by Steve Deckert
music of the Nutcracker Ballet was composed by Perer Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
Born in the Ural mountains of Russia, he dedicated his life to music.
to 1859, he attended the school of Jurisprudence and studied piano.
In 1861, he attended classes with the Russian Music Society.
In 1862, he entered the Saint Petersburg Conservatory.
in 1866,Tchaikovsky taught at the Moscow Conservatory while composing
many of his concertos and symphonies.
1892, Tchaikovsky composed the Nutcracker. Last night on
11/27/97 this man rolled over in his grave thanks in part
to a presentation of the Nutcracker here in the Peoria Civic Center
folks, he rolled over in his grave on this occasion when he found
himself being paged by the stringent mental beacon I sent
out during my 3 hours of suffering last night while I attended the
ballet in order to watch my daughter perform.
musical pieces that support this ballet were brutally assassinated
while trying to be reproduced though .... I'm sorry, I'm just without
words for it.... I guess I was the P.A. system?!
of the problems with small towns (cities) like Peoria IL. where
I live, is the absence of real culture. Years ago an attempt
to bolster down town development materialized into a project called
the Civic Center. In this massive building there is a full
size arena, a theater, and lots of general meeting spaces.
The idea was to attract concerts, ice shows, truck pulls, and cultural
things like that (as they put it) to bring more money into the economy.
always looked at Peoria as a wanna be city with delayed mentality.
Tonight was a perfect example of what I mean. I checked out
the theater when the thing first opened hoping for something special
and didn't find it so it has been probably 10 years since then before
I returned last night to watch my daughter's performance.
Being more attuned to acoustics since my last visit, I was looking
forward to watching my daughter and dreading everything else I would
have to suffer through (like the rest of the performance).
walked into the auditorium and found my seat in row L. I was number
39. It was hot, and the place was packed. It seems that
no one there understands that when you fill a room with 500 people
in the course of 30 minutes that the BTU increase generated will
make it impossible for a quick temperature recovery so everyone
I would love to experience the Nutcracker, but I don't see it every
happening around here. To me experiencing such a performance
includes marveling at the acoustically inert architecture and the
ornate attention to detail that shows we care - is as much a part
of it as the real orchestra. After all it is the dynamics
between the room, performers, and audience that makes it a production.
When I sat down and looked around the auditorium I was coldly reminded
at how much we really don't either care or don't really get it.
architecture was full of right angles and flat surfaces. It was
more contemporary styling... a side effect of building construction
when steel studs and drywall are used. It had employed some
acoustic considerations, those that you might expect to see come
out of our local sound contractor/engineering pool. Public
address specialists with no clue what good sound is.
framed the stage with a rectangular expanding louver that was built
with plywood, 2X10's and 4" PVC pipe cut in half lengthwise and
glued on in a fan shaped pattern for decoration. Then the
entire abortion was spray painted gold! ...Now isn't that
special. Needless to say this was no opera house. I
didn't see any musicians, no pits, no hope. Then I looked
up and saw this welded angle iron frame with 4 of the ugliest speakers
I ever saw strapped on it. These too were spray painted gold!
knew I was in trouble now. I was getting warmer and stuffier
by the minute, and I had to break out a breath mint so I wouldn't
keep smelling everyone else's bad breath.
can't stress enough how important architecture is to civic functions.
Every time I walk into a place like this, or a recently built church,
or even just looking at the new construction, a part of me
dies. I find it so sad, even though economic changes are to
blame it is a sign of our instant lifestyles that I frankly am embarrassed
to be associated with.
the lights dimmed and this 3 hour ordeal is about to begin.
Of course while everyone else was waiting to WATCH the show, I was
cringing with anticipation. As I lookup up at this monaural gold
plated birds nest waiting to hear if they were actually going to
use it... the damn thing came on! There were some road gear
type speakers on either side of the stage pointing directly at the
foreheads of those seated there and I thought those would be used.
No such luck.
minutes into the production I had to overcome a strong urge to escape.
In my mind I screamed "what is wrong with you people?" Let
me describe the sound for you...
your grade school gym with a school play being sound tracked by
a cassette deck playing into a microphone though steel P.A. horns.
Picture the sound of sandpaper going through a meat grinder with
the fact that several of the cones were ripped and fluttering, the
SPL was down so low (actually thank God for that) that the sound
of the dancers socked feet hitting the hollow stage was louder,
making the free floating ballerinas come off as fat thumping amateurs.
crescendos compressed down to a signal to noise ratio of around
3 dB and literally made me jump around in my seat. I wanted
to turn to the women sitting next to me and exclaim how pathetic
this is, but I didn't.
the next 3 hours I had one fantasy after another. They alternated.
The first one was about finding the people responsible for this
sound system and scold them to tears. The next one was about
how I would design and integrate speakers to project a sound field
that surrounded the performers. Those poor dancers couldn't
feel the music, and I'm certain that they barely could hear it.
My next one was how the dancers, audience, and anyone who wants
to join in could find and mob the people responsible for this sound
have to say that it was the longest three hours of my life.
When the glorious moment arrived - the end- my pounding head had
fatigued to the point I just wanted to go home instead of take any
kind of action.
room cleared out a bit now that it was over, everyone had the warm
glow of just seeing a show. This amazed me more than anything
else. The audience as a whole seemed to enjoy it. Reminded
me of a bunch a cattle. Why could they possible think it was
great? I can only conclude that because it sounded like their
disposable solid state "digital ready" stereos at home they found
no fault in the presentation.
I being over critical, this audio guru who was just sonically assaulted
says no. No I'm not. If our culture in these smaller
communities understood the true intent of Tchaikovsky's work and
understood that fidelity is the hallmark of that man's work, the
people who designed this theater and sound system would have been
laughed out of town.
that saw the production last night or who will see it tonight will
have had even remotely close to the intended experience.
waiting back stage to see my daughter I saw this little man
walk by with a CD. I followed him to a table where some maintenance
man sat with a 3 channel mixer and a Sony Walkman CD player.
Boy here was my chance. I could execute fantasy # 17 that
occurred during the end of the first scene of the second half...climbing
up to the speakers and cutting the wires. I was going to put
one of those mattress tags on the back of each speaker that reads:
Inserting speaker wires in these speakers is punishable by law.
as I looked at what was before me, I knew it was hopeless so I kept
my mouth shut, found and kissed my daughter and went home.
had a similar experience to this in a new church where some sound
contractor over killed a mono birds nest with a 64 channel mixer
and 8 Crown Marco Techs. Everyone in the church will tell
you they have the best sound system because it cost $80,000.
I could have, in that particular room, used a pair wooden horns
and a 12 watt tube amp and had better sound that was plenty loud
guess if you were a doctor it would be like going into a hospital
where all the surgeons just used their fingers, and everyone died,
but they thought they were doing a good job!