Audium-Theatre of Sound-Sculptured Space – San Francisco, California - Atlas Obscura

San Francisco, California

Audium-Theatre of Sound-Sculptured Space

Only theater in the world constructed specifically for sound movement. 

Audium is the only theatre anywhere in the world that is constructed specifically for sound movement, utilizing the entire environment as a compositional tool. Audium’s conception and realization evolved jointly with the combined work of its creators, equipment designer Doug McEachern and composer Stan Shaff, both professional musicians.

The Audium-Theatre of Sound-Sculptured Space consists of a foyer, main performance space, and what the owners call a sound labyrinth. It’s a building inside of a building, conceived and built specifically for this art form with the help of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Listeners - the show is performed once every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night - sit in concentric circles in the theater and enveloped by speakers built inside of sloping walls, a floating floor, and a suspended ceiling. Compositions are performed live each night by a conductor who directs the sounds through a custom-designed console. The conductor uses any combination of the 169 speakers, sculpting the sound through direction, speed, movement, and intensity. 

The lights are brought down during the performance, to the point where all you can see are small lit arrows on the floor to guide you to an exit in case you need it.  There is a short intermission where the lights are brought back up and you can discuss the experience with your friends or neighbors, explore the room a bit more, and try to discern where exactly those odd and intriguing sounds mixed into the performance were coming from.

“When the concept of Audium began taking shape in the late 1950s,” the venue’s official website explains of the theater’s founding, “space was a largely unexplored dimension in music composition. The composer who suspected space capable of revealing a new musical vocabulary found his pursuit blocked by the inadequacy of audio technology and performance spaces.”

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