to reduce the risk of Covid-19 in orchestras, put wind instruments on the sidelines | Smart News


To prevent microbial droplets from spreading in an orchestra, reverse the seating arrangement. According to a study published on June 23 in the journal Scientists progress, orchestras should move the percussion to the center of the stage, move the clarinets and trombones backwards and, most importantly, put the trumpets in the corners.

The symphonic reorganization places the instruments that emit the most aerosols as close as possible to ventilation systems and open doors. A computer model of the airflow in the Utah Symphony concert hall showed that this strategy limits droplet spread better than the social distance of six feet. The new seating arrangement ensures that the droplets are swept away without crossing the personal space of others.

“You want the smoker to sit by the window,” University of Utah chemical engineer Tony Saad, co-author of the new study, tells Emily Anthes at the New York Times. “That’s exactly what we did here.

Researchers began working with the Utah Symphony last summer as the group began to look for ways to safely return to work. Normally, musicians in an orchestra are seated a few meters from their neighbors, in a pattern that is about a century old.

“The musicians in an orchestral group are very sensitive to their positions in relation to other members of the group,” said Jiarong Hong, a mechanical engineer at the University of Minnesota who was not involved in the study, for New Scientistis Adam Vaughan. “For example, trumpeters are always seated in the back and they get used to watching and listening to bassoon and oboe players in order to coordinate their playing.”

While this helps musicians get along and stay together, it also puts popular wind instruments at the center of the action. While string and percussion players may wear masks, those in the brass and woodwind sections are “respiratory droplet makers,” Saad tells Betsy Ladyzhets at Scientific news.

The research team created a computer model to understand how air and airborne droplets flow around two concert halls, Abravanel Hall and the Capitol Theater in Salt Lake City, during a performance. They built on previous research on aerosols emitted by different instruments – trumpets release the most with 2,500 particles per liter, well beyond the second highest emitter, the oboe, with just 400 particles per liter.

The model showed that if most of the air flowed from the vents on the ceiling to the vents on the floor, two vortices of particles also formed in the front and back of the stage.

Then, the team used the model to find a solution that minimizes the particles.

“We asked them at the start of the project:” What constraints do we have to work with? Can we move people? ‘ Said James Sutherland, a chemical engineer from the University of Utah and co-author of the research, at New York Times. “And they said, ‘You are doing everything you think you can to mitigate the risk.'”

The new seating plan places the most emitting instruments closer to the vents and musicians who can wear masks while playing farthest from the vents. The change probably has more of an impact on the musicians and conductor than on the audience’s listening experience, says Sutherland Scientific news.

Their model looks like the worst-case scenario, Saad says to New Scientist. First, it assumes that all musicians play simultaneously and continuously, and that each musician produces the same amount of droplets as others playing the same instrument. The researchers also did not take into account the droplets produced by the singers, nor the updraft that can be created by a crowd of hot bodies sitting under the warm stage lights.

By simply changing seats and opening doors and windows, performance spaces can reduce the likelihood of infection by a factor of 100.

“Simulating the flow inside an orchestra hall is not easy,” Hong told the New York Times. “They did a great job in terms of flow characterization. “

The Utah Symphony used the researchers’ recommendations during their spring performance season. But this fall, Brosvik told the Times that the orchestra hopes to regain its usual places.

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