Saturday, June 06, 2020

Singing and the Coronavirus

The Schola Abelis, Oxford's Gregorian Chant Schola, shrouded in incence
in the rather roomy 'tribune' (choir loft) at Blackfiars back in 2018.
Some potentially good news: there is now some evidence that the idea that singing is a specially dangerous activity in the context of the pandemic is false.

At the outbreak of the pandemic very little relevant research existed, but some has now been done: this paper, awaiting its peer-review, is at least a hopeful sign.

One of its key points is that singing does not spread air--and therefore anything carried by air such as viruses riding on droplets of water--very far:
The experiments clearly show that air is only set in motion in the immediate vicinity of the mouth when singing. In the case of the professional singer, the experiments showed that at a distance of around 0.5 m, almost no air movement can be detected, regardless of how loud the sound was and what pitch was sung. It is therefore unlikely that the virus could spread beyond this limit via the air flow created during singing. Amateur musicians who do not use the diaphragmatic breathing most commonly used by professionals when singing, but rather the natural chest breathing, do not get beyond this range either. By singing a very loud and long sequence of the same tone at about 2 Hz, a slightly wider spread of air movement could be achieved.
From: "Singing in choirs and making music with wind instruments ‒ Is that safe during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic?" by Christian J. K√§hler (Prof. Dr.) and Rainer Hain (Dr.) Institute of Fluid Mechanics and Aerodynamics, University of the Bundeswehr Munich, Werner-Heisenberg-Weg 39, 85577 Neubiberg, Germany.

The hope is that the issue with choirs will be social distancing, contrary to the cramped conditions many choirs frequently have to endure both in rehearsal and performance, but not the act of singing itself.

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