speak about vinyl’s revival without speaking about collecting.

Since the moment Edison invented his phonograph, Record collectors appeared even if they really started to be a big group by the forties. There were mostly 78 discs collectors, but the cylinders were also wanted objects. As every collector, record collectors have in themselves the shiver of the chase of the rarity, the desire to have more and more and complete “categories”, and an implication on keeping safe our culture from time pass. This collecting practice was beneficiated by the emergence during the same period of places related to music: record clubs and societies, sites of acquisition (shops specialized now on in music, second hand market…), music press (The Gramophone for example). After the arrival of the 33 and 45 rpm, the 78s disappeared on its “normal” use but found a royal second life into the hands of the collectors. With the passage of time the interest in this “old disc” and in its record-player (the gramophone) has even increased. In the beginning of the record collection “history”, the collectors were massively persons who lived the 78s era but from the late sixties, seventies a new generation get fond of the 78s. In a survey done in 1980 we can appreciate their importance within the 78s collectors: in the US 32 per cent of the collectors “were not old enough to remember the 78 era” (Roy Shuker, 2010). These young collectors musical are attracted by the authenticity and by kind of nostalgic flavour brought by the 78s. The same scenario is happening nowadays with vinyls as we had explained above. As Roy Shuker says, vinyls are treasures.

Claire Coriat


Roy, Shuker. 2010, Wax trashes and vinyls treasures: Record collecting as a social practice, Ashgate, Burlington.

Elborough, Travis. 2009, The vinyl countdown: the album from LP to iPod and back again, Soft Skull Press, Brooklyn.

Chanan, Michael. 1995, Repeated takes : a short history of recording and its effects on music, Verso, London-NY.

Plasketes, G., Romancing the record: The Vinyl De-Evolution and Subcultural Evolution, viewed 17 September 2011, <;

Gronow, P. Saunio, I. 1998, , An International history of the recording industry, viewed 17 September 2011, <;

Millard, A.J. 2005, , America on record: a history of recorded sound, viewed 17 September 2011, <;

Demets, J. 2009, , Le marché du vinyl, un sillon à creuser?, viewed 17 September 2011, <;

Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir by Ruth Ostrow

Posted: October 6, 2011 by utsassignments in 2011, Uncategorized

“We are strangers that have come together to meet a common goal and have done so from the comfort of living and dorm, and even bathrooms, stretched out from sea to sea to sea.”

Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir

“For anyone who wants to believe in the possibilities of a connected world, here is your anthem” Chris Anderson, TED Talk Curator

 “You probably haven’t seen anything quite like it before.  It’s stunning”  Mashabal [6]


Eric Whitacre

Eric Whitacre wanted to be a pop star. “I dreamed of it, and that’s all I dreamed of.”  This was in the late 80s growing up in this little farming town in northern Nevada.

At university, with no pop star mentors in sight, he reluctantly joined the geeks in the choir only due to rumours of cute girls. He was sitting at his first choral get-together, bored stupid. when suddenly the conductor gave the downbeat and they launched into the Kyrie from the “Requiem” by Mozart.

“In my entire life I had seen in black and white, and suddenly everything was in shocking Technicolor. The most transformative experience I’ve ever had — in that single moment, hearing dissonance and harmony and people singing, people together, the shared vision. And I felt for the first time in my life that I was part of something bigger than myself!” he told a packed audience at Ted Talks [1]

The story that followed was that of a man who had found his calling. He was driven to then do a Master’s degree at Juilliard. And went on become one of the most famous and popular classical composers and conductors in the world today, with recent commissions including works for the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus the Philharmonic Orchestra, and a Visiting Fellow and Composer in Residence at Cambridge University. [9]

Already at the pinnacle of a brilliant career, life changed for him dramatically one day. A friend emailed him a link to a YouTube video. It was a young woman who had posted a fan video singing the soprano line to his piece called “Sleep.”

“Hi Mr. Eric Whitacre. My name is Britlin Losee, and this is a video that I’d like to make for you. Here’s me singing “Sleep.” I’m a little nervous, just to let you know. ♫ If there are noises ♫ ♫ in the night ♫

He was “thunderstruck”. He says: “I had this idea. If I could get 50 people to all do this same thing, sing their parts — soprano, alto, tenor and bass — wherever they were in the world, post their videos to YouTube, we could cut it all together and create a virtual choir.  Whitacre used social media — his blog, a Facebook page and YouTube — to assemble and audition singers for his piece. He sent the sheet music out so people could submit videos featuring them singing individual parts. He chose a work he’d written in in 2000 called “Lux Aurumque”, [11] which means “light and gold.”

And during the process a fan emerged, Scott Haines, who volunteered to sift through the videos, and edit the audio parts together to form a professional-sounding choir.

Out of this Eric created the first Virtual Choir in 2010, which saw 185 singers from 12 different countries record and post on YouTube the soprano, alto, tenor, and bass parts. The video shows a large stage with faces on computer screens next to and underneath each other, all along the podium; and him conducting the virtual singers. There are close ups of different people staring, uninhibited, into the camera as they sing blissfully in their private domain. Which is magically transformed into a public domain. It touched people’s hearts and yearnings for connection with strangers – something that is now possible through the new social mediums. The video went viral and received over 1 million hits in the first two months of its release.



The reason Whitacre had become a classic choir conductor was, he says, the love of the interactivity. He loved the interaction of people coming together but also the interaction of sounds: the cacophony which can fill a spacial zone with harmonics and discordance [2]. This is why he was so drawn to choral music.

So what does choir mean? Historically it’s a body of singers who perform together as a group led by a conductor or choirmaster. Most often choirs consist of four sections intended to sing in four part harmony, but there’s no limit to the number of possible parts such as a classic 40-part motet entitled Spem in alium, for eight choirs of five parts each; and now Eric Whitacer’s phenomenal 2000 voices using the power of numbers to capitalise on harmonics and discordance.

The most common form of choir brings together the voices of men and women singing soprano, alto, tenor and bass SATB. The choir can sing without accompaniment i.e. Acapella or with instrument [4] There are all sorts of choirs – such as church choirs and performance choirs [5]. My favourite is Gospel choir music. I was recently lucky enough to be invited into a Baptist gospel church in New Orleans and witnessed 1000 people singing in ecstasy whilst dancing in rhythm. Gospel choir singing formed the basis of R&B and Soul which why it’s so close to my heart.

Choir dates back to Greek times, but the earliest notated music of western Europe is Gregorian Chant. During the Renaissance, sacred choral music was the principal type of formally-notated music in Western Europe [3]. Choir remained popular over the centuries but choral music underwent a period of great change and experimentation during the 20th Century with the arrival of atonality and other non-traditional harmonic systems and techniques as represented in the works of Arnold Schoenberg [10] who changed things forever

At the end of the 20th century singer Bob Geldof made choir popularist when he gathered famous singers to sing Feed the Worldin a choral format. And the 21 century has already brought many new and exciting trends in choir because of remixing and sampling. Multi-cultural influences are found Golijov’s St. Mark Passion, which melds the Bach-style passion form with Latin American street music. [4] And now introducing a totally new form of choir by Whitacre – utilising new technology and new media to create the joy and togetherness and interactivity that only the digital era can bring.


But choir is not the only influence on Eric Whitacre’s work. There was one who trod before him. Not in the same way. But nevertheless utilizing social mediums like YouTube to create an original composition.

You can’t even begin to imagine how awesome this is. Nothing I can write here will do it justice. Mashable [7]

In 2009 Israeli musician, Kutiman, ( [8] took hundreds of YouTube samples – often non-musical ones – and turned them into an album that Mashable described as “So awesome on so many levels that it left reviewers stunned…it’s amazing to see all those unrelated YouTube bits and pieces fit together so perfectly.”[7]

Watching Kutiman’s work is uplifting. In a nutshell he has taken the best pieces –chords, voices, jam sessions, from YouTube-posted performances by the likes of Miles Davis; Jimi Hendrix to any Joe Blow sitting at home banging out a song. Kutiman, whose self-titled debut received high praise from sites such as Pitchfork Magazine, proves that any sound can be music if you know what to do with it.

Says Mashable

Welcome to the future of music.

But Kutiman never recorded original material himself… and so back to the extraordinary story of Eric Whitacre and where the story is now.


On receiving his final cut of his first virtual hit Eric was moved to tears by the poetry of  “These souls all on their own desert island, sending electronic messages in bottles to each other.” And decided to do it all over again bigger and better. So back on to social media he went.

His blog:

Here we go, gang. For the next version of the Virtual Choir we will sing Sleep, and this time around, we’re shooting for the Guinness title of “world’s largest internet choir.” All of you are invited. Any age is welcome.

Please visit the official YouTube page to see the instruction videos and the conductor track, and visit the Virtual Choir page to download the sheet music.

Let’s make history!

The final tally was 2,051 videos from 58 different countries. From Malta, Madagascar, Thailand, Vietnam, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, as far north as Alaska and as far south as New Zealand. Again the video was a massive hit, around the world. The visuals are simply magnificent. Eric in the middle of a vast universe of stars conducts his choirs. The choir consists of individual YouTube videos, superimposed on planets, and all planets are tied to each other with golden threads. It has to be seen and listened to with the volume up high to appreciate what has been achieved. Enough to get him the only ever full-standing ovation at prestigious Ted Talks.

Utilising social media, he and his team posted a page on Facebook for the singers to upload their testimonials, what it was like for them, their experience singing it. One woman summed it up

“It is a dream come true to be part of this choir, as I’ve never been part of one. When I placed a marker on the Google Earth Map, I had to go with the nearest city, which is about 400 miles away from where I live. As I am in the Great Alaskan Bush, satellite is my connection to the world.”[9]

This quote captures in a few words the incredible power of digital media!


  1. Eric Whitacre, Ted Talks 2011, April 2011, accessed, 19 Aug 2011, <;
  2. Daugherty, J. Spacing, Formation, and Choral Sound: Preferences and Perceptions of Auditors and Choristers. Journal of Research in Music Education. Vol. 47, Num. 3. 1999.
  3. Joseph Jordania. 2011. Why do People Sing? Music in Human Evolution. Logos
  4. Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911) Choir, Encyclopedia Britannica  (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  5. Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911) Chorus, Encyclopedia Britannica(11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  6. Samuel Axon, March 24, 2010, Eric Whitacre Virtual Choir, Mashable, accessed 20 Sept 2011,
  7. March 11, 2009 Music for the YouTube Generation, accessed 23 Sept 2011, <;
  8. Kutiman, 2009, Thru-You, accessed, 16 Sept 2011,
  9. Eric Whitacre, Virtual Choir, accessed, 23 Sept 2011, <;
  10. Library Think Quest Organisation, accessed, 24 Sept 2011, <;
  11. Phillip Cooke, Lux Aurumque, accessed, 24 Sept 2011,
  12. Supportive reading
  13. Essential Musicianship Series: Essential Elements Choir from Emily Crocker, & John Leavitt, (eds) 2011, Oxford Press, England.
  14. Voice Cast: The Distribution of the Voice via Podcast  from Neumark, N. Gibson, R. & Van Leeuwen, T. (eds), 2010, Vocal Aesthetics in Digital Arts and Media, MIT Press, Cambridge MA.
  15. Quantum Improvisation from Miller, P. 2008, Sound Unbound: Sampling Digital Music and Culture, MIT Press, Cambridge MA
  16. New media & new technologies; from Lister, M. 2003. New Media: A Critical Introduction, Routledge, London.