Noise and the neighbours

I once had a whim and I had to obey it 
To buy a French Horn in a second-hand shop; 
I polished it up and I started to play it 
In spite of the neighbours who begged me to stop.

–Flanders and Swann, “Ill Wind”

Facebook has been buzzing recently with the story of Laia Martin, a Spanish pianist whose neighbour is seeking to have her put in prison for practising the piano too much. The punishment sought by the prosecutors–a 20-month sentence–seems astonishing. Surely the Spanish justice system has better things to do, such as prosecute actual criminals?

Continue reading “Noise and the neighbours”


Someone sent me this blog post by the conductor Kenneth Woods about the inhumanity of the orchestra audition system. Written in response to Jennie Dorris’ now-viral article “The Audition,” it sets out a thoughtful and compassionate alternative to the current, rather brutal way of doing things.

Reading Woods’ opinions reminded me of why I’ve never been much interested in the audition circuit. I never really wanted to have an orchestral job, mostly because my passions are for smaller-scale musical forms: string quartets, the cello-piano repertoire, Bach’s solo suites, and, these days, piano trios. The other reason is that I’ve seen what friends on the circuit go through. Countless times, they willingly spend money and time they don’t have going to audition after audition, dropping upwards of $1,000 on travel expenses (more, if you play an instrument that needs its own seat on the plane) for the chance to win one of those elusive, coveted jobs in a full-time professional orchestra.

Continue reading “Overcrowding”