The death of amateur chamber music playing

Compared to the death, bereavement and economic pain of the pandemic the end of music making by amateur chamber musicians is a small thing.

Why do I say this?  You can hardly do better than the following link —

Here is a quote from it — “Indoor spaces, with limited air exchange or recycled air and lots of people, are concerning from a transmission standpoint. We know that 60 people in a volleyball court-sized room (choir) results in massive infections. Same situation with the restaurant and the call center. Social distancing guidelines don’t hold in indoor spaces where you spend a lot of time, as people on the opposite side of the room were infected.

The principle is viral exposure over an extended period of time. In all these cases, people were exposed to the virus in the air for a prolonged period (hours). Even if they were 50 feet away (choir or call center), even a low dose of the virus in the air reaching them, over a sustained period, was enough to cause infection and in some cases, death.”

Does this sound like amateur chamber music to you?  Particularly at summer festivals where hordes of the most vulnerable age  groups get together, eat together, play together, socialize together.

Is there hope that this will be transient?  Yes.  Here’s why.

First some background.

I’m sorry to keep putting this in, but I don’t want to leave anyone behind. Finding the actual genome (RNA in this case) of a virus in an individual  is like seeing a real bear up close and personal.  This can do you some damage.  In contrast, antibodies to the virus are made by an individual who has been infected by the virus in the past.  Antibodies (proteins) and genomes (RNA) are completely different chemically.      Antibodies are like seeing the tracks of the bear without the bear itself. You can’t see tracks without the bear having been present at some point in the past.

Well we’re in that situation in the USA.  Based on many studies now (California, New York State, Prison systems) the number of people who’ve been exposed to the virus enough to develop their own antibodies to it, is anywhere from 10 – 100 times greater than the number of people in whom the viral genome has been found.  This means that the vast majority of infections with the new coronavirus are asymptomatic.

So that’s the good news (but only if 3 things are true)

l. The antibody tests are accurate

2. Having the antibody means you won’t get sick if exposed to the virus

3. Having the antibody means you are free of the virus and can’t possibly transmit it to other people.

As of 10 May none of these are known with any degree of certainty, but if antibodies to the pandemic flu are like all the antibodies we’ve studied in the past they very likely are true.   It will take several months before this is all sorted out.

Things to watch out for in press accounts.

The number of known infections is certain to rise.  Officially we have currently tested around 500,000 people for the virus — way less than 1% of the population.  As more people are tested more cases will be found.

The important figure to watch is how many people have been made sick by the virus, not the number of people in whom the virus has been found– the technical term for the disease (not the virus) is COVID19.

Fortunately, I’m an amateur pianist with a huge literature for solo piano to explore (48 Bach Preludes and Fugues, 32 Beethoven sonatas, 60+ Haydn sonatas, 500+ Scarlatti sonatas, 16 Mozart sonatas).  My string  and wind instrument  playing friends aren’t so lucky.  But I miss them.


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