Just in: Spanish court acquits pianist of noise pollution

Just in: Spanish court acquits pianist of noise pollution


norman lebrecht

November 27, 2013

After all the media hysterics about her facing jail, concert pianist Laia Martin has been found not guilty by a court in Gerona of inflicting noise pollution on her irascible (and possibly irrational) neighbour. Read the verdict here.

Now some of you may appreciate why Slipped Disc refrained from covering the non-story. We send our best wishes to Laia and wait to hear her side of the case.

pianist jail


  • Will Puckett says:

    Sonia Bonsom – a real Spanish pea-NUT!!!

  • Phil says:

    If ever there were two sides to a story, this is it. I don’t see how you can dismiss the neighbour’s viewpoint so easily, although the court apparently has – so they are the last word in wisdom on such a subjective topic I suppose? It’s no small thing being on the other side of a wall (or floor or ceiling) to a pianist practising! You can argue ‘decibel counts’ all day long, but there’s other ‘qualities’ to instrumental practise such as it’s stop-start nature, repetitiveness, dynamic changes – all of which could well drive a person round the bend if trying to get some sleep or relaxation. Music could well seem more intrusive than, say, a lawnmower or a nearby railway line (although the latter may be ‘louder’). It would be a case of “Has she finished, will it start up again in 5 mins? yes..no.. yes… no she hasn’t.. arghhh!” Also, if the neighbour had some existing nervous problem, then surely it’s all the more understandable that she was so disturbed by the noise? Self-obsessed musicians need a reality-check at times. They’re NOT more important than person X or Y, just because they’re undertaking some higher calling called ‘great art’, and Ms Martin will perhaps have learnt this lesson now, although she’s avoided being criminalized. Her side of the story obviously includes the fact that it’s her profession, a highly competitive one at that, and obsessive practise is almost a prerequisite. As you say, we wait to hear her side, and just how reasonable she tried to be with her neighbour, and whether she averaged 2,3,5 or 8 hours a day? I speak as somebody who has recently had to come to an agreement with my next door neighbours over my practise! They were justified – yet I was only doing 2 hours, but between 5pm-9pm after they’d been at work all day, and one of them suffers migraine. Problem easily solved, I now do it in the morning, although it’s not the time I day I like to function. If I have to practise late, then I put the muffler pedal on, which is not ideal as it destroys the feel, but it’s a fair arrangement, especially as I don’t perform for money (that doesn’t stop your audience expecting you to be polished and prepared, though). I’d love to know the finer points of Ms Martin and her neighbour’s perspectives, and understand why some arrangement was not possible without the madness of going to court, before I decide who was the most selfish or ‘irrational’. At the moment, whatever the court might say, I feel some sympathy is probably due to both parties.

    • robcat2075 says:

      This brings to mind a story in the current post about the Soviet pianist who went to hear Richter practice in a nearby apartment and he spent an hour practicing the same trill over and over.

  • BWV548 says:

    A balanced view, Phil, well put…

  • BobG says:

    I entirely agree with Phil (above). Noisy neighbors are not a trivial matter. While many people have rushed to the pianists defense, how would they fell if they had as neighbors a mariachi band, a rock band, a drummer, or a 10-year-old tuba player? Just because she’s a pianist who plays classical music (over and over again) doesn’t mean she has more rights or is entitled to instant sympathy.

  • bobtatfore says:

    I chuckled when I first read this story because it brought back a flood of memories. My late wife was also a concert pianist and she practiced about eight hours a day in the daytime (when we moved in, we told the apartment manager about my wife’s profession and practicing and he okayed it). One day someone came to visit our next-door neighbor and asked her, “How can you stand that noise?” Our neighbor said, “What noise.” It had become so much a part of her life that she no longer noticed it. Obviously not all neighbors are as understanding.

  • Michael says:

    I am a professional musician and live in Spain as well.

    It’s funny because in all of the articles I have read, only once did I read what her noise level measurement was. It was 36.8db I believe. Now where I live the daytime limit for noise is 40db. I don’t know what her city ordinance says about noise, but, if she was absolved, then she must have been within her rights to practice.

    What happens is that the neighbors must file a complaint with the police. Then, the police sends out a team of “specialists” which in turn take measurements of the Music (noise). That information is passed on the the office of “medio ambiente” which evaluates the complain according to the noise level measured. If she had gone over the limit, she would have been fined and told to either stop or lower her volume level. It sounds like her neighbor had no legal justification to bring a case against her.

    As a tenant I have had to put up with a constantly barking dog , a nervous lady who wore high heels upstairs and never slept (and never sat still) and two ladies that never left their apartment and spent the day moving their furniture around. Noise here is rife, and many people are oblivious to their own noise but will bitterly complain when they have to put up with somebody else’s.

  • Yeah, quite right, you would never bother with such a non-story as neighbours complaining about noise pollution: http://www.artsjournal.com/slippeddisc/2013/07/new-yorker-sues-composer-for-noise-pollution.html