Kazushi Ono has joined scientists and the players of Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra to test the best conditions for a safe but musically satisfying return to orchestral playing in Bunka Kaikan Hall. He wrote an article about the experience here.
On 11 and 12 June, he and the orchestra were joined by medical adviser Dr Kawase from Saint Marianna School of Medicine, Dr Hiroyuki Kunishima from the Department of Infectious Diseases at St Marianna University and Professor Tomoaki Okuda, a specialist in Aerosol Engineering at Keio University.
The orchestra played a variety of repertoire, including Grieg, Mozart and Tchaikovksy, altering the distance between players, while the scientists tested the aerosol effect. Initially there was a distance of 2m between string players, which made musical communication difficult. Ono writes: ‘They couldn’t hear each other very well and the players on the back desks couldn’t see the conductor properly. It was clear that 2m is difficult to accept from the point of view of musical quality.’
They eventually went down to 90cm, with a distance of 1.3m between the strings and wind sections. Tests indicated that the aerosol effect from wind players when they played was less than when they talked, and that it was smaller than in the tests done in Europe. Dr Kunishima suggested this might be because of the relative humidity of the air in Japan. Ono said: ‘Throughout this process, Dr Kunishima recorded the aerosol of the winds and brass and reported them back to the string players, which gave them reassurance. One of the key points of the trial was to allay any fears that the musicians might have.’
Ono concluded: ‘With the cooperation of scientists and doctors, we were able to try many different possible formations, while keeping safe medical conditions, and our research has allowed us to prepare to restart concerts and invite audiences back to the hall.’
Read the full report.