DESIGN GUIDE: MUSIC AND DRAMA CENTERS
C H A P T E R 3: ACCESSORY EQUIPMENT
as much as operationally; the pit is more than
should be carefully selected. They should be
a convenient place to tuck the orchestra out of
firm, "four-square" in stability, broad rather than
the way. For dance or musical drama, the pit
contoured, a n d o f u n i t i z e d s q u e a k l e s s
substitutes for the enclosure needed by musi-
cians to hear themselves. It also serves to blend
and subdue musical accompaniment relative to
2. Enclosures and Shells
voice on stage.
These function to condense spherical wave ra-
diation and direct it toward the audience and into
Pit musicianship is a specialized art requiring
the house volume. In a Room without a shell
experience and precision (so does stage sing-
(Thrust or Surround) vocal sound emerges with
ing). If a less experienced group is involved, the
a 5db drop to the side and 10db to the rear. A
pit treatment can help by introducing absorption
10db drop means the sound seems half as loud.
to reduce sound levels and allow for electronic
amplification. Consider two examples of all-mu-
An enclosure is built into the Room permanently.
sic presentation-chorus and orchestra.
However, some degree of adjustability is usually
incorporated in the enclosure itself, including
moveable panels, additive reflective compo-
nents or absorptive elements. These enable the
The chorus is compactly arranged on risers for
enclosure to be "tuned" to varying music group
geometric reinforcement, maximum projec-
sizes, instrumental makeups, and desired sec-
tion, and ability to hear each other in circum-
tional balance, though its effect is probably most
stances that reflect maximum energy into the
noticeable in smaller Rooms and recital halls.
house. In this case, the orchestra is often lo-
For large Rooms, adjustment is mainly for the
cated in a recessed pit, contributing reverber-
benefit of the musicians.
ant tones without interfering with articulation
of voices in the direct sound field. Rooms have
The shell may be more easily understood to be
often been designed primarily for chorus or
"equipment" since it is demountable. It is nec-
orchestra with no pit, due to the misconception
essary for a multi-purpose Room with stage-
that a pit is a drama accessory.
house. The shell can be wholly or partially dis-
assembled for storage off stage if there is no
flyloft. The decision to have a shell, its design
Arrangement of musicians on stage should be
and placement, depends very much on the vol-
at the conductor's option. Some orchestras
ume and shape of the Room, and all the uses to
prefer to set up on the flat, others on risers.
which it will be put.
Smaller groups and contemporary material
may benefit in particular from steep riser ar-
Shell design requires expertise. If a shell is to be
rangements or careful location horizontally;
used intermittently, lightweight highly portable
many halls have developed "`soloist points".
construction is needed. Lightweight, however,
Finally, recall that musical instruments exhibit
means less low-frequency energy is reflected.
handedness, especially those with resonant
This is typical of the flown shell, which may have
chambers and sounding boards (violins and
self-supporting wall panels. If a shell will remain
pianos) that may dictate a proper orientation
in place for some time, a more substantial bolt-
to the listeners. Brass instruments are highly
together articulated panel system is common.
directional; the musician may have difficulty
The ceiling should be 20-25 feet above the mu-
assessing the intensity of his efforts perceived
sicians, and in large Rooms, may extend into a
by others. All of these are conditions tempered
by position and arrangement.
Among the devices to have on hand is a good
Hard, dense surfaces of varying sizes reflect
assortment of portable riser platforms stored
varying wave lengths. Convex and irregular sur-
convenient to the stage. The most commonly
used arrangements may be fitted to the stage,
but should be modifiable by reassembly as need
rous surfaces absorb high frequencies. Dense
arises. A 4' x 6' folding unit is a practical large
hangings and pliant material (such as people)
size, with interchangeable legs in 8" increments.
absorb midfrequencies. Large resiliently mounted
Normally, 36"-40" tiers are wide enough for
surfaces with cavities behind them absorb low
seated musicians and singers, while 24" widths
are better for standing chorus. Musicians' chairs