Friday, September 21, 2007

One reason why Ozzy Osbourne never attended the Helsinki School of Economics - or, why Congress will start investigating symphonies

Phil at Finland for Thought links to this story:

A proposal by Minister of Education Sari Sarkomaa (Nat. Coalition Party) to expel students who have substance abuse problems from social and health care institutions of education has shocked Finnish nursing students.

The minister says that schools should be able to expel students whose dependence on intoxicants might endanger patient safety when they are at work.

But Finland for Thought zeroed in on this sentence.

Under the law, a student in vocational training can lose the right to study if he or she is incapable of working in the profession itself. In practice, this rule is applied only to musicians and air traffic controllers, but Sarkomaa wants to extend the practice.

And no, the air traffic controller part wasn't the concern.

Perhaps the concern about drugged musicians relates to the types of music the Finnish government supports:

80’s New Wave music is dead, I think the state should invest millions of taxpayer money to keep it alive. Unfortunately, New Wave doesn’t have the same kind of high-powered and wealthy lobbyists in Finland like classical music does.

Phil then quotes from an article that states that classical music and art music receive 94% of all government subsidies.

But would the government get more bang out of their euro if musicians' performance were enhanced? The Partial Observer partially observes:

[P]rofessional musicians are very similar to professional athletes; they are constantly searching for ways to improve their performance ability. But unlike their athlete cousins, professional musicians can rarely benefit from artificially increased physical ability.

But there are other ways for musicians to improve their performance; by reducing performance related anxiety.

It’s nothing new for musicians to suffer from performance anxiety, otherwise known as “stage fright”. And up until the past few decades, classical musicians haven’t dabbled in performance enhancing drugs (the legal ones at least).

Performance anxiety is an issue that’s typically treated as a mental challenge, something more like “mind over matter”. Almost every professional musician has a technique or trick they use to help them remain calm and focused during performances....

Stage fright is an inherently individual condition which some individuals are naturally better equipped to deal with than others. So what does a musician do when they can perform at a level equal to the best of the best when they are in their private practice studio but fall apart due to performance anxiety when they step onto the stage?

Decades ago, musicians typically found their answers in a bottle; bourbon, scotch, vodka, gin, take your pick. Alcohol has always been an easily accessible means to artificially lessen the rate of vital physiological activities.

But the pitfalls associated with that choice of action are obvious. Alcohol not only deadens a musician’s synaptic responses (which are at the heart of performance anxiety) but they also slow down cognitive and physical ability. Then there’s that pesky addictive side effect to deal with....

In 1965 Wyeth Laboratories developed Inderal, the brand name for propranolol, which is an antianginal, antiarrhythmic, antihypersensative, antimigraine drug, and beta blocker.

In English, that means it helps treat the effects of anxiety or nervous tension, aggressive behavior, angina, high blood pressure, migraine, headaches, panic attack, phobias, schizophrenia, tremors, and to help prevent second heart attacks.

Inderal is not habit forming, may be taken for months or even years, and proper dosage must be determined and prescribed by a physician.

It’s obvious to see why many musicians have found this drug to be extraordinarily useful if fighting the symptoms of performance anxiety.

Some musicians who use this drug have experienced significant reductions in their level of performance anxiety which, in turn, allows them to reach much high levels of consistency in their performing. Best of all, it isn’t habit forming and side effects are rare and usually minor in character.

But there is controversy:

Opponents of Inderal use claim that the drug provides an artificial edge to audition candidates, allowing them to win a position over a competitor that may otherwise deserve to win the job. They go on to point out that professional soloists that use Inderal create an artificial product that is not representative of their natural ability.

So I guess we can't trust the reality of a major league baseball game, we can't trust the reality of the Tour de France...and we can't trust the reality of a classical symphony performance.

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