A distinctive aspect of the Acoustical Studies program is the Concert Hall Field Study. As students of acoustics and music, it is essential to spend time to engage with, learn from and benchmark critical acoustic spaces for music performance. The Concert Hall Field Study is a unique opportunity for students to travel to, experience, tour and critically listen to music in significant concert halls, in close succession, and in the collective – something close to the heart of all Peabody Acoustics students, and consistent with the program’s approach, whereby students begin to learn in the classroom, but truly connect in the field of real experience and application.

Recent iterations of the Concert Hall Field Study have included visits to Reykjavik, Amsterdam, Paris, Vienna, Prague, Antwerp, Lucerne, Hamburg, and Berlin, to experience some of the most revered shoebox concert halls (remaining) from the 19th century, formative examples of 20th century innovation, and early examples of 21st century responses to concert hall design.

The necessity to hear and experience differences in acoustic design and detail is critical. The opportunity for an individual to hear classical works on a condensed schedule is useful to calibrating one’s ear to the manner and expectation of how different halls sound. Doing so in a small collective offers additional richness, as we share and dissect listening experiences in discussion. The goals of the Field Study are multi-fold : (i) Firstly, for students of music and acoustics to experience a subset of concert halls that are truly significant to Western music development and music listening, (ii) to begin to build a critical listening habit, memory library and vocabulary, whereby one can recognize, understand, and describe the aural signature of different hall types, (iii) to situate each performance venue on the continuum of concert hall and acoustic design development, and (iv) to contextualize the physical, cultural and historical ‘place’ of each hall — in its city, and in the timeline of musical, architectural and world history.

Students watching a performance

The Concert Hall Field Study is open to all students in Acoustical Studies and Recording Arts, but it is linked to the Architectural Acoustics II course, where students in that course prepare for the Field Study through specific research and study of the halls to be visited, prior to travel. The Field Study carries both preparation and participation expectations, for greatest learning. These take the form of planning and research, in advance, as well as critical listening, discussion, journaling (and sketching) on site.