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Nob Hill Audium: The Best Sound In San Francisco

Picture of Courtney Holcomb
Updated: 23 September 2016
Frequently cited as one of San Francisco’s best ‘hidden gems,’ the Nob Hill Audium is unique in the world. Audium is a theater filled with 176 speakers to help acoustics wash over listeners, surrounding audiences with the best sound quality and the most immersive experience possible.

Audium is the only theater in existence that was designed for sound movement, incorporating every aspect of the building into the theater’s compositional and acoustical possibilities. ‘Sounds touch deeper levels of our inner life, layers that lie just beneath the visual world… Audiences should feel sound as it bumps up against them, caresses, travels through, covers and enfolds them,’ claims Audium’s composer, Stan Staff. ‘I ask listeners to see with their ears and feel with their bodies sounds as images, dreams and memories. As people walk into a work, they become part of its realization. From entrance to exit, Audium is a sound-space continuum.’

The theater is entirely unique, pioneering ‘the exploration of space in music’ – making a visit to the theater a truly one-of-a-kind experience. The theater features a lobby space, a sound labyrinth, and a performance space filled with 49 seats – arranged in concentric circles – where so-called ‘sound sculptures’ are performed shrouded in darkness. Within the performance space, speakers fill the walls, the floor, and the suspended ceilings. The performances are called ‘sound sculptures’ for their ability to be sculpted through movement, direction, speed, and intensity on multiple spatial planes, as each composition is performed live by a performer who directs sounds through any combination of over 150 speakers.

Show canceled due to technical problems 😢 Still on my top 10

A photo posted by Carly Nagle (@carrrlyyyy) on

The concept behind Audium came into formation way back in the 1950s, before adequate technologies had developed to explore the elements of space in music composition. Stan Shaff, a composer, and Doug McEachern, an equipment designer, joined forces to form Audium. They began by hosting spatially focused concerts at colleges and museums around the city in the early 1960s, then converted a hall in the Inner Richmond to a theater to host weekly public performances later that decade. In the early 1970s, the pair received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, allowing them to establish a new theater to host the project, which brought them to their current location in Lower Pac Heights.

Just. Incredible. #sound #art #immersion

A photo posted by Kim Alpert (@kimmerson) on

Today, Audium has grown to become a non-profit organization hosting public performances in addition to special performances for colleges and professional organizations. You can attend a performance every Friday and Saturday at 8:30pm, with tickets available for $20.