Tuesday, April 22, 2008

This Idea May Fall on Deaf Ears

I read another amusing story this week: An orchestra in Germany has dropped a new piece of music from its repertoire because the members claim it's too loud:
The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (BR) said it had little choice but to drop the world premiere of Swedish-Israeli composer Dror Feiler's Halat Hisar (State of Siege), from a concert because it was "adverse to the health" of its musicians.

Members of the 100-strong orchestra said they could only contemplate playing the piece wearing headphones, after several suffered buzzing in the ears for hours after rehearsals. The 20-minute composition starts with the rattle of machine-gun fire and gets louder.

"I had to protect the orchestra," its manager, Trygve Nordwall, said. "I can't just say we'll play it anyway, for it to then cause health problems. The piece starts with machine-gun shots ... and that's the quietest part of it."
Nordwall was guided by new EU rules that forbid more than 85 decibels in the workplace. He said readings were taken during rehearsals and even when toned down, Halat Hisar measured about 130 decibels, equivalent to hearing a jet aircraft taking off.
Not that hearing loss is any laughing matter; I've experienced some myself (mostly from working for a semester in an un-soundproofed rehearsal hall), and I've written serious posts on the topic on several occasions. But I'd never heard of one specific piece being rated unbearably loud before. (Perhaps they should play the piece the way the band Disaster Area did in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy--by remote control from a spaceship circling the planet, or perhaps even an entirely different planet. Heh.)

Still under the weather from allergies; more soon.

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