Acoustic conditions in orchestra pits: are metadiffusers a potential solution?

Conference item


Dance, S, Ballestero, E, Shearer, D and Aygün, H (2018). Acoustic conditions in orchestra pits: are metadiffusers a potential solution? Auditorium Acoustics 2018. Hamburg, Germany 04 - 06 Oct 2018
AuthorsDance, S, Ballestero, E, Shearer, D and Aygün, H
Abstract

Rising concerns about public health and safety have progressively induced a change in control of noise regulations, specifically on those applicable to the work environment. These directives have been developed to protect employees from harmful side effects of their working conditions, firstly targeting high noise levels generated by heavy machinery in industry. Nowadays, noise control regulations are widely effective and applicable to nearly all working environments, including institutions dedicated to the arts, such as opera houses. To the latter, directives on noise control are of major concern as opera performances tend to generate very high sound levels, especially in the area of the orchestra pit – the sunken space between stage and audience. In such context, management faces a difficult task conforming to noise regulations as they must balance the sometimes competing demands to (i) dutifully protect their employees – musicians and others – from any harmful ‘sounds’ or ‘noise’ that might be generated, and (ii) deliver world-class operatic art for the public, where noise regulations might compromise the culture of the art form. ‘Sound’ and ‘noise’ are two terms of intense interest when dealing with control of noise regulations in the entertainment sector. Indeed, noise is generally described as ‘unwanted’ sound, judged as unpleasant, whereas music is considered most of the time as a ‘desirable’ and pleasant sound; leading to a debate on the pertinence of noise regulations within the musical arts. Such debate has recently been discussed in the High Court in London, where the court favoured an orchestral viola player who claimed to have suffered noise induced hearing loss during a rehearsal of Wagner's Valkyrie1; the major argument being that the opera house exceeded industry-wide standards on noise control, viz. daily LAE > 85 dBA. Such a case has no precedent in UK history, raising concerns for other opera houses and music spaces on how to enforce noise regulations without affecting the performances’ nature. This leads to the question of whether noise control regulations should apply to all industries, regardless of the type of sound they generate.

KeywordsDiffusers, Acoustics, Metadiffusers, musicians, opera, orchestra pit
Year2018
Accepted author manuscript
License
CC BY 4.0
Publication dates
Print04 Oct 2018
Publication process dates
Deposited25 Sep 2018
Accepted03 Sep 2018
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https://openresearch.lsbu.ac.uk/item/86936

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