Friday, 15 November 2013

Hell is other people. Or how one woman's music became another's noise pollution.

Spare a thought for Laia Martín, a promising young pianist from Catalonia, now facing charges that could land not just her but her parents in gaol for seven and a half years. 

Why? Because she practises the piano.

Yes, that’s right. You’d expect a budding concert pianist to have to play rather a lot. And when her parents bought her a piano and encouraged (I suppose the prosecution would say ‘incited’) her to play it, they thought they were behaving as devoted parents should.


Sadly, they were living next door to a woman called Sonia Bosom, clearly someone with a lot to get off her chest.

She sued for noise pollution and physical impairment. She
’s moved away, which strikes me as sensible, but in the meantime the matter had been picked up as one for criminal charges. It’s true that Martín practices for eight hours a day, but that’s pretty much what I’d expect from a professional musician (particularly a soloist). She also keeps it to daytime only. 

All of which makes me feel that in asking for a seven and a half year sentence, the prosecutor who’s taken up the case is being just a tad excessive.
Noise pollution.
Seriously? Noise pollution?
And, believe me, my wife and I have plenty of experience of noise pollution. Our neighbour goes in for it less often than she used to, but when she lets herself go, we certainly know about it. First she starts off apparently enjoying herself. She and her friends laugh a lot; then the music comes on; and next it’s Karaoke, an invention, it seems to me, with only one purpose: however awful you may feel professional singers are, you’ll go back to them with alacrity once you’ve heard the amateurs.

Hard though it is to believe, things actually deteriorate after the Karaoke. That’s when the mood turns rough. Voices are raised but no longer in joy. Epithets are exchanged, accompanied by encouragements to engage in procreative activity. Elsewhere. 


Doors are opened and doors are slammed as various people are included or excluded from groups. In the latter case, they usually protest at a length that belies their words, that they care very little about their fate, in speeches generously larded with further procreative allusions.

As a general rule, there are tears, occasionally blows, sometimes even the sound of crockery being broken.

We think of her as our neighbour from Hell.

I imagine, however, that Ms Bosom and the Martíns feel exactly the same way about each other. Ms Bosom must have regarded the hours of piano as hellish; Laia and her parents must feel the same about the prospect of being gaoled for their devotion to music.

Which I suppose only goes to prove the truth of Sartre’s idea that hell is other people. The Spanish case seems to confirm it. So does our neighbour.

Fortunately, however, in my experience other people also provide the means to get as about as close to heaven as we’re ever likely to be. The existence of friends consoles us for the persecutions of the hellish other people of Sartre’s vision.

Right now, I hope Laia Martín and her family can find some friends of their own, in high places if at all possible, because they really, really need them.

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