Monday, June 02, 2008

Better Music through Chemistry?

I've commented on the possibility of mind-enhancing drugs before. By way of certain allegations regarding Usain Bolt's recording breaking sprint, there was this interesting line - "After all, performance enhancement is allowed in the bedroom (Viagra) and in the concert hall (beta blockers)". In the concert hall?!?

Looks like drugs aren't just for athletes and students. These are drugs that can improve a performer's effectiveness during concerts by reducing stage fright, which in my personal experience is the greatest factor in affecting the quality of a performance, particularly with regards to inexperienced performers. It takes a lot of mental preparation and a certain mindset for a new performer to step out and perform to his or her best. Thankfully, the recent successful choir concert showed that our new J1s are okay in this respect, or maybe we've given them enough practice that they'd no reason to feel anxious.

It's pretty sad to read that even professional musicians resort to using these drugs to ensure a quality performance. The ethical implications are also very blurry - is it wrong for a musician to use these drugs to enable him to perform his best as long as the audience enjoyed the performance? The NY Times article had a comment that stated beta blocker enabled performances lose some of their intensity, though it's certainly debatable if it's amply compensated by the improvement in technical proficiency.

If you ask me about my take on this, I'd say it's best not to use drugs, but if it's clear that there's no other way to calm the anxiety ridden performer, then so be it. Of course, I'm not condoning its use by any of my students! *GLARES*


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