European Union Passes Volume Limits for Bagpipes

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Bagpipers across Europe are protesting new regulations that would force them to pipe quietly.  European Union officials in Brussels have ruled that, under EU health and safety laws, bagpipes cannot expose users to average noise levels of more than 85 decibels.  This is a problem because, as you probably know from your college bagpiping class, full-volume piping can reach 122 decibels, nearly as loud as a 747.

The new regulations apply to weekly average noise levels, so they do not completely forbid loud pipery, so long as loud periods are balanced by equivalent amounts of quiet time.  Pipists point out, however, that this does not help them at all.  "You can’t play the pipe quietly," said Ian Hughes, leader of a Royal Air Force band in Scotland.  "They haven’t got a volume switch."  Hughes said that the regulations would therefore effectively ban bagpipe playing.

Even more importantly, they could also ban rock & roll, the practitioners of which are known to use amplifiers with volume settings that rarely go below 10 and may actually go to 11.  The Who reached 126 decibels in a 1976 concert, reportedly the loudest ever until a British punk band hit 132.5 just last year.  (That beats the 747 by 2.5 decibels.)  Lemmy Kilmister, the lead singer of ear-bleeding metal band Motorhead, said his lot would not be complying.  "The essence of rock & roll is loud music," he said.  "How the hell can we be expected to enjoy ourselves if we’ve got to turn it down?"

Link: Times Online