Just in: Viola player wins major noise case against Covent Garden

Chris Goldscheider, who sued the Royal Opera House over life-altering hearing loss while playing Wagner operas, has won a landmark case in the High Court.

The judge ruled he had suffered ‘acoustic shock’, a condition which the opera house refused to recognise. Mr Goldscheider said he was directly impacted by noise from the brass section until he was forced to retire in 2014.

Mrs Justice Nicola Davies said: ‘Musicians are entitled to the protection of the law, as is any other worker.’

Damages have yet to be assessed. The case will have implications for every opera house on earth.

More here.

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  • Orchestra pits are still constructed by 19th century health and safety standards, the equivalent of coal mines for the ear.

    • Even with health and safety issues aside, what does 21st century accoustic science tell us about the ideal design of an opera house?

      Do you really have to stuff a hundred musicians inside a pit beneath the stage?

      Can’t modern video and information technology allow for different placements of conductor, singers, orchestra?

      So much of what is taken for granted in classical music is a vestige of historical happenstance and outdated science.

      • Hot air, your words.
        Nobody stops you to prefer Broadway or Las Vegas style musical shows, where your desire for progressive use of technology will be satisfied. And where hearing damage for musicians exponentially got bigger, exactly due to said compulsory use of new technology, particularly in-ear monitoring.

        • Oh, puleeze, spare me your false indignation, your fake cultural superiority, and your blind Luddism.

          Your beloved 19th century opera house is itself a “desire for progressive use of technology” over the Greek open air amphitheater carved on the side of a hill, which itself is a “desire for progressive use of technology” over your Neanderthal ancestors yodeling across a valley on top of a mountain.

          You have zero peer-reviewed evidence of greater hearing loss among Broadway and Las Vegas musicians. Zero.

    • I had an exposure of 140 dB in the pit of Copenhagen Royal Opera in the nineties. Now I have Ménière’s and tinnitus. Yes, I’m a viola player and I was seated in front of the trombones. It’s not rocket science.

  • Hopefully he will receive considerable compensation, projected loss of earnings, and more taking into account also the physical damage.

    • Great news!

      It’s high time that the expense of addressing this risk is shifted from musicians, who are in no position to do so, to management, who are.

      • I stand by my original post but here’s an interesting overview from the period (2004) that the EU first imposed safety regs:

        “It is difficult to impose legislative rigor in an area in which artistic impulses collide with scientific pseudo-certainties and psychological and emotional imponderables. Consider another statement from “A Sound Ear”: “It does, indeed, appear that pleasing noise causes less hearing damage than random noise, so musicians may be at less risk than is supposed. However, the studies also show that music which is disliked, or just plain boring, causes more harm than random noise. Furthermore, the nice/nasty risk modification is related to levels of stress in the listener.”

        Oestreich also reports that it’s the piccolo which poses the greatest danger to hearing.

        http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2004-01-11/news/0401110407_1_hearing-loss-peter-grimes-orchestral

      • Other than the issue with ears and hearing, no one has mentioned how unpleasant it is to have the back of your head two feet away from the business end of a trumpet — it’s like your brain is being curdled.

        • I’ve yet to see a female trombonist, in any orchestra. Do you know why that is, fierywoman? Trumpet? Sure, and horn: many. About the tuba I’m not so sure….

          • And then there’s Kathryn Macintosh, assistant principal trombone of the Edmonton Symphony.

          • Certainly there are plenty of superb female trombonists in the period instrument world: glancing at TKC’s “first-call” list there is Susan Addison (been in the business for many years – still no-one better for high alto lines, in the modern world she held a job in the CBSO under Simon Rattle), Abigail Newman (another fine high notes player), the multi-talented Emily White, and a bundle of other hugely talented lady players who we call on when we need more than these three excellent musicians.

          • You can’t have watched any proms then,the principal trombone of the BBC Symphony is a lady called Helen Vollam

          • You know absolutely nothing about what you speak…to name a few female trombonists currently in orchestras:

            Amanda Stewart – St. Louis Symphony-Assistant Principal

            Donna Parkes – Louisville Orchestra-Principal

            Vanessa Fralick – Toronto Orchestra-Second Trombone

            Helen Vollan – BBC Orchestra-Principal

            Rebecca Cherian – Pittsburgh Symphony – Co – Principal

            I’m sure I could come up with a bunch more, but I think I’ve made my point.

      • Doug, earplugs are very common now in most symphony orchestras, and they should be mandatory especially for woodwind players. They can be custom made and have nothing in common with the kind you find in supermarkets.

    • Agree very much with earplugs. As an almost fulltime user of custom ear plugs in orchestra I find them very useful. Almost fulltime because for some delicate spots I might take them out. I am in the minority however as most orchestra professionals play without this protection. Also, sometimes I have experienced the occasional nasty comment from conductor or colleagues on the subject, who mistakenly believe I can’t hear their mumbling. But I hear more with earplugs than they without, because I protect my hearing and they don’t. As a result they get deaf and I don’t.
      In any case the health is more important, at least to me and I am used to playing with earplugs, so it poses no problem. I am glad they have been invented.

      • Peter. Please do continue to use earplugs. Other musicians will catch-up eventually.

        I sat right at the front once for a concert. Never-again, it was just too loud (so loud that I found it difficult to hear anything). God knows what it is like for the musicians on the stage. Now I make sure I sit well back.

      • Thanks, Peter, for standing up for ear plugs! We have regular mandatory audiometries even for municipal music school teachers.

  • A terrible outcome for music but a great day for those who seek to put their own selfish desires before the future of the art-form that they pretend to support.

    • “their own selfish desires ”

      Like being able to hear? That thing professional musicians have to be able to do in order to work?

    • You don’t know what you are talking about.
      Its the same for builders and others people who need to wear headphones as a safety regulation. They are obliged to do so.
      I played for 30 years in a jazz and pop orchestra called the Metropole Orchestra.
      We had to fight for earprotection. Always get comments like, you are overreacting.
      At the end the whole Orchestra played with a in-ear system.
      Do you know that if you aren in a room with a lot of decibel you have to recouver for hours.

  • Details are missing.
    He was prevented to use, or not provided, with hearing protection?
    Like customized earplugs for musicians?
    What wonders me is, how a professional musician like him can claim to be so clueless about what is going to happen if you sit right in front of a brass section in a Wagner opera.

        • The point is not that there is always some risk of hearing damage in the orchestra profession, but that for the longest time orchestra management did not feel compelled to take any measures to protect the players. This will have to change now. I wonder whether you would come up with a similar argument for instance in the case of a contaminated worker in the chemical industry who is suffering permanent damage.

          • Ah yes, I remember you well from the last time Gerhard, we never did quite finish our discussion on March 13th….

            Ozzie…
            Does anyone know what has happened with this case? I’ve got severe hearing damage from my Symphony Orchestra job and although I would never consider sueing my employer I am extremely interested and concerned about the outcome.

            Gerhard…
            No, sorry, I haven’t heard anything new either. But if you are sure that you got severe hearing loss from your job, why would you never consider suing your employer for damages? Do you really feel they have done everything necessary and possible to protect you?

            Ozzie…
            No orchestral management across the globe has done everything necessary and possible to protect their players Gerhard, not one. Why? Because nobody knows what “everything nevessary” actually is whilst they still try to retain some sort of an environment that makes it feel more like an orchestra than a cavernous hair salon on pensioner’s day.
            I’m happy to admit that I don’t have the answers anymore than my management or any other management does to this very difficult situation but I will always be searching for ways to cope and I am certainly not one of those who expect to be bottle-fed everything by my employer.
            We, as players, need to be just as proactive as they are at managing this situation and taking them to court doesn’t fall comfortably into what my idea of ‘proactive’ means.
            Still, it’s dog eat dog, it’s every man or woman for themselves and while we’re at it we’d better not forget, God forbid, to look after number one.
            Anyway, I’m off to the wine fridge, cheers!


            Well Gerhard?
            Any useful thoughts now?

  • If, as a musician, if you value your hearing and enjoy the career you have chosen and the music you love, you should wear earplugs, especially in the pit, or anywhere near the brass or percussion sections. It should be a no-brainer for musicians and management.

    • I hate to tell you this, but listening is every bit as important for an orchestral musician as playing. Orchestral musicians don’t play in a vacuum. Your comment is kind of blaming the victim.

      • I hate to tell you this, but earplugs do not make you completely deaf. At best they drop the sound level by 30 or 35 dB. The so-called musician’s earplugs generally reduce loudness by approximately 20dB, and also have a relatively flat response so things still sound the same (only somewhat quieter).

        While safe working conditions might be legally the responsibility of management, protecting yourself is always your own responsibility.

      • You are correct that listening is important for musicians. It’s vital. And I’m not blaming the victim. We just need to be responsible, that’s all.

        • Neither of you are professional musicians, obviously. A violinist here for 20 years. Earplugs are just not an option if you want (and need) to hear your colleagues. Kind of like some people’s blinders on this sight.

          • I hate to tell you this but as a first violinist with a major orchestra for 25 years, and a sufferer of work-induced tinnitus and hearing loss via acoustic shock, I find that my moulded earplugs can be of great help some of the time. Having said that, I have enough confidence in my own playing ability to know where my fingers are going and how loud I am playing, as do my colleagues in their own abilities who also use plugs if and when necessary.
            Mind you, each to their own…..

      • Blaming the victim?
        How so? It’s just reasonable to use earplugs at those places where exposure is dangerously high, and those custom made for musicians these days are good for professional use.
        It’s just like wearing shoes, and you wouldn’t cry ‘victim blaming’ if it was suggested to use shoes for protection against injury from walking on floors, or would you?

  • What about all those musicians over the years who have had to contend with the high decibels generated during performances of the 1812 Overture at the Royal Albert Hall. After this judgement, Raymond Gubbay had better be prepared for some serious claims.

    • Having played many hundreds of gigs of the type you describe, the potential damage just isn’t the same. I’m no expert but common sense dictates that the sound disperses much more safely in a venue like the RAH. Orchestra pits have always been where the most damage occurs, for the obvious reasons of space/layout and the sound bouncing around off the walls back at the players.

  • “earplugs” are rather like “silencers” on guns… they don’t work as well in real life as they do in the movies.

    Any earplugs strong enough to reduce the sound of a brass section to safe levels are probably hopeless for a viola player who has to still hear himself.

    I’ll also note that ear plugs for wind players may reduce external sound but make your own playing unworkably loud.

      • Bruce, contrary to your assertion that ‘high quality playing’ is responsible for most hearing damage in musicians, in my (40 years) experience as an orchestral violinist laying in both symphonic music AND operatic repertoire – in opera pits – I found that I could cope with real quality brass playing, and piccolo playing, but it was the less well produced sounds which caused me the greatest problems.

        • I fully agree. In my band the trumpet and horn principals are certainly our best brass players, both of them in command of a big forte when required, too. But during the warm up time before services I will hardly notice them. The ones who routinely make it impossible to even unpack the instrument without having put in the ear plugs first are the very same who make one’s ears ring later in the orchestra as well.

  • Those commenting about earplugs may wish to note that Chris used earplugs. That wasn’t sufficient given management’s placement of brass right behind him. There’s a lot more detail to the case and commentators may want to read the judgment before jumping to conclusions.

  • Commenters would be well advised to read the entire 80-page judgment before coming out with any more flippant, uninformed remarks. There is a highly sophisticated noise management procedure in place at the ROH, involving earplugs, other physical protection, rostering, pit layout (which creates very different noise damage risks from a concert hall) and regular hearing tests and acoustic management. The judgement explores in considerable detail how and why that system failed on one specific occasion, and it looks as if the outcome will be that statutory hearing protection measures which have been resisted by the musicians themselves will now have to be enforced by managers whether or not the musicians consider it compromises their performance. But they can and doubtless will adapt. This day was always going to arrive.

    It’s a serious and complex issue. Not seeing much awareness of that here.

    • Excellent comment. Is it possible to access the 80-page judgement you mentioned anywhere?
      I have no doubt that the ROH takes the usual precautions mentioned. Rostering presumably means that musicians are rotated through different pieces on different evenings so as to distribute noise exposure (classical and baroque operas being considerably quieter than the late romantics and modern expressionists). This organizational measure is beyond the scope of smaller opera orchestras, by the way, since in these orchestras nearly everyone plays nearly every performance. Even with these measures and with regular use of ear plugs there is risk involved for the musicians, though. And the question is: is it on the musicians alone to bear this risk? The judge in this case clearly thinks not. As a musician who deals with this problem regularly I agree with her. Should employers pay for disability insurance? What about freelancers? Is the risk insurable at all? Etc. Changes in pit design and a change of sound aesthetic (is it really a good thing that orchestras have become so much louder?) would of course do more to solve the problem of hearing injury or loss among orchestra musicians.

  • It’s time brass players stopped playing too loudly, same for percussion, and even strings. Everyone plays too loudly these days. Music should never be LOUD. When I discovered the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, I was awed by the absorbent acoustics, which meant I could hear every musical voice, every instrument, equally, clearly, because the brass and percussion were muted by the velvety theater. All halls should be like that, not loudly full of echo like a stereo recording. It’s horrible how much the artificial sound of recordings influenced acoustic expectations.

    • total nonsense. You have never been to Vienna Musikverein or Amsterdam Concertgebouw apparently, only to halls out of many built for classical music long before the advent of the recording age.
      And as far as recordings go: have you heard about the concept of a volume knob, which you have full power over?

    • Taking the guts out of certain types of music is a good way to empty our concert halls.

      Do you seriously think that a young potential audience, accustomed to other genres, will be attracted to music with a reduced dynamic range? Apparently they already find the lack of bass power in classical music disappointing.

      Volume may not be its most important aspect, but it’s not irrelevant either.

    • As a veteran string player in a major orchestra, I blame the brass players. If you talk to most of them, it is clear they have about as much of a clue as to what is going on beyond their own parts as my cat has about quantum physics. They have a very simple ethos–loud is better. They don’t play music, they play excerpts.

      • Excuse me, sir or ma’am!! I have long suspected that my cat harbors a deep and abiding passion for quantum physics, which he voraciously indulges for hours on end when I am not at home, only to pretend, upon my return through the door, that he has been sleeping all day. Cats are merely biding their time until their species evolves opposable thumbs, whereupon they will enact a complex collective plan, meticulously thought out in breathtaking detail, to take over the world. Those humans descended from loyal cat fanciers will be favored in the new order. {;-)

        Seriously, as a life-long (ca. 40 years) concertgoer, I agree with you that brass players seem for the most part pretty clueless that they could dial back the volume by a whole lotta decibels and still dominate the orchestral fabric. One difference would be their playing would sound better and more nuanced. And the rest of us would get a chance to hear the sounds the poor string players are furiously sawing away to produce!

      • Um…genuine question. But should the conductor be ensuring the brass is not too loud and the instruments are balanced?

  • Flood gates shall now open regarding this ridiculous ruling. But yes. Get custom made ear plugs. And opera orchestras are notorious for horrendous working conditions re sound. Chris Goldscheider is tenatious, but I bet he won’t be booked anywhere in London now….sure his settlement shall provide a comfortable life for his current family, and sons from his previous marriage!

    • What nasty and irrelevant comments, and from a fellow muso too.

      Think you’ll find the whole point of bringing this case is he cannot work as a violist ever again, least of all in an orchestra.

  • This judgement is a complete nonsense.
    He does clearly state he started young playing as a violinist, and then went to the viola.
    I made an acoustic study of the effects of this particular set of problems, and the results were the EXACT OPPOSITE of those expected.
    The LEFT ear is exposed to high levels, while the right ear has a totally inbalanced and different spectra.

    The violinist/violist ear, being so close to the instrument are ALREADY exposed to levels exceeding 100db on a regular basis, but these spectra are anticipated and NOT RANDOM.
    The music in an orchestra pit is NOT random and anticipated, because they already know what to expect from the score.

    It is therefore highly likely this player already had hearing problems and significant damage, (least of all because we are routinely exposed to random high levels of sound without even noticing on tube trains and other simple everyday phenomena.)
    He also CHOSE TO DO THIS JOB, knowing full well the conditions of work.

    He also has male hearing which by the age of 60 is well knpwn to suffer from poor frequency response with an inability to hear beyond 7-8khz.
    None of these things appears to be taken into account.

    Being involved with recording music, and with Prof S in France, there have been other studies done of effects on hearing (real or imagined) of exposure to high level sound energies.
    The conclusions based on a survey of members of the Strasbourg philharmonic proved beyond any doubt, the ONE member of the orchestra with hearing loss already had a previous medical condition.
    Those that claimed to, in fact most of the time had NO hearing deficiency whatsoever.

    Comparing jet aircraft random large spectra noise to ordered high volume sound pressures in an orchestra is a totally invalid comparison.

    Rock band players suffer hearing loss, but they are exposed to electronic amplified music levels to unimagineable amounts.
    Will they start suing now?

    Engineers working in motor sport also are subjected to extremely high sound levels or relatively random spectra. They will start suing too?

    It appears to me, before long all the armed services can start using identical logic to justify vast claims against the government for hearing loss, due to their exposure to gunfire, – which is part of their job!

    • Oh Tomas, your every pompous utterance we]ghted with krypto expertise while so light in relevance. Whatever the demands of a modern working environment, we should not be governed by the logic of Victorian mill owners: a workforce seen as an expendable commodity, whose silent compliance encourages bad working practice, poor safety standards, and often an abuse of power. Chris has won a victory for all of us. Even you.

      • A different point of view. What was pompous about it?

        And your analogy of Victorian mill owners is just plain silly. People who worked in the mills had little or no control over their lives.

        • EXACTLY.
          Thank you.
          As far as I aware members of ROH are extremely well paid.
          Their work conditions are wonderful, and they have a maximum work time unheard of in any other industry, allowing them to maintain extra jobs on the side working in other orchestras.
          More flexible than that you don’t get as well as having deputising.

          The fact of the matter is, the player concerned had the right, to WALK OFF, refuse to work in this environment and insist on better conditions immediately.
          He would have faced NO SANCTION.

          He chose to carry on working on that day.
          THAT is a fact

          I read the judgment.
          Did you?

          • Miko’s in this profession Tomas, please, I beg you, don’t mess with him coz you’ll get nothing but mindnumbing grief! I’m with you a lot of the way though and I’m also in this profession. Can’t wait for the appeal……..

  • As a musician who has over the years had to sit in front of the brass section I highly recommend earplugs, the best attenuate the volume level without reducing to a detrimental degree your ability to hear the band/orchestra/yourself.

  • “your every pompous utterance we]ghted with krypto expertise while so light in relevance. Whatever the demands of a modern working environment, we should not be governed by the logic of Victorian mill owners: a workforce seen as an expendable commodity, whose silent compliance encourages bad working practice, poor safety standards, and often an abuse of power. Chris has won a victory for all of us. Even you”

    Sorry this is utter bollox.
    I work in the industry at many levels and even in orchestras.
    I have worked in China, and am much more aware than you will ever be of the acute problems of noise pollution in its very many forms.
    Zero education = maximum sound entropy.

    21st century is the “NOISY century”.
    I think you should get some background before you start to criticise someone with an excellent track record in the sphere, and YES I have measured my own hearing, and YES it is exceptionally acute for my age.

    I also do a lot of work on amplification, “hi end audio” design and criteria, as well as working with some acknowledged French experts in their field.

    Have you ever heard of IRCAM.
    Are you aware the French actually enforce noise level norms in public spaces?
    Probably not!

    Go do some reading before you venture and criticise.
    may I suggest you listen to the BBC programs and the publications of Trevor Cox.
    He explains the “loudness wars” in detail.

    This musician is just yet another casualty in those wars…the ones that are deafening all our children.
    That’s why you can’t recruit hydraphone operators any more.

    The kids are all deaf.
    I went to the trouble of measuring some and I was in shock.

    They have all been listening to codecs and digital loudness conditioned music, which gives them broad bands of permanent deafness.

    You shouldn’t be suprised, the orchestras are all playing 6-10db louder then they used to, then drop a full size symphony orchestra,- string players using high performance instruments with steel strings, demands to play louder and louder, then be suprised when people get permanent hearing damage.

    It’s not the fault of ROH, it’s the fault of everyone, and particularly the music industry and our own late 20th/21st century life style, and our destructive addiction to power and performance to the detriment of quality.

    Louder and bigger is NOT BETTER.
    It’s become an untameable monster.

  • The law is the law, but the EU regulation on which this ruling is based on is without sufficient understanding of the science which makes its implementation troublesome to impossible in the context of professional musicians.
    Sound exposure levels averaged over time, frequency weighted, and peak levels, also frequency weighted, are not even close to being sufficient to evaluate the potential danger of noise alone.
    Other very imporrant factors are:
    -familiarity/predictability (does the person know what’s coming, the ear has certain ways to prepare for imminent loud noise)
    -percussiveness of noise (short transient noise, particularly if surprising, is more damaging than more stationary noise.

  • “Louder and bigger is NOT BETTER.”
    Right. But it would be much easier to agree with you, if you would be just a little less full of yourself, and if you could stop screaming.

    • I have to assume by your post, you know nothing abou EBU norms, compression, digital audio,hi definition audio, broadcast audio, recording, and/or the seminal works of both Blumlein and Michael Gerzon.

      I am just one militant against the towering Goliath & the hords of bad sound.

      There are others like me, fighting tooth & nail for better hall acoustics, less bullshit, pianissimos, musical expression and dynamic range.

      If you saw what the boosting, loudness freaks did to such stuff as re-releases of David Bowie, and actually had access to the original analog tapes, then could check out the differences, you would not be calm or civilised.

      What you get on your car radio is a post card, not a real thing, but people want the same uber-loud boosted compressed stuff in their concert halls too, that classic FM and that cad Branson is feeding you on a conveyor belt.

      The exact same cancer is afflicting classical music, with this obsession with “projection”, the on loan Stradivarius from x y z bank, then the gushing “uber-superlative” commentaries on BBC proms….sort of “power performance” on steroids…

      It’s a many headed hydra.
      It needs to be tackled, and all shapes and forms.
      This poor man’s hearing is just one tip of a gigantic iceberg.

      I sympathise with him actually, but he had the choice to leave the rehearsal before the hearing damage which he suspected might take place, after multiple complaints on the same production.
      Fact is,- he didn’t.

    • Ah yes, I remember you well from the last time Gerhard, we never did quite finish our discussion on March 13th….


      Ozzie…
      Does anyone know what has happened with this case? I’ve got severe hearing damage from my Symphony Orchestra job and although I would never consider sueing my employer I am extremely interested and concerned about the outcome.


      Gerhard…
      No, sorry, I haven’t heard anything new either. But if you are sure that you got severe hearing loss from your job, why would you never consider suing your employer for damages? Do you really feel they have done everything necessary and possible to protect you?


      Ozzie…
      No orchestral management across the globe has done everything necessary and possible to protect their players Gerhard, not one. Why? Because nobody knows what “everything necessary” actually is whilst they still try to retain some sort of an environment that makes it feel more like an orchestra than a cavernous hair salon on pensioner’s day.
      I’m happy to admit that I don’t have the answers anymore than my management or any other management does to this very difficult situation but I will always be searching for ways to cope and I am certainly not one of those who expect to be bottle-fed everything by my employer.
      We, as players, need to be just as proactive as they are at managing this situation and taking them to court doesn’t fall comfortably into what my idea of ‘proactive’ means.
      Still, it’s dog eat dog, it’s every man or woman for themselves and while we’re at it we’d better not forget, God forbid, to look after number one.
      Anyway, I’m off to the wine fridge, cheers!

Well Gerhard?
      Any useful thoughts now?


      • I remember you, too, and you did answer my question. Thank you! Since it is your life and your decision, it did not seem appropriate to tell you what to do. So I considered this exchange completed.
        However, if you really want to hear my thoughts, I do agree with you that in general proactive behaviour is a good thing. But I disagree that it must be shown only by the musician. And I strongly believe that the main and last responsability for the safety of any working environment is with the employer. Since in more than four decades as an orchestra musician I have never experienced that there is realistic hope for any serious improvement of the workplace just out of an employer’s unforced good will, I’m very much in favour of raising the costs of inertia and disinterest in our health risks. Therefore I’m quite happy about the outcome of this case so far, both for the colleague concerned and for all orchestra players.

        • @Gerhard: I very strongly agree with this.

          The social value and risk-reducing effectiveness of employer liability is supported, as well as by your own long experience, by the American history of workman’s compensation and other methods of risk-shifting during most of the 20th century. And I think Germany has a head start here of more than 50 years.

          These benefits, long taken for granted in the US, are becoming better appreciated as in recent decades they are being chipped away.

          Some special considerations that make this a little tricky in orchestral music are linked to by me near the start of this thread. But they are no reason not to implement liability shift.

          As for the rest: love one another,

        • Thanks for the response Gerhard.
          As long as you’re unfathomably hunky dory with the outcome of this case then that’s all that really matters isn’t it?
          And bravo to you for still having such an open mind at such a ‘mature’ age.
          Please do carry on the way you are going, it’s great stuff, really, but at the same time just allow the rest of us who know what’s really going on to get on with doing what we can, in association with our Managements, about the present situation.
          I have known Chris for many years, I know what has happened here, I don’t need anyone else to tell me how happy or sad they are about what has happened this week because there is really only one truth, but, having said that, it’s always nice and often very enlightening to read everyone’s comments.
          I have learnt a lot and yet at tgecsame time I have learnt nothing, thatnks, Gerhard, partialy for that….

          • Glad if I could have served a valve for your inner tensions. It seems to be desperately needed … All the best!

          • “only one truth” Ozzie? It must be blissful to live in your solipsistic fog my dear.
            I also carry on without recourse to the Courts,aided now by Chris’s judgement to not allow my hearing fall as a sacrifice on the alter of diffident, arrogant managements that regard musicians as mere replaceable commodoties. It is a vocation, but not at any price. In the meantime Ozzie, like you rightly say, everyone for themselves. Go gather your nuts for winter, you might find a few extra from the efforts of others that shake the tree.

  • The hearing debate replicates the divide between the working class, the producers of the commodity, and the bourgeois class, the consumers of the commodity.

    (Of course, that divide, in terms of economic power and social status, has long collapsed: classical musicians probably make more money than half of the audience, and probably enjoy a more respected social position than half of the audience, in our society today.)

    Nonetheless, the debate here clearly shows that there are still consumers (even if in a lower economic class) who think that the workers should put up unhealthy working conditions just to produce the commodity of opera for the consumer to enjoy, just because the consumer paid x dollars for their (government subsidized!) ticket.

    • Tiz indeed an interesting idea that “classical musicians probably make more money than half of the audience, and probably enjoy a more respected social position than half of the audience”, especially when it’s the Royal Opera House we are talking about.
      Before that case of Bollinger has been polished off or those tears of absolute Management failure have dried up, has anyone considered that there may be some sort of appeal pending, assuming this would be allowed under these circumstances?
      Anyway, bearing in mind this is the Royal Opera House, the bill that they may eventually face could no doubt be covered by simply raising ticket prices from astronomical to extortionate, or is it the other way round?

  • Both the BBC and ABO have issued documents on protecting musician’s hearing. Readers may find information to guide their opinions on the outcome of this case or to aid in protecting their own hearing.

    The BBC document is a three part publication: part 1 MUSIC, NOISE AND HEARING: HOW TO PLAY YOUR PART A MUSICIAN’S GUIDE; part 2 MUSICIAN;S GUIDE TO NOISE AND HEARING PART 2 TOOLKIT FOR MANAGERS; part 3 MUSIC, NOISE AND HEARING: HOW TO PLAY YOUR PART A GUIDE FOR MUSICIANS SUMMARY

    The ABO document is A SOUND EAR 2 THE CONTROL OF NOISE AT WORK REGULATIONS 2005 AND THEIR IMPACT ON ORCHESTRAS

    • Neil,

      Thank you for this. I have read it but obviously this judgement relates to an incident in 2012. Since October 2013 the Noise Regulations no longer apply (again a fact which most people seem to have not realised). The duty is now common law duty of care which is not as strict. In addition some parts of the Noise Regs had strict duties. This no longer applies. I note that neither the HSE; nor the ABO have updated their advice since the Enterprise Act came in so it is extremely difficult for orchestras/ROH to know how far is “reasonable” especially when musicians continue to refuse earplugs.

  • Yes Rodrigo, screens are used widely in orchestras these days, we use them if and when necessary and where practical.
    We have a variety of the latest different types but they all only offer a slight reduction in the overall racket.
    They also take up quite some space when used widely and can also create a bounce-back effect for players behind, especially brass players.
    Funnily enough the most common usage of screens in our band is at the back of the violas, 2nd to that next to the grand piano and 3rd to that at the side of the piccolo. The triangle player is very rarely seen with a screen protecting someone in front, when he (or she) is in that is…..
    The combo of screens and moulded earplugs isn’t always suitable, musically, they can create a bit of a ‘bubble’, but even though I have suffered serious hearing trauma a few years back and am struggling with screeching tinnitus constantly I am always searching for new ways to cope without resorting to the relative simplicity of the courts.

  • “Yes Rodrigo, screens are used widely in orchestras these days, we use them if and when necessary and where practical.
    We have a variety of the latest different types but they all only offer a slight reduction in the overall racket.”

    Screens invariably cause “combe filtering”, which has nothing to do with “bouncing anything”.
    Screens will have a resonant frequency which will be set in motion and cause yet another harsh resonance, usually, yet again in the critical danger area of around 1-2.5khz, which falls right into the ear-air cavity resonance.
    The shape, size & material of any screen will also have a propagation pattern which is strongly frequency dependent.

    Some of these so called “screens, I see behind orchestras, or in concert halls which the promoters call modern marvels” are grotesquely harsh, especially when the SPL rises.
    (I have one brand new one locally which makes me put my fingers in my ears once the orchestra passes Mf).
    The concert hall staff think it’s superb and are proud of their marvel of glass and concrete.
    I know it’s utter crap.

    You really should be looking closely at the Fletcher–Munson curves:-

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/47/Lindos1.svg/400px-Lindos1.svg.png

    As I have some more experiences with the acoustic disasters promoted as “triumphs” (eg. new mariinski hall, which is a nightmare), many summer music festivals eg. Colmar which are simply dreadful, but also seeing wonderful ones such as the famous Roque d’Anteron open air piano festival…

    Put it this way, – it’s well known there’s not even a decent concert hall in central London.
    Precious little has ever been done in the acoustic treatment sphere, it strikes me the entire sound environment in London has been left to what appears to be a bunch of amateurs.
    If Michael Gerzon were still alive he would have something pretty acidic to say.

  • I’ve been thinking, with all this talk of jet engines and the like, maybe playing the viola actually is ‘rocket science’?

  • Several points: I have to sympathize with musicians who are getting their hearing threatened by the playing of their colleagues. C’mon, a refined sense of hearing is critical for being a good musician. I’m glad to see a lot of orchestras now putting up clear plexiglass shields that at least deflect the full force of loud sections’ sound away from other players directly in the blast path.

    And I fully sympathize with the players I’m seeing (more and more lately) who wear ear plugs.

    Keep in mind that there are sophisticated new earplug designs – used for industrial hearing protection and in the shooting sports – that *FILTER OUT* sounds above a certain decibel level but allow lower-level sounds to pass through. So when the brass are cranking 130 decibels in the Ride of the Valkyries, the dangerous volume can be filtered out for other players, but when it’s time for everybody to coordinate in a quiet, nuanced performance of the Forest Murmurs from Siegfried, they can hear each other. Probably better than when the string and woodwind players’ ears are still ringing!

  • But I will add– apart from being in direct line of a really loud instrument — to be in the middle of the stage with a large-ish orchestra going full tilt is quite the ride! I’ve often pitied the audience not to be able to have the experience.

  • Well I’m just looking forward to Match of The Day. I wonder if anyone else is sumilarly looking forward to a random and strangely unrelated event?

  • Things you just happen to overhear down the pub…
    “…and not only that but Chris’s partner is planning to sue them next!”.
    Partners in crime? Perhaps or perhaps not…..

    • Oh dear “Ozzie”, desperate stuff. If N**** goes to Court that’s her right, the law is there to protect us all. Meanwhile, watch you don’t blow your cover mate. Who’s to say I wasn’t in the pub that day?

      • Oh Miko, I can’t believe I didn’t spot you down ‘The Horn of Plenty’ the other day, apologies for that, we just don’t get many ignoramuses in there around Easter time…..

          • Haha, sez the authentic pantomime dame/villain. No wonder you’ve got so much time to spare just now, but hey, don’t panic mate, tiz only 268 days ’til Christmas and if you get really stuck I’m sure your good ol’ mate Chris will lease you the odd fiver….

    • “Go gather your nuts for winter, you might find a few extra from the efforts of others that shake the tree.”
      What a complete load of out of season bollox Miko!
      Grow some freakin balls of your own mate and stop all this no effort no win no fee court shenanigans right away!!
      There are people in our World who are really suffering and I hear you are not one of them.
      I also heard down the Horn of Plenty only the other night that the ROH were going ahead with an appeal.
      Now as you have probably already worked out, I am no genius, but I do know that that if they are prepared to appeal then they are prepared to win. Maybe you could tell your oh so great mate Chris the good news? I’ve got his most up to date number if you’ve somehow mislaid it……

      Your immense “efforts” will no doubt involve hiring someone on a no win no fee basis to extort money out of someone else because you are ‘irreparably damaged’ due to their negligence alone.
      Come on Miko, you don’t fool anyone, least of all those of us who don’t wake up every morning with a sad and desperate desire to shaft their employer.
      What is actually wrong with you apart from some mental issues?
      Yes I’m sure the rest of your life could be made to be much more comfortable if a pot a cash suddenly found its way to you because of your dreadful music-induced disability but for goodness sake man, get a freakin grip before you lose what little credibilty you have left in this business.
      A close friend of mine just found out he has cancer, it’s not looking good for his career in music, never mind his life.
      After hearing of Chris’ case he quipped “it’s a shame I can’t sue anyone!”.

  • Some of the comments amaze me when they have not read the judgement. It is quite clear that the ROH did a lot in relation to hearing protection including having a Hearing Protection Team which constantly looked at how to protect musicians. They were also part of the HSE Sound Advice working group. They took hearing issues very seriously. What seems to have been missed from most of the comments is that the biggest issue for ROH is the musicians refusing to wear ear plugs. On that particular day the Claimant had his ear plugs around his neck so he was not wearing his ear plugs. Short from disciplining the musicians the ROH’s hands are tied. The Judge paid no attention to that point and describing the ROH same as a factory cannot be correct. So what happens now; musicians will continue to refuse but the blame will lie at the Orchestra’s door. That cannot be right.

    • Totally agree here.
      The musician who DID NOT do what was advised on that day, was clearly negligent, he also had the option to walk out if he felt he the conditions of his job were not inline with H & S guidelines.

      He didn’t.
      Sorry if you walk in front of a tram you will be knocked down & may die.
      The whole idea you could then turn around and blame the tram driver, because you either weren’t warned or couldn’t bothered to walk on the pavement is one of the narcotics of todays “someone else’s fault” kind of society.

      It was the stuff that put insurance premiums through the roof, thanks to fake “whiplash injuries” from a whole generation of people ready to make a quick buck, and the whole horde of lawyers who spammed our e-mails, left SMS texts and all sorts of crappy techniques to make hay out of “no win no fee” abusive litigation.
      I have less and less sympathy with this retard who simply “thought he knew best” then comes round to blame everyone else but himself.

      Sounds like “Nanny state”, bleating to me….and believe you me I also work in noisy environments too……

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