This web site is a history of the path I have followed over many decades to generate a useful and complete theory of concert halls based on the physics of sound as waves.  That theory has resulted from an academic degree in physics, a brief career at a national defense laboratory, further academic study in architecture, a graduate degree with a thesis on the subject of concert halls, many presentations at national and international meetings of various technical organizations, chiefly the preeminent Acoustical Society of America.


But it has not been expressed as a full paper in the major technical journal in the field of acoustics, The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, despite more than forty years of effort.  The reasons for this are several, variations on the theme of resistance of "normal science," to use the terms of Thomas S. Kuhn, to "revolutionary science," to "paradigm shift."  I once corresponded with Dr. Kuhn, a fine physicist, about this situation; his advice was, "Keep records of all your work!"


I have done so.  Some of those records will be posted here.


The technical level of this site will be fairly high.  Following the postings will require a strong basic competence in physics and a good textbook close at hand.  I recommend Allan D. Pierce's "Acoustics," the 1994 edition, published by The Acoustical Society of America, and available from its web site.  This is the authoritative modern text, and I shall refer to it frequently, or inversely, periodically.  (Acoustics joke.)  Allan is a brilliant fellow, currently Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, and a fan of "L'il Abner."  (He has spoken feelingly of The Acoustical Society of Lower Slobovia.)  Like me, he has taken the advice of Thomas S. Kuhn to heart, exercising superb scholarship not only in the technical aspects of his book but also in the history of the subject, which he is determined shall not be forgotten.


When we have got past the basic physical acoustics of concert halls the discussion will escalate into signal theory, particularly the Wigner distribution, then information theory, via the work of Denis Gabor on holography.  Wigner and Gabor, both Hungarian, both Nobel laureates in physics, are much worth paying attention to.


I owe Richard Feynman too, for he remarked several times during his career that he could not conceive of structures of waves in three-dimensional space. A concert hall is a specific instance of such a structure, one that varies in time as well.  I can conceive of such, and I have solved the problem of concert halls.


For the record, I am a full member in good standing of the Acoustical Society of America.


James B. Lee

Portland, Oregon

June, 2012 



June, July, 2014


Note on an element of style: This story could not be told in the usual stilted, pedantic, turgid style (passive voice only!) forced upon contributors to learned technical journals. I tried to do so for 2 years--note the dates above. So I adopted and adapted a quasi-gonzo approach, and centered matters about a lovely lady and a superb steamship, both of close acquaintance. Both lady and ship could propel themselves through water with verve and grace, so things went swimmingly thereafter.


Done with physics forever now!


Only alliterative skaldic verse from here on out.



September, 2014


Jimdo is upgrading to new features and templates, and I am going with the flow.


The numbered pages are the sequential narrative, and are retained as they are, for now.


The newly lettered pages are some of my papers and miscellaneous addenda, added as the mood has moved me.



October 2014


This month Leo Beranek, age 100, is presenting 2 papers to the 168th meeting of The Acoustical Society of America, in Indianapolis, Indiana.




And in February, 2016, new Arcadia is scheduled to motor from Sydney to Hong Kong, via Brisbane, Cairns, Manilla.


Wait for it!



June 2015


My oldest sister, Mary Alice, passed on yesterday, 17 June, age 87.


Requiescat in pace.


According to today's New York Times, James B. Lee, Jr., a very wealthy and powerful banker, also died yesterday.


He was not I.



November 2015


I am working on a new set of presentations, 5 in all, called "Five Easy Pieces."  It divides my theory of concert halls into 5 segments that can be used in 3 different ways:


First, each can be used as a brief conference presentation, typically 15 minutes.


Second, each can be used as an extended colloquium, typically 1 hour.


Third, all 5 can comprise a workshop that extends over several days.


There are 2 elements to each presentation, a set of slides that I shall speak to, and a folded 4 page handout, containing salient points and images, given to each person in the audience.  This follows the recommendation of Edward R. Tufte.


The number of slides is minimum, with several talking points to each that can be expanded upon proportionally to time available.  The handout provides each participant with a hard copy of vital information to keep as notes and future reference.


I expect goodly conversations will arise, as the case should be in productive colloquia.


And there is a gimmick--but you must attend a presentation to discover that!



January 2016


I have filed to run for Position 4 on the City Council of Portland, Oregon.


8 years ago I ran for mayor to get the requisite first loss over and done, finishing fifth, with 1,111 votes, just behind a charming lady, Patricia Stewart.  I made valuable political connections, which should serve me well this time.


This time is for real, with campaign committee Jim Lee for Council all attested and approved by the State of Oregon and the City of Portland.  The one-term incumbent, a brilliant lawyer, has antagonized colleagues and citizenry, showing himself to be generally incompetent.  He is very vulnerable.


Having spent 40 years observing and testifying before Council, I probably know as much about how it works as anyone, and so have an excellent chance.


Portland's system of government is nearly unique in the United States.  It consists of a mayor and 4 councilors: all votes count equally, with the mayor presiding at meetings and assigning various governmental bureaus to be administered by the councilors--almost a parliamentary system with a PM assigning cabinet positions.  All 5 members are elected at large.  There are no districts to gerrymander.


Often it is criticized by those who would prefer a "strong mayor" exercising all administrative functions, and by those who would prefer a "city manager" reporting to a voting council, but we like our system just fine, resisting infrequent attempts for change.  It consolidates power, just opposite the American tradition of separation, but its big advantage is that all issues must come before Council, demanding both legislative and administrative responsibility of the same 5 rulers.


Great theater too!


I intend to keep you appraised of developments.  The last pages will deal with campaign related matters.


The entire site will serve to provide voters with important elements of my background, so they can judge me accurately.  I expect pages 7, 8, 9, "Arcadia," to be popular.


Get out and vote!