Acoustics: Scenario for Inexactness

1961: Lincoln Center management says New York Philharmonic Hall will be "the finest musical instrument in America." 1962: Hall opens. Critics say it is acoustical dud—mushy, strident, dry, opaque, flat, cold. Hall's 136 sound-reflecting "clouds," suspended from ceiling, are tilted, lowered, raised. No help. Diffusion of sound so unbalanced that best vantage point is, ironically, cheapest seat in top balcony. New York Philharmonic musicians complain they cannot hear each other onstage, say hall is glorified $17.7 million pinball machine. Mood of pessimism pervades. Rumors circulate that visiting orchestras are going...

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