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Drinking and drug addiction is rife in the classical...
#2317728 08/20/14 12:23 PM
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music world says cellist.

http://thestrad.com/latest/news/dri...n-the-classical-music-world-says-cellist

Do you agree? I'm especially interested in hearing from people who really know vs. speculating, i.e. professional musicians.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 08/20/14 12:26 PM.
Re: Drinking and drug addiction is rife in the classical...
pianoloverus #2317735 08/20/14 12:45 PM
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To clarify, when the article refers to drugs, it's not talking about drugs like marijuana or crystal meth, it's talking about beta blockers (to help with anxiety) and alcohol (after a performance to calm down).

The New York Times has an article on the topic, the depth of which is typical of the New York Times.

The chess world has similar controversy, where chess players sometimes take Adderall to help them focus during games. Before Adderall existed, they would smoke.


Poetry is rhythm
Re: Drinking and drug addiction is rife in the classical...
pianoloverus #2317736 08/20/14 12:48 PM
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Beta blockers are awesome; very effective.


"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson
Re: Drinking and drug addiction is rife in the classical...
pianoloverus #2317737 08/20/14 12:50 PM
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Does taking a beta blocker to combat performance anxiety count as 'drug addiction'?

In that case, it's rife in the classical musician world. If I'd known about it when I was young and doing my piano exams, I'd have availed myself of it, and obtained much better marks grin.

As for alcohol, well, anyone who tries to perform classical music with senses dulled by drink will know how easy (or should that be 'difficult'?) that is.....

The NYO has just performed the most difficult of 20th century music at the BBC Proms, with their usual brilliance: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04d4hmw

The NYO members come across in interview on TV as the most level-headed and intelligent of teenagers. It's significant that the cellist in the interview is now playing with a pop band, not a symphony orchestra.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Drinking and drug addiction is rife in the classical...
pianoloverus #2317738 08/20/14 12:50 PM
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Wow. It would be so much easier if people just learned to breathe properly. So many issues like stress, anxiety, etc. solved right there.

Re: Drinking and drug addiction is rife in the classical...
pianoloverus #2317740 08/20/14 12:52 PM
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I'm not a performer, but, personally, I would never touch anything that would alter my charming and fabulous personality, for the shake of sounding a bit more like a CD while performing! wink

I doubt composers go through anything like that.

What they do go to (and I can admit to that) is going sleepless for many days, with coffee and anything to keep them up, working 20 hours per day, trying to fit to a deadline, poorly provided by the client(s) and working on multiple projects at the same time.

But this IS the life of a composer: Once or twice a year they (should) disappear from the face of the earth to compose and only do that!

Re: Drinking and drug addiction is rife in the classical...
noobpianist90 #2317744 08/20/14 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by noobpianist90
Wow. It would be so much easier if people just learned to breathe properly. So many issues like stress, anxiety, etc. solved right there.

I breath fine, thanks. thumb
But I still get performance anxiety if I play for a knowledgeable audience. So, I don't, and only perform for non-musicians who think my wrong notes are deliberate grin.

No, I don't practice yoga (I attended a class once, and promptly fell asleep.....). And, apart from the above scenario, I never get anxious or stressed in my life, not even when my life is in danger up on a 8000m mountain in the Himalaya....


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Drinking and drug addiction is rife in the classical...
pianoloverus #2317748 08/20/14 01:17 PM
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8k, eh? I'm impressed.


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Re: Drinking and drug addiction is rife in the classical...
ClsscLib #2317760 08/20/14 01:44 PM
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Originally Posted by ClsscLib
8k, eh? I'm impressed.

To be truthful, my brain was too dulled by oxygen starvation on the big E to worry about inconsequentials like frostbite (which eventually afflicted a fingertip) or life..... wink


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Drinking and drug addiction is rife in the classical...
Nikolas #2317761 08/20/14 01:48 PM
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I have to say, I knew this, but I was surprised when I realized how prevalent it is, especially the beta blockers thing. I'm not a performer very often, but the only times I've really been nervous are the first few times I played solo, and when I've played something especially hard. Even then, hard pieces become easy to play in public.
It's a pity, though I guess there are worse things to be taking to relax.

Originally Posted by Nikolas
I doubt composers go through anything like that.


I would say, of the ones I know, they're a bit more into their... "creativity" drugs, if anything. eek

Re: Drinking and drug addiction is rife in the classical...
pianoloverus #2317763 08/20/14 01:53 PM
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It's a shame seeing people put marijuana and crystal meth "in the same bag" (does this expression exist in english?). Those are very different things, and the first is very present nowadays in music.

Re: Drinking and drug addiction is rife in the classical...
Dean F #2317769 08/20/14 02:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Sean P
Originally Posted by Nikolas
I doubt composers go through anything like that.


I would say, of the ones I know, they're a bit more into their... "creativity" drugs, if anything. eek

Peter Maxwell Davies, the former Master of the Queen's Music, and one of Britain's foremost composers (everything from Eight Songs for a Mad King to Mavis in Vegas, not forgetting An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise and that perennial favourite among amateur pianists, Farewell to Stromness) was on TV in an interview for the BBC Proms.

He starts the day by going for a walk in any weather (he lives in the Orkney Islands, buffeted regularly by gale-force winds & storms) in order to stimulate his creative juices, then returns home to start composing, and he doesn't stop until tea-time. The walk is his 'creative drug' thumb.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Drinking and drug addiction is rife in the classical...
pianoloverus #2317781 08/20/14 02:16 PM
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Interesting, but I think this issue isn't unique or special to classical musicians. You see common themes among popular musicians, comedians, athletes, actors...really anyone in situations where you have to perform, and there is no "do-over". I think it's just as common non-performance-related high-stress jobs.

We're not special, we're just human.


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Re: Drinking and drug addiction is rife in the classical...
bennevis #2317785 08/20/14 02:22 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
I breath fine, thanks. thumb
If that were the case, you wouldn't get anxious or tense that easily grin Proper breathing allows one to control the heart rate much better than unregulated breathing, and significantly lowers anxiety. If it still persists, maybe it's a medical condition?

Re: Drinking and drug addiction is rife in the classical...
noobpianist90 #2317793 08/20/14 02:39 PM
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Originally Posted by noobpianist90
Originally Posted by bennevis
I breath fine, thanks. thumb
If that were the case, you wouldn't get anxious or tense that easily grin Proper breathing allows one to control the heart rate much better than unregulated breathing, and significantly lowers anxiety. If it still persists, maybe it's a medical condition?

As a 60 year old I was once quite skeptical of things like meditation. I now try to meditate regularly but simply don't have the time to do it daily. I would agree that breathing can have a remarkable calming effect on the body and would suggest to Bennevis and/or anyone else who is skeptical of meditation (or considers it too WooWoo) to give it a try. Bear in mind that meditation requires some training to do effectively. I got training from reading a Harvard Business School case study on the "Relaxation Response" which was required for one of my classes when in business school (MBA). If one of the preeminent business schools in the USA is publishing information about this practice then there's probably something to it.


Steve Chandler
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Re: Drinking and drug addiction is rife in the classical...
pianoloverus #2317798 08/20/14 02:54 PM
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Meditation and control of breath are quite different. Proper breathing is used as a way to meditate, but the two are not really related all that closely. Breathing requires concentration, meditation requires the lack of it.

Re: Drinking and drug addiction is rife in the classical...
noobpianist90 #2317802 08/20/14 02:59 PM
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Originally Posted by noobpianist90

Breathing requires concentration, meditation requires the lack of it.

This is untrue and only holds under very specific conditions. Meditation and breathing are obviously different, but you're confusing yourself by adding concentration into the mix.


"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson
Re: Drinking and drug addiction is rife in the classical...
pianoloverus #2317820 08/20/14 03:43 PM
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Noobpianist90 - your assertion that performance anxiety stems from improper breathing is glib and dismissive of the complex psychological and physiological symptoms that people who suffer from it experience.

To the OP:
Beta blockers help dramatically with performance anxiety. But I don't know whether calling them an addiction is relevant. Is a rock climber addicted to his climbing shoes? No, but he climbs much better while using them.

I have a friend who is a professional violinist. She's been on international tour for most of the months in the past year playing violin with a classical ensemble. She observes that almost all of her colleagues go out drinking almost every night, and there's substantial social pressure for her to do the same (whether it's active pressure or not, they're the only long-term social contact she has while on tour, and if she wants to socialize with them, it will be while drinking).

I have another friend who is a professional bluegrass player in Nashville. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she says essentially all music networking is done while drinking or smoking weed. Whether or not it's really what you want to do, you have to do it if you want to make the connections and partnerships you need to succeed in that world.

Re: Drinking and drug addiction is rife in the classical...
noobpianist90 #2317824 08/20/14 04:01 PM
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Originally Posted by noobpianist90
Originally Posted by bennevis
I breath fine, thanks. thumb
If that were the case, you wouldn't get anxious or tense that easily grin Proper breathing allows one to control the heart rate much better than unregulated breathing, and significantly lowers anxiety. If it still persists, maybe it's a medical condition?

Don't worry, I do know something about medicine thumb. And I don't have any medical condition, not even of any sort. I monitor my body very well - especially when I'm pushing myself to the limits. (I've run six marathons and countless shorter races).

I don't do 'unregulated breathing' - not even in the midst of suffering from performing anxiety. I just go to pieces - my hands tremble, the fingers get sweaty and slip on the keys, I lose control and play wrong notes.......but I'm still breathing fine. No hyperventilation. I'm not having a panic attack. Twelve breaths per minute, regular. Do you understand my dilemma? My life is not in danger, but my brain thinks that what I'm doing is so threatening to my psyche that my fright, fight or flight response goes into overdrive.

And as I said earlier, I don't ever get anxious or stressed in any other situation. Not even jumping out of a plane at 14000ft, or hanging off a rope over a 4000ft abyss.

Only when I have to play the piano in front of people who know the music well.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Drinking and drug addiction is rife in the classical...
bennevis #2317826 08/20/14 04:03 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis

Don't worry, I do know something about medicine thumb. And I don't have any medical condition, not even of any sort. I monitor my body very well - especially when I'm pushing myself to the limits. (I've run six marathons and countless shorter races).

I don't do 'unregulated breathing' - not even in the midst of suffering from performing anxiety. I just go to pieces - my hands tremble, the fingers get sweaty and slip on the keys, I lose control and play wrong notes.......but I'm still breathing fine. No hyperventilation. I'm not having a panic attack. Twelve breaths per minute, regular. Do you understand my dilemma? My life is not in danger, but my brain thinks that what I'm doing is so threatening to my psyche that my fright, fight or flight response goes into overdrive.

And as I said earlier, I don't ever get anxious or stressed in any other situation. Not even jumping out of a plane at 14000ft, or hanging off a rope over a 4000ft abyss.

Only when I have to play the piano in front of people who know the music well.

Smoke weed.


"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson
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