2008-04-21

A Classic Hazard

A new law in Europe protects people from enduring dangerous levels of sound in the workplace. The law is having an effect on orchestras and their repertory. Sarah Lyall, writing in London, describes one example for the New York Times:

They had rehearsed the piece only once, but already the musicians at the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra were suffering. Their ears were ringing. Heads throbbed.

Tests showed that the average noise level in the orchestra during the piece, State of Siege, by the composer Dror Feiler, was 97.4 decibels, just below the level of a pneumatic drill and a violation of new European noise-at-work limits. Playing more softly or wearing noise-muffling headphones were rejected as unworkable.

So instead of having its world premiere on April 4, the piece was dropped. “I had no choice,” said Trygve Nordwall, the orchestra’s manager. “The decision was not made artistically; it was made for the protection of the players.”

The complete article offers a look at the little-publicized ways orchestra musicians deal with the hazard of dangerously high decibel levels in the workplace.

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