Apr 23, 2011

Hangar One

This morning, as on most Saturdays, I drove down to Moffett Field, for the jazz combo class that I coach there. We meet at the old Navy Rec Hall, a building a few hundred yards south of Hangar One. Hangar One, if you don't know it, is a huge structure built in 1932 to house a Navy dirigible, the USS Macon. The Macon is long gone, but Hangar One is still there, a unique local landmark. Recently it was found to be leaking PCBs into the ground, and the decision was made to remove its skin. NASA, which now runs Moffett, is trying to find funding to restore it.

Here's a picture. If you look closely, you can see the size of the people lined up at the entrance.

Anyway, this reminded me of a big band gig I played a few years ago, inside Hangar One. I can't recall which band this was - if you were on this gig, please refresh my memory.

We were hired to play for a reception the night before the opening of an air show. They put us on a stage right in the middle of the hangar. Hangar One is truly huge - 1,133 feet long, and 308 feet wide. The floor is concrete. This adds up to the most horrible acoustics that a musician could imagine. 

At 68 degrees F., sound travels at 1128 feet/second. Thus, the music played by a big band in the middle of Hangar One will reflect off the far walls and back with a delay of about one second, and reflect off the side walls with a delay of about 1/3 of a second. The far wall is actually curved, and there are of course all sorts of secondary reflections, with various long delays. It was an incredible cacophany. We couldn't hear ourselves play. There was not much we could do except to play as loudly as possible, so we could at least hear the sounds coming out of our own instruments. The band didn't have much finesse that night.

The process of disassembling the hangar began this week. When they finally get the hangar restored, I'm sure they'll have an opening ceremony. Maybe I'll get lucky and be on the gig.

No comments:

Post a Comment