Rensselaer Alumni Magazine - Fall 2017 - 33
Alex Case '03,
of sound recording
at the University of
speaks frequently on
audio and acoustics
across the United States
Rensselaer's renowned graduate program in architectural acoustics
brings together practitioners and scholars to study how to design
spaces with optimal acoustics.
BY JANE GOTTLIEB
lexander Case '03 discovered he was a "reverb
junkie" as a child when he listened to his grandmother play her Hammond electric organ and
became intrigued by how the chords lingered before
fading. His fascination with sound continued as
he sang in his high school choir, earned degrees in mechanical
engineering and music production, and pursued a career in
recording. Still, it wasn't enough.
"I didn't want to just use a microphone. I wanted to get closer
to the engineering side of acoustics," Case says.
Anne Guthrie '08 also followed her childhood passion for
playing and hearing music, to a music degree and job managing a
contemporary-music orchestra. She soon noticed how the same
program sounded markedly different in different venues. "I wanted
to learn more about the science of acoustics, to understand why
the space had such an impact on the music," Guthrie recalls.
And Benjamin Markham '08, also a musician, studied
structural engineering in college, only to realize he was most
interested in applying science to sound.
"I wanted to delve into a detailed study of acoustics,"
Markham says. "I thought acoustics was this very interesting
marriage between engineering, architecture, and music."
All three found answers, and a community of individuals with
a deep appreciation for the properties and possibilities of sound,
in Rensselaer's graduate program in architectural acoustics.
Housed in the School of Architecture and affiliated with the
School of Engineering, the program brings together practitioners
and scholars from many fields to study how to design spaces with
Rensselaer's program is among the largest and most
comprehensive of its kind. The director, Ning Xiang, notes
that there is no equivalent in North America-at a time when
designing buildings that maximize sound quality is gaining
"If you look around, you will see acoustics programs, but not
many devoted to 'architectural acoustics'," says Xiang, editor
of the recently published Architectural Acoustics Handbook, and
among just 16 individuals worldwide to win the Wallace Clement
Sabine Medal, the field's top honor.
"Over the past 30 years," he adds, "the need to understand
acoustics is more profound than ever. As we have more sound
and understand how to control and improve the sound, we are
making a real difference in society."
Close to 20 years after introducing the program, Rensselaer has
educated more than 130 specialists who collaborate on concert
halls, libraries, airports, corporate headquarters, and university
RensselaeR/ Fall 2017 33