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Concert Pianist Could Go To Jail For Practicing At Home

Posted 11/12/2013 4:52 pm by

By Danouch 67 (Own work) [GFDL  or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

“Everyone’s a critic.” Every artist, writer, or musician knows the truth of the phrase, and how devastating criticism can sometimes be. But for one Spanish concert pianist, “devastating” doesn’t cover it. Laia Martin, age 27, faces seven years of jail time for practicing her playing at home. Not only that, but her parents face the same possible penalty, as well, for allowing her to practice at home.

Sonia Bosom, who was the Martins’ neighbor from 2003 until 2007 has brought these charges against the pianist and family, claiming she suffered psychological damage from the noise pollution generated by Martin’s frequent playing. Bosom alleges that Martin practiced for eight hours a day, five days a week during the time they were neighbors. Martin denies that she practiced at home quite so often, saying she took classes in other towns and generally only played at home on the weekends.

The “psychological injury” inflicted by Martin’s playing is being blamed for many of Bosom’s medical problems, including panic attacks, anxiety, insomnia, and even gynecological issues. Bosom says she has to occasionally take time off from work due to these problems, even though she and her family moved away from the Martins in 2007.

At first blush, it may seem like Bosom simply wanted someone to blame for all of her ills, but city officials in Gerona, Spain, are taking her claims very seriously. Like many other towns, Gerona has ordinances in place to help keep noise down. According to the prosecution, local authorities have run tests and have ascertained that sound levels made by the piano were up to 40 decibels—that’s 10 decibels over the 30-decibel limit the city has put into place for musical instruments. While that’s usually a nighttime rule for sound in a house, some of the authorities are widening the law to cover the daytime.

For comparison’s sake, a normal conversation produces 55–60 decibels, and noise in a bar usually ranges from 65–70 decibels, according to Nuria Blanes, an environmental scientist at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. So, in essence, Laia Martin faces jail time for playing more softly than most people speak, in a country known for its boisterousness. It’s unheard of, almost as strange as finding a piano sitting on a sand bar.

In addition to the six years of jail time Martin faces for noise pollution, and the additional year and a half she faces for the “psychological damage” she inflicted upon Ms. Bosom, she also faces a possible ban prohibiting her from playing professionally for four years, thus stripping her of her livelihood.

The trial is set to conclude November 15.

Photo: Danouch 67, via Wikimedia Commons

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