Brian Wise covers the classical music business for WQXR, including aspects of performance, technology, philanthropy and institutional trends. He produces the Café Concerts series and the podcast/show Conducting Business. He manages the station's homepage and makes sure what you hear on air is what you see online. Follow him on Twitter at @Briancwise.
Los Angeles Promises New Subway Won't Disturb Disney Hall Concerts
Thursday, July 03, 2014 - 02:00 PM
Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles appears to be on course to stemming a problem that is a familiar irritant to many New York concertgoers: subway noise.
The builders of a new light-rail train that will run between the hall and the Colburn School of Music, a nearby conservatory, have agreed to noise abatement procedures that are expected to keep the trains from significantly disrupting concerts, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Hall officials have long been concerned that the new train line, even at 135 feet below ground, would create a rumble that spoils the hall's famed acoustics, causing a major headache for resident ensembles like the L.A. Philharmonic and the L.A. Master Chorale.
The Times reports: "The threat is vibrations created when metal train wheels pass over metal tracks. Strong vibrations could send energy waves through the ground and into the concert venues, emerging as a low-frequency rumble in the halls. So the key is to stifle vibrations at the source."
Engineers plan to introduce rubber padding beneath the railroad beds that support the subway tracks, as well as rubber insulation fitted in metal clasps that connect tracks to the railroad bed.
The agreement comes after more than a year of talks between Disney Hall’s landlord, the Music Center, and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The prospect of subway noise has drawn alarmed responses from Disney Hall’s architect, Frank Gehry, and its acoustician, Yasuhisa Toyota. The deal also sets out conditions for what will happen if the preventive measures fail – including a lawsuit as a worst-case scenario.
In New York, subway noise has been a perennial concern for concert hall designers. When Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall opened in 2003, a few critics voiced their displeasure at the audibility of the N and R train rumble; fewer complaints were registered when the Rose Theater at the Time Warner Center opened directly over the Columbus Circle subway station.
Weigh in: How do you feel about subway noise in concert halls?