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Friday, February 27, 2015

Tourism for Locals: San Francisco Surround Sound at Audium

Posted By on Fri, Feb 27, 2015 at 2:04 PM

Surround yourself with acid for the ears. - JUAN DE ANDA
  • Juan De Anda
  • Surround yourself with acid for the ears.

San Franciscans are truly a lucky bunch. We  live in a city chalk-full of sensory overload — from bright  architecture to eclectic individuals to drastically diverse terrains — hence diminishing any hope of ever being bored.

Yet, one area often ignored is the sound of our City, and we mean more than just those of irritable MUNI drivers and gawking seagulls. In the late 1950s, two local San Francisco musicians noticed this lack of attention for acoustics and set out to change the perception and experiencing of sound. Their creation is Audium, a true treasure for locals. 

Audium is the only theatre of its kind in the world, pioneering the exploration of space in music. The theater is unconventional in both concept and architecture. Comprising of 169 speakers, they bathe listeners in sounds that move past, over, and under them. The truly surround system creates what is dubbed as "sound sculptures" in complete darkness in the 49-seat theater.

Located on Bush Street near Japantown , has been developed since the 1950s by Stan Shaff and Doug McEachern. The concepts gradually refined in Audium began with Shaff and McEachern's experimental electronic music performances in a time when San Francisco was toying with new musical styles and interpretations.

Audium started in 1959 as a performance piece throughout the Bay Area by the two with portable systems of about 8 to 16 speakers, before acquiring a rented space on 4th Avenue in 1967. In 1972, Audium was moved to its current location, which formally was storefront bakery and converted to a theater with the aid of a National Endowment of the Arts. The first public presentation was Oct. 31, 1975. 

After nearly a half century, Shaff continues to show up every Friday and Saturday at eight o’clock to compose the performance of Audium 9, for audiences looking for something new to expand their minds and views, whether they are locals or not. Just know that we already live in a symphony of audible beauty in the Bay Area, but once one is submerged in the totality of the Audium experience, the cacophony of S.F. sounds will resonate even further. 

Will you be next to experience this Fantasia for the ears?

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About The Author

Juan De Anda

Juan De Anda

Juan De Anda is a cultural correspondent with a concentration in tourism, literature, and lifestyle and has been writing for SF Weekly since 2013. As an avid traveler, he enjoys discovering destinations abroad as well as the never-ending hidden gems of San Francisco. #DondeAndaJuanDeAnda?


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