Saturday, 25 July 2020

At the end of the tunnel

Two years ago I wrote about a Voices Now  survey of choral singing in the UK.
The census estimates (conservatively) that over 2 million people sing regularly across the UK. This is similar to the number of Britons who go swimming on a weekly basis, and 300,00010 more than those playing amateur football each week.11 However these two sports receive considerable public funding, in part because of the widely recognised benefits of regular12 sports practice for mental and physical well-being and their role in local communities.
  10  2.52M swimming once a week (source: Active People Survey 10)
11 1.84M playing football once a week (source: Active People Survey 10)

12  Football - £30 million per year (source: Full
-  £10 million(source: Sport England)
Aha I interjected but sport has physical and psychological benefits. Doesn't that explain the difference in government support? The Voices Now survey again:
Professor Graham Welch, Chair of Music Education at the Institute of Education, University of London, found that the health benefits of singing are both physical and psychological. “Singing has physical benefits because it is anaerobic activity that increases oxygenation in the blood stream and exercises major muscle groups in the upperbody, even when sitting. Singing has psychological benefits because of its normally positive effect in reducing stress levels.

Psychological benefits are also evident because of the increased sense of community, belonging and shared endeavour. 

6 Heart Research UK, Singing  is Good for You, 2017
That was then and this is now. Choral singing has a new enemy that uses biological warfare, despite the fact that, as a recent study says, "[T]here is no secure, peer-reviewed data on the dangers of singing itself – taken in isolation, that is, from other potential contributors to outbreaks...". It goes on to list examples: "...close contact, shared drinks and snacks, as well as poor ventilation", all of which can be managed – some, admittedly, with more difficulty than others.

The study investigates dangerous singing and playing woodwind and brass instruments are in the spread of Covid-19. Serious outbreaks of the virus were linked to choirs from countries including South Korea and the Netherlands this spring. Most notable was the terrible case of a choir rehearsal in Skagit County, Washington state, on 10 March. Out of 61 attending practice, 52 people fell ill. Two died.
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Part of a test. For the full picture,
see the original article
"...playing woodwind and brass instruments"?  Singing I can understand – despite the lack of peer-reviewed evidence against it.  But it seems to me that a woodwind or brass instrument is as good (as far as the mouth is concerned, and I'm not sure why a player of a wind instrument would want to waste air by breathing out through the nose – which leaves only sneezes...
[and surely, isn't sneezing nature's way of telling you not to go to a rehearsal?]
...) as  any cloth mask (if not more effective) in the inhibition of aerosols. For bio-secure rehearsals I imagine there would have to be protocols for  disposing of the condensate (that's a euphemism for "spit"), but the air coming out of the instruments themselves is surely not a possible vector for the virus – not that the air moves that vigorously anyhow (a professional trombonist speaking in a BBC news interview observed that it was next to impossible to blow out a candle placed by  the bell of the instrument).
But this is getting dangerously close to gloomy rumination, which – despite evidence to the contrary  – I'm trying to avoid.

The report of the recent research continues:
The study that Costello has set up with Reid and other colleagues – funded by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and sponsored by Public Health England – aims to insert some facts into the discussion. The researchers hope to publish their findings in a matter of weeks – incredibly fast by the usual standards of peer-reviewed academic publishing. 
Here's hoping.


PS My latest nomination for a FOGGY (recognizing bad writing - see here, and here's a taste):
The idea for the name derives from Robert Gunning's FOG index, although these awards don't restrict themselves only to obstacles to readability measured by that index.
Here it is:

Is this a recall notice? It claims to be, but the text doesn't say anything like 'Take this back for a full refund. You really really ought to do this ASAP". It's more as though some official department or other has said 'Recall this" and B&Q have decided to save money by falling back on bad writing.

The word "advise" works to ways in English (at least two ways, but these two are the relevant ones):
  • advise + to-infinitive [that's ESOL-speak for what many  language learners know  as 'the infinitive"]
    Meaning: It would be wise to do this
    Example: He advised me to forget it
  • advise + that + indicative
    Meaning: Here's some information. Act on it or not – it's up to you
    Example: Transport for London advises passengers that engineering work will...
But B&Q have conflated these two. They are saying 'Here's some information: do with it what you will.' (the second sort of advise), but disguising it as the first sort (with a subtext of "Anyone with any sense would take care with this jerry-built rubbish. The Health and Safety people say we've got to recall it, but we're not going to waste money like that.")

Update: 2020.07.27.09:30 – Added saxophone picture

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