Have you ever wondered what it would be like to hear sound move around you in a darkened room, creating shapes, patterns, and sensations that you can’t see but can feel?

If you are looking for a different and immersive way to experience sound and music, you might want to check out Audium Theatre of Sound-Sculptured Space in San Francisco.

Audium is the only theatre in the world that is designed specifically for sound movement. It was conceived and built by composer Stan Shaff and equipment designer Doug McEachern, who wanted to explore the possibilities of space as a musical dimension.

They started experimenting with sound movement in the late 1950s, but faced limitations with audio technology and performance spaces. With the help of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, they created Audium as a dedicated venue for their art form.

Audium consists of three parts: a foyer, a main performance space, and a sound labyrinth.

  1. The foyer is where you can buy tickets (cash only), read about the history and concept of Audium, and view some artworks related to sound.
  2. The main performance space is where the show takes place. It has 49 seats arranged in concentric circles around a custom-designed console that controls 176 speakers built into the walls, floor, and ceiling.
  3. The sound labyrinth is an area between the foyer and the performance space that has various sound sculptures that you can interact with before or after the show.

The show itself lasts about an hour and is performed live by Shaff or his son David every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night at 8:30 p.m.

The show features original compositions by Shaff that use sounds from nature, music instruments, human voices, machines, and more.

The sounds are directed through different speakers at different speeds, directions, intensities, and combinations by Shaff using his console. The result is a dynamic sonic landscape that surrounds you from all angles.

The lights are dimmed during the show to enhance your auditory perception. You might hear sounds coming from behind you or above you or moving across your body or around your head.

You might feel vibrations or sensations on your skin or in your chest or stomach. You might imagine shapes or colors or stories based on what you hear. You might experience emotions or memories triggered by certain sounds.

There is a short intermission halfway through where the lights are turned back on briefly so you can stretch your legs or use the restroom if needed.

You can also chat with your friends or neighbors about what you heard so far or explore more of the room if you want.

Audium is not for everyone though. Some people might find it boring or scary or uncomfortable to sit in a dark room listening to sounds for an hour without any visual stimulation or narrative structure.

Some people might have trouble hearing some sounds due to their hearing abilities or preferences. Some people might have health issues such as epilepsy that could be affected by loud noises or flashing lights (there are some warning signs posted outside).

But if you are curious about sound as an art form and want to try something new and different than anything else out there then Audium might be just what you need.

You can buy tickets online through their website (https://www.audium.org/) for $20 each plus fees ($45 total for two tickets) ahead of time (recommended) or at their box office (cash only) on site before each show if there are seats available (limited).

They also offer discounts for students ($15) seniors ($18) groups ($15 per person for groups of 10+) military ($18) teachers ($18) artists ($18).

Contact Details

  • 1616 Bush Street
  • San Francisco CA 94109
  • (415) 771-1616
  • info@audium.org
  • https://www.audium.org/

FAQs

What is the Audium Theatre of Sound-Sculptured Space?

What can one expect from a visit to this unique venue in San Francisco? These are some of the questions that might arise in the minds of the curious who want to learn more about this immersive, sonic experience. Here are five questions and their answers about the Audium.

What is the Audium?

The Audium is the first theater of its kind in the world to explore space in music. Listeners are immersed in “sound sculptures” performed through 176 speakers in total darkness. The Audium was conceived and built specifically for this art form with the help of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Who created the Audium?

The Audium was created by composer Stan Shaff and sound engineer Doug McEachern, who began experimenting with spatial sound in the 1950s. In 1967, they performed their first work for a seated audience in the dark surrounded by loudspeakers. In 1975, they opened the current Audium building, designed by architect Jack Knowles.

What is a performance at the Audium like?

A performance at the Audium lasts about an hour and a half and consists of three parts: an introduction in the lobby, a tour of the sound labyrinth and the main performance in the main hall.

The sound labyrinth is a space with different acoustic environments created by hidden loudspeakers. The main hall has a capacity for 49 people seated on swivel chairs that allow them to orient themselves towards the sound sources.

What kind of music is played in the Audium?

The music played at the Audium is not conventional and does not belong to any specific genre.

It is music composed by Stan Shaff that explores the possibilities of spatial sound and uses natural, urban, electronic and vocal elements. Each performance is different and depends on the interaction between the composer, the speakers and the listeners.

How can I visit the Audium?

The Audium is open most weekends and tickets can be purchased online or at the box office.

The price is $25 per person and it is recommended to arrive early to ensure a good seat. The Audium is located at 1616 Bush Street, San Francisco, CA 94109. For more information please visit their website: https://www.audium.org/.