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Meyer Sound a Natural Fit for Gehry-Designed Bard Performance Center

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"...adding a sound system was a challenge, because you did not want to take away from the natural acoustics. Meyer's CQ series speakers proved to be just the right choice."

- Bruce Manning,
SPL Integrated Solutions

Set in the verdant countryside of New York's Hudson River Valley, Bard College is a small, liberal arts institution long known for its commitment to the performing arts. So when the school decided to create a new performance venue for both students and visiting artists, it set its sights high, commissioning world-renowned architect Frank Gehry to design a 107,612 square-foot state-of-the-art space for music, theater, and dance. Outside, Gehry's flair for the dramatic is evident in the building's shimmering planes of polished steel. Inside, acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota's treatment brings out the sonic character of both orchestral and chamber ensembles, while self-powered loudspeakers from Meyer Sound complement the acoustics with clear, natural reinforcement.

The centerpiece of the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts is the Sosnoff Theater, seating 900 in the orchestra and two balcony sections. A movable concert shell optimizes the hall for either chamber or symphonic music, while a forestage lift allows an orchestra pit for opera or an expanded stage for drama and dance. Theater Two, meanwhile, has a smaller orchestra pit, traps, a modified fly tower, and seating for up to 200. The Center also includes rehearsal spaces, studios, and classrooms for use by both professional productions and Bard's drama and dance departments.

"Both theaters are treated with Douglas Fir and concrete," says Bruce Manning who managed the installation for SPL Integrated Solutions of Mt. Vernon, N.Y. "So you might think it would be an acoustical nightmare. Actually, the rooms sound spectacular without sound reinforcement. So adding a sound system was a challenge, because you did not want to take away from the natural acoustics. Meyer's CQ series speakers proved to be just the right choice."

Manning says that "coverage and tonal quality drove the choice" of Meyer Sound loudspeakers, which were selected by system designer Jeff Bamford of Engineering Harmonics in Toronto. "It was a question of audibility at both low and high sound levels," Manning continues. "The center has a lot of 'black tie' performances, and the sound systems cannot be harsh and obtrusive. Meyer CQs have the subtleties that were required. Everything from Elvis Costello to the American Symphony can be reinforced with the highest regard for the sound."

The Sosnoff Theater utilizes two main clusters, each of which consists of two CQ-2 narrow coverage main loudspeakers and two CQ-1 wide coverage main loudspeakers. "The top tier is long-throw for the balconies," Manning says, "below which is short-throw tight-coverage for the orchestra. The portable deck speakers are also CQ-1s, used for near-throw side orchestra if required."

While the audio portion of the system went in easily, Manning says, "the challenge was to completely hide the main speaker clusters when not in use. The designer of the theatrical mechanicals, John Tissot of Theatrical Projects, created a faux ceiling cloud that mechanically moves, with the speakers rising above the cloud structure. The tricky part was rigging it so the clusters fly away through a narrow opening time after time. So far, there haven't been any maintenance issues that I know of."

Theater Two uses a more modest configuration befitting its intimate proportions. "For mains, there is one CQ-1 flown from the catwalks on each side," Manning says, "with UPA-1P (compact wide-coverage) loudspeakers as delay speakers and UPM-1P (ultra-compact wide-coverage) loudspeakers to compliment those."

Asked how the systems sound in the two halls, Manning offers "transparent" as the consensus description. "The idea," he says, "is to use the system as it was intended — as reinforcement — and let the space talk for itself."

July, 2004

FEATURED PRODUCTS

CQ-1

CQ-2

UPA-1P

UPM-1P

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