Classical Musicians Risk Hearing Damage

A study from Britain finds 40% of orchestra members have tinnitus. Musicians are being advised to wear earplugs because of the risk of damaging their hearing from the loud blasts produced by a modern symphony orchestra. The noise in orchestras "is loud enough to cause hearing loss, pitch distortion, tinnitus and pain," according to a study published August 23, 2001 by the Association of British Orchestras. The survey found that 86% of players find loud noise interferes with their playing and 79% experience pain in performing Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture or Verdi's Requiem.

The report collates with worldwide research, including unpublished reports held by orchestras and the findings of a survey of 500 musicians. It concludes: "The brass and woodwind of most symphonic and pit orchestras ought to be required to wear earmuffs or earplugs on about half their working days." It found that up to 40% of musicians have tinnitus, with woodwind players the most common sufferers. The report's author, Alison Wright Reid, an occupational health and safety specialist who has studied orchestral noise risks for the past decade, recommends earplugs for players of brass, woodwind and percussion instruments, and for double bass and viola players because they are often up against the loud timpani and brass. At 140 decibels the ear starts to suffer irreversible damage, while pain begins at about 120 decibels, she said. "The sharp belts that the brass can kick out have been recorded at 127." Players are wary of using earplugs because some say colleagues wearing them have had intonation problems. But the long- term benefits for their health outweigh the disadvantages, the report argues. Without drastic measures, the consequence for musicians is "deafness in 10 or 20 years."

-by Dalia Alberge, Vancouver Sun, August 22, 2001

The following is an excerpt from a letter written by Edward Elgar to Jaeger (Nimrod), April 26, 1908, probably from Rome:

. . . I cannot afford to get a quiet studio where I might have worked & my whole winter has been wasted for the want of a few more pounds: it seems odd that any rapscallion of a painter can find a place for his "genius" to work in when a poor devil like me who after all has done something should find himself in a hell of noise & no possible escape! I resent it bitterly but can do nothing. It is just the same now at Hereford, noise has developed in the neighbourhood - I dodged it doing the Kingdom at great expense by going to Wales, but I can't do it again: my lovely works do not pay the rent of a studio!

-From Portrait of Elgar by Michael Kennedy, 1968, contributed by Bryan King

Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal Expansion Goes Ahead

Despite statements to the contrary by MLA Ted Nebbeling before his election, the Liberal Government has ordered that work resume on the ferry terminal expansion which has been the subject of a lawsuit by some three hundred Horseshoe Bay residents, with West Vancouver District and School Board as intervenors on the side of the citizens. After a committee recommended modifying landscaping and using the holding area near Gleneagles Elementary School only during peak periods, the plan is going ahead with the full nine-bay toll booth in the original proposal. The need for this extra capacity could be reduced, according to resident Dr. Bryce Kelpin, by instituting a reservation system, but there appear to be no plans to do so.

The suggestion has been made to approach Canada Post to issue a stamp commemorating International Noise Awareness Day. If any member has ideas on this or is willing to take on the task, please let us know.

Right to Quiet Society Newsletter, Fall, 2001

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