What the researchers discovered was that singing in consonant-heavy German is especially dangerous, while it’s far better to sing in Japanese, as the language’s softer consonants don’t eject potentially virus-laden droplets long distances.
In one study, an eight-member choir sang three songs under laboratory conditions—a Japanese children’s song, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, and a piece from Verdi’s La Traviata.
That data revealed that it was far worse to sing Beethoven’s masterpiece. In fact, singing that classic was shown to emit more than thirteen hundred particles per minute, while singing the Verdi, in Italian, generated nearly twelve hundred particles per minute. Meantime, singing the Japanese piece only emitted five hundred eighty particles.
In another study, a Japanese graduation song was compared to Beethoven’s Ninth. What the research showed was that particles flew only roughly half as far for the Japanese piece—twenty-four inches versus forty-four inches.
“When singing in German, we advise our members to stand at the maximum distance from each other,” Masakazu Umeda, general secretary of the Japan Choral Association, told CBS News.
Here in the United States, there already have been several reports of choir practices that became superspreading events that infected dozens of people at a time.
Other studies also seem to indicate that refraining from singing or shouting could limit the spread of the coronavirus.
For example, research out of the University of California, Davis, last fall revealed that speaking softly has the potential to curb spread in high-risk, poorly ventilated indoor spaces.
A reduction of six decibels in average speech levels was shown to have a similar effect on cutting the transmission risk of the virus as increasing a room’s ventilation level twofold, the researchers noted.
“The results suggest public health authorities should consider implementing ‘quiet zones’ in high-risk indoor environments, such as hospital waiting rooms or dining facilities,” the researchers stated.
The difference between whispering and shouting is roughly thirty-five decibels—and at the higher levels, particle emission rates can be boosted fiftyfold.
Normal, everyday conversation is in the ten-decibel range, while a restaurant’s ambient noise can reach seventy.
These findings come after the World Health Organization now appearing to be on board with many other medical experts across the world in saying that the airborne spread of the coronavirus is, in fact, possible.
Airborne transmission is different from droplet transmission, according to the agency, as the former refers to the presence of extremely small particles that can remain in the air for long periods of time and has the potential to be transmitted to others over distances greater than three feet.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.