Constellation acoustics makes our auditorium out of this world

Only 50 to 60 in the world. Five in Asia. And one in our high school.

It’s the Constellation Acoustic System perfected by Meyer Sounds, and SAS is the very first high school in Asia to have it. Journalist of classical music for the New Yorker, Alex Ross praises Constellation: “Although no amount of digital magic can match the golden thunder of a great hall vibrating in sympathy with Beethoven’s or Mahler’s orchestra, the Meyers may have come closer than anyone in audio history to an approximation of the real thing.”

Constellation is the new hallmark of sound technology, and we now have it right here at SAS in our auditorium.

What happened to the old auditorium?

Every single surface of the auditorium was gutted down. They tore down the walls, the stage, the chairs, the carpet, and even the roof. All the old stark blue and grey tones are nowhere to be seen.

Why did they tear down a perfectly functioning auditorium?

Well, it wasn’t quite perfect. Deprived of a proper sound system, the live music couldn’t properly be delivered to the audience. SAS’s phenomenal musicians’ authentic sound was getting lost in the vast space.

“Though it was a beautiful theater, it was not adept as a concert hall,” said  Theatre Engineer Mr. Paul Koebnick.

There were troubles for dancers as well. The stage was a very hard wood floor, which made it difficult for dancers who were jumping, sliding, and rolling on the floors. Getting minor injuries was a very common experience among the dancers. A change needed to be made.

How did the change begin?

It all started from complaints. Every guest conductor, guest artist, middle school, high school music teacher couldn’t hear the musicians properly on stage. Even the student musicians couldn’t hear each other. A cellist on the right-wing could barely hear a single note a violinist played at the opposite end. To musicians on an orchestra or band, being able to hear everyone on stage was critical to the making of a symphony.

So, music teachers and theater coordinators got on board.

Photo by Kelly Chung
Photo by Kelly Chung

What were the changes that happened to the auditorium?

The torn down auditorium was completely revamped with elite designs and technology. The stage was refurbished as a flexed floor in favor of the dancers, and seats were reoriented with new box seats by the balcony. There are new soft surfaces, floors, walls and ceilings that will absorb sound for the addition of the greatest sound technology out there: Constellation.

“The renovations are amazing. Not only does it sound even better than I could have possibly imagined, the new interior is bright and the stage floor has been redone. We are extremely lucky and very grateful for the work that has been done and to the people who made it possible. I can’t wait to work in there soon on the dance production,” said the high school dance teacher Ms. Tracy Van Der Linden.

What is “Constellation” and how does it work?

Constellation is an electronic acoustic treatment: a technology honed by Meyer Sounds for live music. It allows sound to be projected at optimal, yet flexible acoustics in a multipurpose venue like our auditorium.

Constellation

Don’t be mistaken! Constellation is NOT a sound system.

Constellation Processors. Photo by Kelly Chung
Constellation Processors. Photo by Kelly Chung

Because sound is emitted through the jewel cube speakers, many people mistaken Constellation for a “sound system.” But Constellation does not have any sound input of its own other than the sound that goes into the room by the main speakers. Constellation simply picks up that sound and reflects it.

“Meyer Sound’s Constellation system performs the sonic equivalent of Photoshop,” said Alex Ross, New Yorker music critic.

What is so special about it?

First and foremost, this is no ordinary sound technology you will see in local theaters like the Esplanade. Although it’s a technology that has been around, it is incredibly costly and very specialized in what it produces. In the world, there are only about 50-60 places that have the Constellation. In Asia, there are only five theatres including SAS. SAS is the only school in Asia to have this extraordinary technology built in its auditorium.

“It was amazing to see the auditorium transformed aesthetically, but it was even more amazing how when we played on the stage, we could hear everything so clearly. As an ensemble, we were able to react and adjust to each other’s sound better than before and increase our sensitivity to the group’s sound as a whole,” said junior Seo Yeon Kim.

Photo by Kelly Chung
Photo by Kelly Chung

The Constellation also allows the crew to mix sounds on more convenient technology platforms. After processing, the sound can be mixed wirelessly on the iPad. Now the team enjoys great benefits of tuning the sound outside the control room, listening to the music exactly how the audience will hear it as well. Another great feature is the ability to set presets. By changing the sound’s reverberation, they can now create presets respective to the type of sound playback preferred for strings, choir, band, or dance.

Yikes, it seems very costly…

Whenever students see a new change on campus, the first thing we ask is: “Is this where our tuition goes?”

But there’s no need to fret about how much of the students’ tuition was used to fund this multi-million dollar project, as it was mostly funded by donations by a very generous alumna – a very close friend of Mrs. Paula Silverman (SAS Theatre Manager) and a lover of SAS’s Arts and Performance who wishes to remain anonymous.

Was it worth it?

Yes, it was worth every penny.

This wasn’t just a renovation request on a piece of paper that asked for admin’s signature for a cheque. It was a project pushed forth by all the zealous music teachers and theater coordinators of SAS. Though this project was proposed much earlier, due to its high costs, it couldn’t begin until the donation was given. Since 2009, a team of theater coordinators and eminent engineers (one of them was the engineer for Pavarotti!) worked together across the globe to make this new auditorium possible for us.

Now it isn’t just a wonderful theater but an outstanding concert hall for all our students to perform on stage with a world-class sound technology producing rich, vibrant music.

Photo by Kelly Chung
Photo by Kelly Chung

If you still don’t believe how great it is, come to the next performance to hear it for yourself.

Author: Kelly Chung

An avid photographer, a foodie, fitness enthusiast and a Friends fangirl, Kelly is a new Eye reporter this year. She’s been in Singapore since 2004 and at SAS since 6th grade. Now as a senior, she continues embracing her love for touch rugby and exploring hidden gems of Singapore. Kelly can be contacted at chung33191@sas.edu.sg.

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