Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Bureaucrats are Bad for Music, Example 5,789

It is the age old complaint: you’re trying to sleep but the local symphony orchestra keeps blaring Mahler. Well, have no fear the EU is here. There has been a flurry of stories recently about the EU is applying noise abatement regulations on symphonies in member-states. It is actually work-place exposure issue rather than a general noise pollution concern, but it is undeniably an instance of government regulations abridging artistic freedom.

The regulations pertain to prolonged exposure, so they can still turn the trumpet section loose occasionally. According to the Guardian, the London Symphony Orchestra started balancing loud and soft in their programs several years ago. Like it or not, many more soft and precious compositions like Satie’s GymnopĂ©dies will be programmed to offset the crowd pleasers that end with a good bang. The EU’s 2002 directive is set to take effect next year, but many orchestra directors remain skeptical. Not surprisingly, the Washington Times reports the Czechs are dubious:

“It can’t work in symphony orchestras,” said Libor Pesek, conductor of the Prague Symphony. “How could you apply it to Gustav Mahler, for instance, or Richard Strauss?”

The 1812 Overture would be a little problematic too, not to mention Stravinsky’s Scythians. It also makes one wonder how long before it is applied to other genres as well. After all, free jazz artists can get the decibels up too, and unlike orchestras they tend to play in smaller venues. Visiting artists themselves should not reach the exposure threshold, but what about venue employees?

The Times also quotes bass trombonist Douglas Yeo of the Boston Philharmonic, asking: “Do you need the nanny state to step in and say, ‘No, you cannot play the bass drum fortissimo in the Verdi Requiem?’” It is a good question. Let’s not give Mayor/nanny Bloomberg any ideas. This is New York. Whether jazz or classical, we play loud.