Audium reopens with a new, calming audio show

By Donna Domino

Audium’s “Sound Hour” immerses the audience in a darkened environment of field recordings and electronic sounds ranging from the clatter of the Tenderloin to a remote Baker Beach cave to an ecstatic celebration in the Mission.

Audium — the unique San Francisco theater constructed to host audio performances on “a sound-space continuum” that transport listeners on a “journey from the streets of San Francisco to a place inside themselves,” according to its proprietors — reopens Thursday after a more than a year-long closure due to the pandemic.

During the break, Audium staff took the opportunity to change the show, which takes place in a 49-seat darkened theater outfitted with 176 speakers and a 32- channel sound system.

“The silver lining of the pandemic was being able to dig into Audium’s technology and reimagine its experience,” says Dave Shaff, son of Stan Shaff, a musician, technician and artist who co-founded Audium with Doug McEachern in 1967. Dave Shaff, who upgraded the system with Paul Barton, said advance bookings are going well and performances already have been added.

The curated immersive sound environment aims to promote calm and wellness as The City recovers from the pandemic.

“Audiences will hear birds flitter above, while children laugh and play below. Electronic melodies bump up against each other and burst,” said Shaff, composer of “Sound Hour,” who adds, “I have always been possessed by the evocative qualities all sounds seem to have, whether natural or electronic. Sounds touch deeper levels of our inner life, layers that lie just beneath the visual world.”

Safety will be ensured upon reopening. The theater has an updated heating and ventilation system and bookings of small groups are limited to 10 people per performance. Full sanitization of the venue will take place between groups.

In the face of a world where attention is being tugged apart, Audium’s mission is to amplify perceptual awareness and provide a place of calm and relaxation not unlike the effect of a massage.

“Audiences should feel sound as it bumps up against them, caresses, travels through, covers and enfolds them,” said Shaff, who added, “Our goal is to enrich, educate and bring our community together through immersive art forms and the use of space as an artistic tool. Come relax in a safe space away from the noise of our new reality. Leave the worries of the workday behind and enjoy an intimate sound experience with friends and family.”


Audium’s Sound Hour

Where: 1616 Bush St., S.F.

When: 3:30, 5 and 6:30 p.m. Thursdays; 3:30, 5, 6:30 and 8 p.m. Fridays

Tickets: $100 private bookings for up to four people; $25 per person (10-person maximum)


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