A latest research from University of Pennsylvania scientists is an answer to ‘a call for help’, said one of the research associates.
During the pandemic, like so many cultural institutions, the Philadelphia Orchestra had shelved performances.
In this scenario, the orchestra sought advice of the chief medical officer of The University of Pennsylvania Health System if its musicians could return to music making in a safe physical order.
In fact, to produce the best sound, the Orchestra director didn’t want the musicians to be far apart, rather they needed to be close together. And yet, they need to be separated with a plexiglass that posed a problem. The musician reported poor sightlines and difficulties in hearing each other with plexiglass dividers. The key question that remained was how far the musician can traverse to play unobstructed but still be safe, stated one of the research associates.
In a publication in Physics of Fluids, a team f University of Pennsylvania scientists report their findings. The findings suggests aerosols that musicians produce dissipate within six feet. The results influenced the order of the Philadelphia Orchestra as they resumed performance in the summer of 2020, but also served to be groundwork for how other musical groups might think about safely assembling and playing.
Expertise of University of Pennsylvania to measure particle size and path and distance and velocity were extremely valuable to make decisions for the orchestra. The decisions included the distance between players, distance between sections, who needed to wear masks. As the orchestra collected the information, along with testing and case tracking undertaken by Penn Medicine, it helped to make decisions with confidence.
The research hinges on the questions how many aerosol particles the musicians produced, how densely particles were discharged from the instruments, and how fast the particles travelled through air.