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Millennium Park


TUESDAY AUGUST 7th, 7pm-9pm
(corner of Michigan Ave. & Randolph St.)
(see map below)

Please note the meeting has been moved one week later than the usual "last Tuesday of the month" to accommodate the pavilion music schedule.

EARS is honored and privileged to announce a special presentation for this month ! EARS will be treated to a personalized tour of Chicago's premier outdoor music venue by none other than the Pavilion's audio designer himself, Jonathan Laney.

The Pritzker Pavilion is the home of the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and the Grant Park Music Festival, the nation's only remaining free, municipally supported, outdoor, classical music series. The Festival is presented by the Chicago Park District and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs. The Pavilion hosts a wide range of other music series and annual performing arts events. Performers ranging from mainstream rock bands to classical musicians and opera singers have appeared at the pavilion.

EARS will meet Jonathan Laney at the rear of the seating bowl at 7pm where he will provide a brief history of the park and the system design.  We will then tour the mix position, visit the amplifier rack rooms, and see the stage.  While in the choral loft viewing the stage we will have a Q&A.  We will then wrap up by visiting one of the arcade amplifier rack rooms.

Jay Pritzger Pavilion

The Jay Pritzker Music Pavilion is the centerpiece of the 24-acre Millennium Park and opened to a highly responsive crowd in 2005. One aspect that makes the Pavilion unique is its use of the LARES system — which generates the reflected and reverberant energy that surrounds and envelops the listener in an indoor performance venue — for an outdoor venue; in fact, the Pavilion is the first outdoor venue to permanently install the LARES system in the U.S. The Pavilion employs a trellis to suspend the loudspeakers — the LARES system and the reinforcement system — at the correct heights and orientations. This trellis allowed audio system designer Jonathan Laney and acoustician Rick Talaske (of TALASKE) to precisely place the loudspeakers so as not to cause visual obstructions. It also creates a visual canopy that unifies the 4,000 listeners in the fixed seats and 7,000 sitting on the Great Lawn.

Talaske & Laney
Acoustician Rick Talaske (L) and
audio system designer Jonathan Laney (R).

When Laney and Talaske started working on the project in 1998, they wanted to improve the outdoor listening experience by using a two-fold approach: providing the musicians with an enhanced environment in which to play and creating a more enjoyable listening experience for the audience. “One of the primary objectives of the new facility was to maintain ‘music under the stars,’” relates Laney. “Quite a few facilities have a roof as part of the pavilion, but this facility wanted to maintain the views of the skyline, which then limited the amount of architecture that was used in the seating area. With that perspective, in an orchestral performance, the concert hall is just as much a part of that performance as the orchestra. So when you take the orchestra outdoors, you no longer have a concert hall and part of that performance is missing."

“As a result,” he continues, “we introduced not only sound reinforcement for the loudness and clarity, but also an acoustic enhancement system to create reflection patterns, the reverberation, the sense of envelopment and the sense of being immersed in that music.” Laney and Talaske contacted Steve Barbar of LARES Associates, which allowed the duo to create that “immersive” feel. The LARES system delivers lingering, enveloping sound characteristics with supplemental loudspeakers and simulates reflections and reverberation using specialized electronics and digital processing. Because the Pavilion is located in downtown Chicago, Laney opted to not use a line array and instead installed Electro-Voice's X-Array as part of the “distributed reinforcement system,” which provides direct or frontal sound, delivering clarity to the audience. “We decided to go with the distributed approach, which is what we needed to do the LARES system. We have our main stacks [45 of L, C, R] and then about every 70 feet or so, we have a delay ring [32 speakers in eight rings] that runs the entire length of the property. That helps us fire the energy at the listener and not outside the area. In addition, the geometry of the seating bowl wasn't conducive to the horizontal coverage pattern of line arrays. That's the reason why we have a traditional trapezoidal arrayable system with our left, center and right main stacks. With the delay lines, there are two speakers at every position. There is a downward-firing loudspeaker for the acoustic enhancement system and a loudspeaker that fires toward the listener — providing frontal energy — for the sound reinforcement system.”

Millennium Park
1) Millennium Park viewed looking South; note "The Cloud Gate" (i.e. "The Bean") on the right;
2) Throngs of concert goers take in the stainless steel architecture of Frank Gehry

The second part of the system design was creating a better environment for the musicians, which fell into Talaske's hands. Back in 1999, architect Frank Gehry and the Talaske Group wrestled with a building constraint that defined how tall a building could be, which severely limited the pavilion's ceiling height, “and we knew that the low ceiling height would have a detrimental impact on the acoustic environment onstage,” Talaske says. “So we lobbied with the city to work around this restriction. The city concluded that this wasn't a building but a piece of sculpture. The height restriction didn't apply and we were able to create a pavilion stage area designed with proper ceiling height and that's real important for developing a good onstage acoustic environment and for projecting some sound out to the audience."

“In the design,” Talaske continues, “there are no right-angle corners. When you have a right-angle corner, the sound is reflected back to the musicians. We wanted a condition where the sound created by the bass player is reflected across the stage to the first and second violinist on the other side. We carefully shaped the sidewalls and ceiling and upstage wall of the stage enclosure to facilitate this cross-stage communication." [See Figure] "figure 1 We also worked to create an audio-friendly acoustic environment onstage. We didn't want an excessive amount of sound being held onstage that would reduce the clarity of sound as picked up by microphones. We were able to have a nice clean signal in microphones that Jonathan could work with in his audio system.” The orchestra risers incorporate a new platform system that allows the musicians to feel the vibrations created by cellos and bass instruments. This system (a floating floor with rigid interconnections and resilient materials introduced just below the floor surface) acts to maximize cross-stage vibrations. “Even though it was going to be home to the Grant Park Music Festival,” Laney concludes, “they wanted a facility and a system capable of festival-type events. To accommodate the varied musical styles, the stage house's acoustic design includes variable acoustics that can be brought in to soften the house for a traditionally amplified event.”

(reprinted from Mix Magazine article by managing editor Sarah Benzuly June 1st 2005).

The Pavilion at night
The Pavilion lights up real pretty at night...

Convenient parking is located in the Millennium Park Garage, Grant Park North, Grant Park South and East Monroe Garages. There is underground parking at Millennium Park...enter north or south off Columbus. For more information or directions for any of these parking garages, visit or call 312.616.0600.

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-> This event is open to EARS Members and non-members alike

-> Start time = 7 p.m. SHARP !
(Please try to arrive at least 15 minutes early)

-> Convenient parking is located in the Millennium Park Garage, Grant Park North, Grant Park South and East Monroe Garages. There is underground parking at Millennium Park...enter north or south off Columbus.

->NO food or beverages will be available at this meeting.
An after meeting location will be announced at the event itself.

-> You can join or renew your membership at the event itself OR...

-> You can join or renew anytime by clicking HERE:
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EARS is proudly sponsored by:

Shure Inc.
Vintage King

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