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The crowd was hardly bowled over

A year's loose ends | CLASSICAL MUSIC

2004 leaves the scene, but we haven't had closure on some key stories.

December 26, 2004|Mark Swed

On June 25, the Hollywood Bowl unveiled its ballyhooed new shell at a gala concert. It was a disaster. Sure, the shell was more spacious and better equipped than the old one, but the sound was terrible, so bad that the first Bowl recording, from 1928, had more bloom and honesty than the tubby, tinny lackluster results heard that night.

The problem wasn't entirely the fault of newfangled towers of power -- loudspeakers stacked one atop another practically to the clouds. There was also the issue of dead spots in the cavernous shell, and in the cavernous amphitheater itself, that needed a sonic spark of life. In the rush to open the facility, no time had been allotted to test anything properly. But as the summer progressed, chief sound wizard Fred Vogler's skills on the soundboard began to provide significantly higher fidelity.

That was just the beginning, though. Although the equipment is rented year to year, so the Bowl can take advantage of new developments in technology, Vogler says he likes the current system as far as it goes. But that isn't far enough. Actually, it isn't close enough. Next summer, he will add some of the previous electronics to address the seats nearest the stage, since the tower arrays shoot the sound over them. A bigger project will be hunting down and treating the many nasty hidden reflective surface spots that have been wreaking havoc with Bowl acoustics for years.

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