Acoustical Society of America
136th Meeting Organ Hall Acoustics Press Release

Designing "Sound" Rooms for Pipe Organs:
Latest Insights on Organ-Hall Acoustics
to be Presented at National Meeting


For further information please contact:
Dan Clayton, session chair & organizer
Voice/Fax: 914/684-7082

Woodbury, New York, August 11, 1998.

The pipe organ evolved almost exclusively within the church until the 17th century, but moved outside the church to royal music rooms in the 18th century, and was the keystone of the English town hall tradition of organ and choral music in the mid-19th century. Most of the great concert halls of the late-19th and early-20th centuries included significant organs. The latter part of the 20th century has brought many important university facilities, most recently culminating in highly specialized pure organ performance rooms. Contemporary expectations of proper organ sound are highly informed by this historical precedent, especially the vast acoustics of medieval churches, and present-day interpretations of that architecture and acoustic remain an important goal.

Building the best possible secular acoustical environment for the pipe organ and its distinct musical literature has guided the construction of several recent concert halls and dedicated organ performance spaces. Concert halls in Birmingham (UK), Dallas, Seattle, Singapore, and several in Japan (among others) were designed to accommodate the organ as well as orchestra. Since the mid-1980s, the U.S. has seen the advent of at least five new dedicated pipe-organ recital halls (including those at the University of Kansas at Lawrence and Rice University in Houston), with an even greater number of major rehearsal and performance studios built for music schools during the same time period. In addition, the renovations of major performance facilities in Cleveland, OH, Portland, ME, and Washington, DC, have included acoustic improvements specific to newly re-installed pipe organs.

At a special day-long session entitled "The Acoustics of Organ Performance Spaces," acousticians, pipe-organ builders and scientists from around the world will convene to present their recent experiences and latest insights on designing secular organ performance spaces and the pipe organs built for these spaces. The session will take place on Thursday, 15 October 1998, from 8 AM to 5 PM at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott Hotel in Norfolk, VA. It will be part of a national meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, to take place from October 12-16, 1998 in Norfolk.

Nine leading architectural-acoustics designers from the USA and Japan will present case-histories and technical discussions of their work on these and other organ-room projects. In addition, four pipe-organ builders from North America and Europe who have designed and installed instruments for these rooms will also participate, bringing their unique art and craft to the discussion.

Acousticians, organ builders and researchers will discuss their ideal acoustic requirements and goals for organ rooms large and small, dedicated and general-purpose. Also to be discussed is the Gteborg Organ Art Center, a multi-disciplinary, university-level program in Sweden which is applying both acoustical science and instrument-making art and craft in the construction of new pipe organs. At the conclusion of the session, a panel discussion will consider the present and future state of secular organ rooms and their pipe organs.

An organ concert and demonstration will take place on Wednesday evening, 14 October 1998, at two local Norfolk churches. A short recital will be followed by a musical demonstration of the organ and its unique sounds. Approximately one hour will be spent at each church, and the concert is free, with an approximately $8 per person cost for transportation to the demonstration.

The cost of one-day attendance at the conference is $135. Reporters wishing to cover the session for their publications can get complimentary registration by contacting Elaine Moran, Acoustical Society of America, 516-576-2360,

Additional Information

For more information about the content of the technical session, contact the session chair and organizer:

Dan Clayton
ASA Technical Committee on Architectural Acoustics
Voice/Fax: 914/684-7082

For further information about the ASA, the Norfolk meeting, and hotel accommodations, please contact:

Acoustical Society of America
500 Sunnyside Blvd.
Woodbury, NY 11797-2999
Voice: 516/576-2360 / Fax: 516/576-2377

Technical session abstracts & ASA meeting information are now posted on the Web at

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