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Last week the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse and Addiction, partially funded by Health Canada, announced major changes to its guidelines for alcohol consumption. (These are not laws). Recommended is a maximum of two drinks per week. Researchers are also looking at ways to "de-normalize" drinking. The reason is that research increasingly points to even a low level of alcohol consumption being a cause of disease or injury. Personally I'm not as interested in discussing whether or not these are good ideas, as I am in looking at how major reductions in drinking would affect the music industry, classical music in particular. For example, at the bar of a symphony orchestra, someone who has a drink pre-concert, at intermission, and after the concert would already have exceeded the two-drinks-a-week maximum. At orchestra concerts I've been to recently, the bar has long lineups. Also alcohol-related advertising (including from restaurants, bars, and vendors) and sponsorships by alcohol-producing companies connected to music events could take a hit from much-reduced sales. And so on.

Where would classical music stand in cultures that "de-normalized" drinking? I hesitate to say. One might argue that at the very least listening to classical music has an "Apollonian" side, whereas experiencing music on club nights out more likely tends to the "Dionysian" side (Dionysius in Greek myth held drunken rites). But the Dionysians of our time wouldn't necessarily switch and come to classical concerts just because they weren't able to drink much at clubs! It helps to remember, though, that there are many people even in Western countries who don't drink, and creative thinking of ways that classical music can appeal to them may be useful.
 

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For most of my life having a drink at intermission was just not normal. You waited until the concert was over. Now, several places have pre-concert drinks, some alllow - even encourage - drinks be taken into the hall. I can't stand it. People clinking their ice cubes in the glass is just as annoying as babies crying or cell phones ringing. Would it effect the business? Possibly; people have gotten so use to having their way that they might feel that if they can't have a drink, they're not going to the concert.

If drinking was de-normalized, the biggest hit musically will be in college marching bands...at least from what I remember. Going to the local watering hole before a game was quite common. One orchestra here has a long-time partnership with a local microbrewery who pays for advertising in the program booklets; the loss of revenue there would hurt.

Musicians often gather at a favorite bar after a concert to loosen up and that camaraderie is important and likely would go away if booze wasn't there. Personally, I only drink at home and there is nothing more satisfying as putting on some great music, turning the lighting down low and sip on a nice Scotch or Bourbon. Saturday night was very cold (for us) and out came Gliere's 3rd accompanied by some Ardbeg. What a great evening! And I realize there are serious health hazards with alcohol - but we're all going to die of something, might as well enjoy life while you can!
 

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I never really thought that people drank much at classical music concerts. I don't drink myself so I might simply be unaware of the drinking. I certainly don't see people bringing drinks into the concert hall and wonder how many places allow that. Overall, I guess I'd assume that those who wish to attend classical concerts would not be overly affected by bans on alcohol, but I'm obviously not the one to ask.
 

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... I certainly don't see people bringing drinks into the concert hall and wonder how many places allow that. ...
No I don't agree with bringing drinks into the hall. Music can be enough to relax, stimulate, bring catharsis, induce exaltation, amuse ... and the plain fact of being at a live concert is wonderful in itself. But as mhaub says having a drink at home is reasonable. Although if I'm listening to Gliere's terrific Third Symphony I'm probably going to forget that the drink is there! Incidentally, it's mhaub who talked up that work on TC and I'm grateful.
 

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Never seen drinks in a concert hall. It's not like jazz or small ensemble music in a pub or similar setting with a small stage and people sitting on small tables or standing around with drinks.
While it's hard to deny that alcohol abuse has been tolerated for a long time, I dislike schoolmarmish prohibitions. It's not going to help very much I fear. For all I know, since the 1970s we have become far more aware about being too casual with alcohol and people slipping into abuse, which is good. So telling people to drink less is good but I think we all know this by now and people on the edge of abuse are probably not heeding the advice anyway. I also think that we should focus more on obesity that has become a far more widespread problem (and harder to deal with because one can people tell to stop drinking alcohol but not to stop eating...).
I don't see a strong connection with CM (although a professional orchestral musician I met once or twice socially was a borderline alcoholic, it's apparently a way to deal with the stress).
 

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Where would classical music stand in cultures that "de-normalized" drinking? I hesitate to say. One might argue that at the very least listening to classical music has an "Apollonian" side, whereas experiencing music on club nights out more likely tends to the "Dionysian" side (Dionysius in Greek myth held drunken rites). But the Dionysians of our time wouldn't necessarily switch and come to classical concerts just because they weren't able to drink much at clubs! It helps to remember, though, that there are many people even in Western countries who don't drink, and creative thinking of ways that classical music can appeal to them may be useful.
Nietszche said Wagner resurrected the spirit of Dionysus with Tristan und Isolde. Alcohol can certainly enhance the experience of music, it tends to clear the thoughts and troubles of sober day out of our minds so we can be immersed in the moment of the music. I have fond memories of drinking too much brandy and sailing away into the abyss with my favorite DVD of Tristan. Now that I'm 33, alcohol is a lot less kind the next day so I can't indulge like I used to. I do tend to avoid alcohol at live concerts or operas... have you ever had to get through the Siegfried Act 3 love duet while having to pee? Not a fun time.
 
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