The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has documented live performances of intangible cultural heritage, including traditional performing arts at the Performing Art Studio in the TOBUNKEN facility. The Studio consists of two rooms: a stage for video recording and a recording studio for audio recording. At the stage facility, we have continuously recorded performing arts including kodan and rakugo. In addition, traditional music such as Miyazono-bushi, Tokiwazu-bushi and Heike have been recently recorded. However, the recording studio was hardly used due to its age. Its recording equipment was not suitable for the kind of digital recording widely used today. Therefore, TOBUNKEN made large-scale renovation of this recording studio in FY 2021, and it was completed in March 2022.
The renewed recording studio have a feature suitable for recording Japanese traditional music: Its floor is made of hinoki, Japanese cypress. This can properly reflect the echo of Japanese traditional musical instruments. In addition, a small space exists under the hinoki floor for ventilation. This will release humidity from the recording studio and prevent curving and mold involving the floor materials.
The new recording studio has zigzag shape with wide angle on the rear walls. This is an alternative to traditional byōbu (folding screens), which are set behind performers when they play Japanese traditional music. Byōbu not only visually highlight the performers, but also reflects the sound. The rear walls thus play this role of sound reflection. In addition, the rear walls have several sets of three sliding doors that are set vertically. Opening and closing these mechanisms controls sound reflection. Furthermore, different types of materials including washi (white in the photo) and cloth (black in the photo) are used in the wall, which contribute to control the balance of sound reflection and absorption.
Then, the panels are set in different angles on the ceiling. Some of the panels reflect the sound to the players and others absorb sound and suppress reflection.
Many modern music studios are designed to prevent sound reflection by setting acoustic materials on walls and ceilings. This is because recording clear sounds in the environment requires minimum reflection. However, players feel strange in these circumstances because the music they play does not bounce back. In particular, Japanese traditional music is usually played in an environment with some sound reflection. Therefore, it is important to record the music in an environment close to normal performances to document such live performances. Simultaneously, to record “clear” sounds, an environment with minimum sound reflection is preferable. It is difficult to meet these two incompatible conditions simultaneously, but we attempt this in the recording studio using a highly precise design.
Related with the recording studio’s renewal, the sound equipment was completely replaced with contemporary digital recording equipment. We plan to start live performance documentation in this new recording studio from FY 2022. We expect to record performances with higher quality and presence than ever before.