Page 10 - CinemaRecord Edition 3-2003 #41
P. 10

H. Vivian Taylor, Theatre Architect and Australia’s first

                                          Acoustic Consultant

                                                      by Ross Thorne
            I had reason to contact H. Vivian  Vivian Taylor was a fatherly figure  After returning from World War I,
          Taylor in 1963 on two counts - for  in the 1960s, never ruffled, but quite  Taylor could not afford to be indentured
          research into theatre history and  concerned and positive in his diagnosis  (as an apprentice) to an established
          acoustic consulting. Let me explain.  of, and solution to a problem. He was  architect, so he worked on building
            In 1954 my architectural thesis  both willing to learn and unstintingly  sites. Finally, he sat for the Royal
          topic was to design a concert hall  generous in passing on his knowledge.  Institute of British Architects
          complete with full acoustic design. I  In an interview with him, hopefully to  examination and became an architect in
          experimented with a ripple tank and a  document his life, I made little progress  1921. Prior to 1928 he was asked to
          model using shiny and black surfaces to  in discovering much about him. He  assist with acoustic difficulties mostly
          simulate reflective and absorptive  would discuss some commission in  in churches; then, in 1928, he
          surfaces in the hall while a light was to  detail but finding out general  professionally became an acoustic
          simulate the performer on the platform.  biographical information and history of  consultant. It was very timely. He
          This was current practice for the time  his practice, was like drawing teeth. Yet  would shortly design or correct the
          together with a standard formula for  he must have had both a passion for  acoustics of over 500 auditoria across
          calculating reverberation times.  acoustics and a quiet drive to     Australia. They were predominantly
            In 1961, the architectural firm  understand the then new science, and  those of picture theatres.
          Joseland and Gilling, asked me to help  become, in his consideration, the first  With the founding of the Australian
          them with some small acoustic     professional architectural acoustician in  Broadcasting Commission in 1932 and
          problems. In the same year I became a  Australia.                    the need to quickly establishing radio
          lecturer at the University of Sydney                                 stations across the country, new studios
          where my professor wanted me to enrol                                were required. Taylor started this aspect
          in a Masters degree. I wanted to do                                  of his practice in 1931, a schedule
          research into acoustics of theatres but                              which culminated in designs for ABC
          he vetoed that, so I decided to do a                                 studios 2FC and 2BL in Forbes Street,
          study of the history of theatre buildings,                           East Sydney. These replaced primitive
          thinking that I could still ‘test’ the                               ones in a little building at 96 Market
          acoustics of existing theatres.                                      Street, Sydney  .
            As the consulting jobs kept coming,                                   Practical audio correction for radio
          I decided to buy some testing                                        and recording studios was published
          equipment at the end of 1962. I                                      long before anything similar for
          arranged to go to Melbourne and                                      theatres. Convex shapes, as part spheres
          Hobart in 1963 to test the auditoria of                              and part cylinders, were promoted for
          the Theatre Royal, Hobart, and    The former Tenant Directory when Taylor  diffusing sound, to eliminate ‘loud’ or
          Capitol, Melbourne (before the stalls  ran his practice from Henty House, Little  ‘quiet’ spots and annoying standing
          were ripped out). Before doing these  Collins Street. The directory is now, of all  waves between parallel walls. Taylor
          tests I met Vivian Taylor.        places, in the Civil Aviation Museum,  adapted these concepts for the interiors
            Taylor Soilleux and Overend, had  Essendon Airport. Image: Ross King.  of his practice’s modern theatres - most
          designed a number of cinemas in                                      evident in the side-walls of the Padua
                                               It should be remembered that public  at Brunswick.
          Victoria, and he had been an acoustic
                                            radio broadcasting commenced in the
          consultant on some hundreds of                                          By 1963, with the advent of
                                            early years of the 1920s and electrically
          cinemas to improve their acoustics                                   recording equipment, all one needed
                                            recorded gramophone discs started to
          when sound films were introduced                                     was an explosive sound to be made on
                                            come onto the market in 1926, thus
          (1929-30). We discussed my interest in                               stage and the ‘dying-away’ of the sound
                                            permitting electrical reproduction of
          acoustic consulting and my limited                                   could be recorded and measured as the
                                            music on radio. The years 1929/30 saw
          knowledge with regards to designing                                  reverberation time. Vivian Taylor used a
                                            the introduction of sound films and
          the mounting of machines to prevent                                  starters’ pistol with blank cartridges. He
                                            conversion of cinemas to allow the
          transmission of vibration. Vivian Taylor                             suggested that a Ramset explosive-
                                            reproduced voices to be heard by
          belonged to the ‘old school’ of                                      charged nail gun would be just as good
                                            audiences. Prior to the 1930s, acoustic
          professional person. He was tall,                                    (but without the nail or bolt). He
                                            testing of auditoria was undertaken by
          straight, although thickened around the                              organised one for me to take to the
                                            dropping a pin on a hard-topped desk,
          waist, grey-haired with a grey                                       Capitol, together with a telephone
                                            tuning forks, or organ pipes.
          moustache, wore a grey suit, collar and                              directory. I set up my equipment in the
                                            Reverberation was timed by human
          tie, rarely divesting himself of his suit                            middle of the stalls, loaded the Ramset
                                            hearing in conjunction with a stop-
          jacket. His only apparent affectation                                with an explosive charge, pushed it
          was the tilt on the rim of his hat.                                  against the telephone directory on the
                                                                               stage floor - and BANG!
          10  2009 CINEMARECORD
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