UC San Diego's Department of Music

September 01, 2009

  Reviewing the May 7 opening concert in the Conrad Prebys Concert Hall, San Diego Union-Tribune music critic George Varga proclaimed the hall "dazzling" and pronounced it one of the finest in the world.

In a 12-minute trailer for the upcoming documentary video "Sculpting Sound," world-renowned acoustician Cyril Harris and architect Mark Reddington of LMN Architects explain the five-year design process behind UCSD's superb 400-seat venue.

Harris, who is 92 years old, tells his interviewer that the new hall is his "swan song," the final project in a career that began with his acclaimed acoustical design for the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. Harris says there are two sonic phenomena that must be precisely engineered: diffusion and reverberation. He explains how he and Reddington began collaborating nearly fifteen years ago, when they designed Seattle's acclaimed Benaroya Hall.

Reddington describes a demanding design process that required hundreds of hours and several computer-cut models of the hall before he and Harris arrived at the ideal merger of architecture and acoustics. And, the architect says, he was so overwhelmed when he first heard live music in the new hall that he cried.

"Sculpting Sound" also includes interviews with renowned UCSD composers and performers such as Rand Steiger, Charles Curtis, and Susan Narucki, who share first impressions of the new hall and talk about what it feels like to experience music in such a refined acoustical environment.

The video was co-directed by Alex Juutilainen and Dirk Sutro, shot primarily in broadcast quality high-definition video by Michael Gerdes.

Juutilainen and Gerdes previously worked together on a documentary about the film critic and artist Manny Farber. Sutro initiated the "Sculpting Sound" project in the fall of 2007, when he took his camcorder to New York City to interview Harris in the highrise modernist apartment where the acoustician has lived for many years.

A highlight of "Sculpting Sound" comes when Harris pulls the cord to fire a yacht-racing cannon as part of the acoustical testing process.

In the months ahead, Juutilainen and Sutro plan to complete "Sculpting Sound" as a full-length documentary including additional interviews and video of some of the world's other great concert halls.

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