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Orchestras Liable for Hearing Damage

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by matthewbrown, Mar 29, 2018.


  1. matthewbrown

    matthewbrown Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2003
    Harwich, MA, USA
    According to the Washington Post, anyway, in the UK.

    “The Music Business has considered itself exempt from the same regulatory requirements as all other sectors because of the artistic nature of its output,” Goldscheider’s solicitor Chris Fry said in a statement. “This in our view has always been a dismissive view from an industry which creates and sells ‘noise’ as a product.”
     
  2. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    I heard this on NPR yesterday. What I don't understand is why either the violist or the Union rep didn't speak up at rehearsal to management, not the conductor (maybe they did but it wasn't in the NPR story)
     
  3. wathaet

    wathaet

    May 27, 2007
    You are kidding right?
    That is an ongoing issue/conflict in about every fulltime orchestra. But in reality, the only thing that can be done in real life is earplugs and or screens. I have seen more open zones in front of brass last few years, but that is mainly psycological and not possible anyway on crowded pits. You cannot just walk off and trying to get brass or perc to play softer aint going to happen. It is an infected topic most places. Then there is piccolo, Eb clar and perc which is actually a bigger problem than brass as is sometimes oboe if you are aboslutely in the line of fire. (you would not think, but the meters say otherwise.)
    Add to that the E string on a violin which is actually a real problem that nobody complains about.
    A trombone colleague at a broadcast orchestra had his eardrum blown out five or so years ago by cymbals - he was bleeding from his ear on stage.
     
    Groove Doctor likes this.
  4. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    I'm not kidding at all: does a union have any greater responsibility than workplace safety for its members? Why didn't somebody address this BEFORE it became a crisis. It's not 1957. Toscannini isn't on the podium? Back to you.
     
    Tom Lane likes this.
  5. wathaet

    wathaet

    May 27, 2007
    While it may seem so from the cheap seats, this is not a simple issue. There is no simple solution. It is like I said a major topic of discussion in frequent meetings in about every pro orchestra out there. Your speculation that nobody has adressed this before is somewhat flawed as is the idea that there is a crisis.

    Frankly, English orchestras are IME a surprising place for this to come to a head as British brass is usually very tasteful and their huge workload usually means they hold back to save chops. I will ask a friend who occationally works with Covent Garden as a principal (not bass). Often there is more to these conflicts than just dangerous volume on stage.
     
  6. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    While I wouldn't say the seats are cheap, I've been negotiating with unions (including the AMF) since 1967 - on both coasts. Somebody should have spoken up before somebody got hurt.
    Respectfully,
    LouisF
     
    Lee Moses and Tom Lane like this.
  7. wathaet

    wathaet

    May 27, 2007
    Like I said, why do you assume nobody speaks up at Covent Garden?
    Although brits are funny with their enormous understatements and extreme suck it up attitude to work, I virtually guarantee that there were regular meetings with this on the agenda. Tea was probably involved, as were biscuits.
    In the real world, there is rarely a simple solution to this equation. As anyone with a job will know, this is a topic beat to death everywhere. There is no magic bullet, particularly in the pit beyond tempering the tops, using earplugs (=out of tune with me behind the wheel), using screens, and using placement (rarely possible in a pit).
    I wish we could discuss the bellsize on the brass instruments and the way many composers write FFFFFFFFF with everyone all in and a thousand perc instruments for no apparent musical reason other than achieving maximum pain for all involved.

    How do you propose to solve playing this Wagner with the constraints of the CG pit and the size of the orchestra required without someone getting in the line of fire? I have had two opera jobs, pitvolume is one of two reasons why I prefer not to do opera regularly. Ask angry violists and their answer is often, MISEP (make it someone elses problem, i.e. put the cellos there - ergo problem solved - unless, of course, you play the cello)
     
    matthewbrown likes this.
  8. Ben B

    Ben B

    Jul 13, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    I remember back to my early teens when I was just getting into playing bass. At that time I was dumb teenager, and had not attended any music conservatory nor did I have a degree in music. Yet, after one or two practices with my first garage band, I discovered that live music was loud and I bought some earplugs. Here I am 40 years later, having played in many loud bands with Marshall stacks and Ampegs so close to me I could feel the wind coming off them and my guts shaking, yet my hearing is fine because I always use my ear plugs. I wonder how I figured this out at such an early age and a world class violinist didn't.

    When I've seen performances with pit musicians who are unlucky enough sit in front of the brass, I usually see them wearing earplugs. Often times I've seen plexiglass in front of the brass sometimes mounted on top of their music stands.
     
  9. wathaet

    wathaet

    May 27, 2007
    According to the article, he was using earplugs.
    That being said, I usually avoid them because it interferes with my playing. Sometimes I use one on the brass side. Playing in a small band is extremely different from playing super dynamic and very fluid material with 100 or so players in a reverberant hall 20-25 meters from people you have to play tight and in tune with. In opera the singer may be really far away above you with the roof of a pit between you and you have to be super tight regardless of what the singer may decide to do or what bars or beats they skip today.
     


  10. About the ear plugs, from the linked article.

    " ... and at its loudest moments peaked at more than 137 decibels, about as loud as a jet engine at 100 feet.
    Goldscheider was wearing custom earplugs provided by the opera house, but they weren’t enough, he alleged."


    Most custom fit musician ear plugs have ER-15db. That still gives a peak of 122db. Excruciating. Even if he brought in the ER-25db filters for this gig, that still leaves a peak of 112db. The volumes were too much. (If he had the ER-9db filters, what might be most common for classical musicians, then the peak would have been 128db. Ouch.)


    Next:

    "The opera house said it went great lengths to shield musicians from loud noises, conducting risk assessments, erecting sound baffles and carefully arranging the different musicians to limit the dangers while delivering the best sound to the audience. A balance had to be struck between artistic considerations and the safety of musicians, it said."

    To which the judge replied,
    “The reliance upon ‘artistic value’ implies that statutory health and safety requirements must cede to the needs and wishes of the artistic output of the opera company, its managers and conductors. Such a stance is unacceptable, musicians are entitled to the protection of the law as is any other worker.”
     
    matthewbrown likes this.
  11. wathaet

    wathaet

    May 27, 2007
    I used to measure volume on stage for the purpose of safetyregulations. I have sat (and personally flipped out) in front of the brass for shosty 5 with an extremely immature weilerstein asking for more more more on the last page.
    I would have loved to have data fom that week for reference. We occationally have to deal with boneheaded inconsiderate conductors, but on a higher level it is much more rare. Anoyone know who was conducting said performance?
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2018
    IamGroot likes this.
  12. Ben B

    Ben B

    Jul 13, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    Maybe for these rehearsals he was wearing plugs, but based on my experiences and everything I've read about hearing damage, it happens gradually over time. Even the article states:

    The Royal Opera House contended that its own medical experts had concluded that Goldscheider’s hearing damage
    couldn’t have been caused by a single exposure to loud music.

    I think Goldscheider's claim about feeling dizzy or nauseousness from the loud music is plausible. I've experienced that twice myself, but never from nearby orchestral instruments. It took large guitar and bass amps at volumes far greater than can be achieved by a trumpet. Note: I realize the orchestra had 18 horns, but they were not encircling him and aiming at his head--at least I hope not.

    If Goldscheider had a documented hearing test within a few weeks before the rehearsal and another test after the rehearsal that showed a change, I would be less skeptical.

    Yup. Ear plugs are a pain literally and figuratively, but I use them because the alternative is worse. I use pressure sensitive earplugs (sonic II) which give you much more of a sense of musical nuances during quiet passages, but block high volume sound. These plugs are popular among gun enthusiasts.
     
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  13. 137dB is obscenely loud and incredibly dangerous. The safe workplace limit is 85dB this is a whopping 52dB above that. Let that sink in....
     
    matthewbrown likes this.
  14. wathaet

    wathaet

    May 27, 2007
    I also use this type of earplugs, same principle and made from hunters, works far better for me than expensive etymotics, passive or electronic.
    In the pit you easily get the brass pointing right at your head, and they sit in a tight row, so being close to and aimed at by a number of trombones and trumpets is not unfamilliar. Trust me, they can get absurdly loud and can easily hit the most pain sensitive frequencyrange.
     
  15. wathaet

    wathaet

    May 27, 2007
    Well, limit is not 85 db peak levels. That is not how it works. 137 is above legal peaks as wel, but I sincerely doubt that was a real level at his ears. If it was, the whole section would have been severely hurt.
    Edit: apparently measured 3 ft from bell. Not sure how far from player
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2018
  16. bengreen

    bengreen

    Jan 26, 2016
    San Diego

    I'm curious, how did they come up with the 137db figure?

    I'm probably one of the few guys here who has spent a lot of time up close and personal with operating jet engines. Usually with 30db foam plugs underneath a pair of David Clarks. But there have been occasions when I've been caught unprotected (and have the tinitus to prove it).

    I've been in many uncomfortable and often painful situations in orchestra, and have no doubt it's damaging. But nothing in orchestra has come even remotely close to the sustained, agonizing assault I experienced in aviation. You can't even imagine.

    So again, just wondering how they came up with that figure.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2018
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  17. Ben B

    Ben B

    Jul 13, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    Agreed. No way a brass section can sustain that volume for a significant amount of time. The musicians are spread out somewhat and not aiming at the same focal point. It's different than, say, standing right in front of a dimed 100 watt Marshall stack. The Marshall stack is about 2.5 feet wide. The 18 piece horn section, perhaps in two rows of 9, is 18 - 20 feet wide.

    Unless your eardrums actually punctured during the event and you were rushed to the hospital, I have a tough time believing a single exposure while wearing earplugs could cause permanent damage.
     
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  18. wathaet

    wathaet

    May 27, 2007
    Well, you don't just play one performance. 10-30 is more likely and they are four hours long. English players usually work 6 hours of stagetime a day so it adds up.
     
    matthewbrown likes this.
  19. Ben B

    Ben B

    Jul 13, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    Understood. As I suggested earlier, exposure over time to loud music can cause hearing damage which is why I've worn ear plugs for so many years. The article seems to be stating that a single exposure caused the problem:

    But in summer 2012, during a roaring rehearsal of Richard Wagner’s “Die Walküre,” a blast from the orchestra’s 18-member brass section left him with devastating and permanent hearing loss

    Again, I'm skeptical. Did anyone else experience a permanent hearing loss during this rehearsal? If not, why not? I don't know the man, but it's my suspicion based on my own experiences that a long career exposed to loud music and not using proper hearing protection throughout his career led to his hearing loss. Very similar to how a lot of older rock stars have permanent hearing loss--cumulative, not from a single event.
     
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  20. wathaet

    wathaet

    May 27, 2007
    Not going to get into it in a forum, but there are often more to these situations than just volume. I can take it in a PM if you wish.
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2018

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