San Francisco Chronicle Saturday, Oct. 17, 1964
Space-Sound Continuum in Total Darkness by Alfred Frankenstein
Space and sound seem to go especially well together when the sound is produced electronically, but the possibilities of the space-sound continuum have seldom been so extensively explored as they were Thursday night at the San Francisco Museum of Art in a program presented by Stanley Shaff and Douglas McEachern.
Shaff is the composer and McEachern the sound engineer. With speakers placed at strategic points in the room, and other speakers mounted on arms that go 'round and 'round over the heads of the audience, McEachern makes it possible for Shaff's sound to move in any and all dimensions.
Unlike those who feel that electronic music should have some sort of visual accompaniment, Shaff and McEachern present their work in total darkness, and this greatly intensifies one's appreciation of it as purely auditory experience. Much as I admire some of Anthony Martin's visual effects at the San Francisco Tape Center, I must say that Shaff and McEachern's removal of every extraneous appeal does their effort a great deal of good.
Shaff uses more montage of natural sounds than most of his colleagues hereabouts, and this can be a bit of a bore, as witness a composition of his based largely on the cheering at a football game. But he has a remarkable way with delicate, ethereal sounds of many shapes and colors, and their deployment in space is no mere gimmick; he is also a master of irony and drama.
He has real style and real range of style in a medium wherein conformity and cliche are more the rule than the exception, and one hopes his work will eventually reach the large audience it deserves.
1960-1964 AUDIUM concerts at the UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA EXTENSION CENTER (1960), SAN FRANCISCO STATE COLLEGE (1962) and SAN FRANCISCO MUSEUM OF ART (1963, 1964)
1965-1970 Conversion of a hall into AUDIUM's first theatre (309 4th Ave., S.F.); weekly public performances for 3 1/2 years
1972-1975 Receipt of NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS grant to re-establish AUDIUM; planning, design and construction of a theatre for spatial composition and performance; opening of theatre at 1616 Bush St., S.F. (Oct.1975)
1975-1983 Weekly public performances; major and minor compositions; performance-seminar series for college groups through six grants from the NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS
1984-1995 Weekly public performances; seminar groups
------------------ from Urb magazine: an upfront look at modern hip hop and dance culture no. 35 june 94 p20
future perfect: exploring todays gadjets of tomorrow column
Audium: A Waking Dream The San Francisco Bay Area is well-known the world over for its vibrant electronic music scene, less well-known are some of the area's electronic music pioneers. I made one of the most fascinating discoveries (with some help of the SFRaves Internet mailing list) at the end of last year. Just off Van Ness, one of the city's main traffic arteries, lies an incredible experiment in sound. Audium.
The experiment started in he late '50s when Stan Shaff and Doug McEachern became "very fascinated with the idea of space and sound, the idea of movement and distance and points in space." Shaff said that became their focus, "How do you take sound and get it off the wall so to speak and bring it out, in and around and above and below people, so they begin to experience different qualities of perceptions?"
Their 1962 exhibit at SF MOMA, which began to answer these questions, was just a taste of what would evolve into a wondrous permanent sound space, first on Clement Street in 1965 and then in 1975 at its present location at 1616 Bush.
From the moment one enters the door the whole experience is through the ears. The unusual theater consists of a foyer, "a sound labyrinth" and the main performance space which resembles a set out of a '70s Sci-Fi movie like Logan's Run. Mounted on the walls, hidden below seats, and hanging form the ceiling like lightbulbs are 136 speakers which surround the audience seated in concentric circles of 49 seats.
From his control stand, custom sound boards designed by McEachern, allow Shaff to manipulate movement, speed, and intensity of sound as well as the lighting and temperature of the theater.
Of late the recording industry has touted all sorts of 3-D sound, from Q-Sound to the new Virtual Audio, that work with two ordinary speakers or headphones, but Audium is different in that you are actually surrounded by 136 separate sources of sound. "There is a physical feeling about sitting there and having these sound waves caress you and move all around you rather than just the illusion of it (virtual 3-D sound)," says Shaff. He says people often leave Audium feeling a sense that they really encountered reality, like sitting at the ocean. One visitor called it "a waking dream."
While the NEA funded Audium's construction, the day-to-day existence of the non-profit theater depends on the word-of-mouth visitors, because the theater does no advertising or promotion. On your next pilgrimage to San Francisco, pay homage to the Audium. -(Jonathan Wells)
Typed by C. Vega 1-30-96