Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

Kimmel Center Acoustics

Verizon Hall was designed in the shape of a musical instrument.
Acoustics Defined
Merriam-Webster provides the following definition of the term acoustics: "a science that deals with the production, control, transmission, reception, and effects of sound; the qualities that determine the ability of an enclosure (as an auditorium) to reflect sound waves in such a way as to produce distinct hearing."

In other words, acoustics refers to the quality, clarity and balance of sound waves as they move through a space. Of course the first and most important element in any acoustic is the sound that is produced by the artists on the stage. But the total sound the audience hears is dependent on the room's many surfaces, including the walls, ceiling and floor coverings, as well as the shape of the room, chairs and people.

Verizon Hall's Design
The first step toward creating good acoustics in any concert hall is to eliminate extraneous noise—including traffic noise and sirens, the subway, boilers, elevators, fans, drinking fountains, and hundreds of other noises. One way this was accomplished was to rest Verizon Hall atop 225 rubber isolation pads which help absorb vibrations from the Broad Street Subway. Once the noise has been eliminated, the sound of music is free to be heard with all its nuances intact.

Verizon Hall was designed in the shape of a stringed instrument—a violin or cello—with no straight lines or squared angles. After the basic design was established, certain acoustic features were added, including retractable curtains that absorb sound and reduce reverberation (most often used for amplified concerts), a series of doors along the sides of the hall that can be opened or closed to change the power of the sound and reverberation, and a large canopy above the stage with sound-reflecting panels that can be raised and lowered to affect the hallís overall sound, as well as the way in which the musicians hear one another.

Engineering equipment throughout the Kimmel Center rests on coils that help absorb vibrations, eliminating extraneous noise.

What it all Means
The ideal sound in a concert hall should have a combination of strength, impact, punch and fullness, with lows that are not too weak, highs that are not too powerful, and a balance between clarity and reverberance. Under perfect conditions, the musicians and the conductor can hear the music exactly as the audience hears it, with no distancing, delay or echo.

Verizon Hall's acoustics are fully adjustable to accomodate a broad range of musical characteristics. By adjusting the curtains, doors and canopy, the best acoustics can be achieved for anything from a single harpsichord to a rock band, from a solo flute to a large-scale orchestral work with a chorus.

More Information on Acoustics at the Kimmel Center
Visit the links below for more information.

> Artec Consultants, Inc., Acoustical Designer
> Interview with Russell Johnson, Artec's Founding Acoustician
> An Ear For Excellence: Acoustician Russell Johnson shapes the listening experience , October 15, 1998
> Rubber isolation pads
> A Hard-Hat Tour of the Kimmel Center Construction Site
> The Reviews Are In: the Opening of the Kimmel Center is a Phenomenal Success, December 31, 2002

Hearing is Believing
Here is a collection of quotes from artists who have performed at the Kimmel Center:

  • "Verizon was the best new concert hall in which I ever sang."
    Cecilia Bartoli, September 29, 2002

  • "I think it's one of the most acoustically perfect places we've ever played."
    Charlie Haden, January 29, 2003

  • "The hall is wonderful! I love the circular shape of the room and how the sound swirls so perfectly. The acoustics are marvelous."
    Chucho Valdez, January 29, 2003

  • "The best concert hall on the East Coast."
    Branford Marsalis, Jazz Set, NPR, March 2, 2003

  • "Itís warm and inviting—a beautiful sound."
    Denyce Graves, November 2, 2003

  • "What a great hall this [Verizon] is. It produces such a beautiful sound that I felt like it was a huge extension of my instrument."
    Hilary Hahn, February 22, 2004

  • "The sound is focused and precise... I felt the audience intensely."
    Midori, speaking about Perelman Theater

  • Verizon Hall is "fantastic ... wonderful"
    Riccardo Muti, as quoted in The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 14, 2005

  • "This (Verizon) is my new favorite hall. The sound of my violin was like a laser beam. "
    Anne-Sophie Mutter, after her March, 2005 performance with the Oslo Philharmonic