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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 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 cancellation is, so far, probably the most extreme consequence of the new law, which requires employers in Europe to limit workers’ exposure to potentially damaging noise and which took effect for the entertainment industry this month.

But across Europe, musicians are being asked to wear decibel-measuring devices and to sit behind see-through anti-noise screens. Companies are altering their repertories. And conductors are reconsidering the definition of “fortissimo.”

Alan Garner, an oboist and English horn player who is the chairman of the players’ committee at the Royal Opera House in London, said that he and his colleagues had been told that they would have to wear earplugs during entire three-hour rehearsals and performances.

I read this and more here

Hmmm. I think that comparison is a bit faulty.

I understand why musicians don’t want to be forced to wear earplugs. I don’t wear them unless I have to. But if things are too loud it’s simply unwise not to wear them. You can’t undo the damage to ears, and time won’t change things in most instances. It’s not like a bad haircut.

FYI: if I have a solo you can bet those earplugs are on the stand. I don the earplugs when things are so loud you don’t hear the oboe or English horn on their own.


  1. The world is getting louder and louder, to my consternation and distress. It is a shame that music has to be “amped up” in order to get a rise out of people. Literally.

    I wish that everything would just quiet down.

  2. I’m so with you, Cameron! There is such beauty in things that aren’t amped up. Loud is just … well … LOUD most of the time. (Oops, I just yelled! Ironic?)