June 14, 2008 at 4:22 AM
I thought I'd come up with a poll that had as much validity and made as much sense as the recent news stories, spread all over the world via the Internet, that have cast musicians as a bunch of substance abusers. So where do you stand in no-where-land?
Actually, the hysteria lies not in the stories or in the words of our fellow musicians, but in the headlines, like, "Just One More to Calm the Nerves" and "Nigel Kennedy hits out at substance abuse in classical music." Those are written by editors, not by the people who wrote the articles. Blair Tindall's article was simply a first-person observation piece, reasonable enough, touching on myriad points that are worth exploring but distilling most of it with the point: "We, like anyone else, are just people. We're tempted. We say yes or no to drugs. But, because of our discipline, we most often say no: drugs and impairment are not worth risking a lifetime of practice." (And by the way, welcome, Blair.) Kennedy's comments also came from personal observation, basically saying that beta-blockers work on nerves but don't help a bad musician play better; that musicians sometimes drink or have a joint; and that "performing under the influence of alcohol or dope would be cheating the audience."
In other words, a true substance abuser can't perform effectively as classical musician; just as substance abusers tend to fail as bus drivers, tax accountants, parents, etc. etc.
We knew that.
But what of the actual issues of substance abuse, related to musicians?
Every single one of these substances has its own issues. Some are illegal in most places. Some tear families apart. Some are medications doctors prescribe and can be used in a constructive way -- or abused. The same substance that is considered food in one culture may be banned in another. And substances like alcohol and coffee can be acceptable in a person's life but still can have an egregious effect that same person's ability to play music if they are taken before a performance. And then there are prunes.
Does anyone have anything of substance to say?
So both answers? :P
If one is going to take up his or her violin, and has or will consume drugs or alcohol in conjunction with playing, the union of chemical and string is something to think about. Speaking only for myself, I believe the less necessary it is that a person ingests a substance during an endeavor as physically fickle as violin tone production, the more one might examine why one is employing the chemical in the first place.
If you do put the question to yourself and it’s just too hard to answer, or if you have some rather unique answers to the question, or if the mere inquiry makes you feel defensive . . . those do start sounding like denial/rationalization/avoidance components of a larger problem.
Music and addiction are strongly attached to emotional states. I wonder if anyone in science or academia has rigorously studied the interrelationships as pertains to chemically-dependent classical musicians; finding the themes to their adventures.
If some half-wits can make a buck if something's a substance, then it's a substance.
Seriously, beta blockers can hardly be put into a substance abuse category.
Due to time and income constraints, my problem seems to be a massive drug deficiency. I hope to work on it in future.
One of my players made it her MySpace quote, and in less than 12 hours, v-commer and friend Emily found it and asked me about it.
Lesson learned: keep your mouth shut when trying to make bowing decisions under the influence of narcotics, especially when you live in a small town.
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