Musician sues Royal Opera House over ruined hearing

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lennygoran
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Musician sues Royal Opera House over ruined hearing

Post by lennygoran » Sat Apr 02, 2016 4:18 pm

Musician sues Royal Opera House over ruined hearing
By Clive Coleman Legal correspondent, BBC News

1 April 2016

Image caption Chris Goldscheider claims his hearing was ruined after being placed immediately in front of the brass section

A renowned viola player is suing the Royal Opera House for ruining his hearing and his career during rehearsals of Wagner's Die Walkure.

Chris Goldscheider claims his hearing was irreversibly damaged by brass instruments put immediately behind him.

The Musicians' Union says hearing damage is a major problem for musicians playing in orchestras.

The Royal Opera House denies it is responsible, but around a quarter of its players suffer hearing illnesses.

In court documents seen by the BBC, Goldscheider claims that in 2012 his hearing was "irreversibly damaged" during rehearsals of Richard Wagner's thunderous Die Walkure "from brass instruments placed immediately behind him" in the famous "pit" at the Royal Opera House.

The sound peaked at around 137 decibels, which is roughly the sound of a jet engine. The court documents say the noise "created an immediate and permanent traumatic threshold shift".
Image caption Chris Goldscheider played the viola with some of the world's greatest orchestras

Goldscheider says this amounts to "acoustic shock", one effect of which is that the brain hugely amplifies ordinary sounds.

Music has been in most of Goldscheider's life: "For the last quarter of a century I've been a professional musician. Music was my income. It was my everything," he says.

The son of a composer, from the age of 10 he spent in excess of six hours a day practising and rehearsing. He played the viola with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and BBC Symphony orchestras, before joining the prestigious Royal Opera House orchestra in 2002.

Career highlights have included performing live with the famous Three Tenors to 100,000 people at the Barcelona Camp Nou football stadium, and with Kylie Minogue on MTV. He has also recorded with artists including the band 10cc.

Goldscheider says the effects of the hearing damage have been devastating.

"Ordinary sounds like banging cups and glasses together is a very painful noise," he says.

"My newborn daughter last year was crying so much I actually got noise-induced vertigo because of my injury and I ended up in bed for three weeks."

The musician says he has lost the career he loved and his mental health has deteriorated as he struggles to cope with the impact and effects of his hearing problems.

Life has changed dramatically. To carry out ordinary every day tasks such as preparing food, Chris has to wear ear protectors. Especially upsetting is that he had been unable to listen to his 18-year-old son Ben - one of the country's outstanding young French horn players.

"Ben is a fantastic musician. I haven't been able to listen to him play or practice since my injury. I've missed him playing concerts and winning competitions. I can't even bear him practising in an upstairs room when I am downstairs in the house," he says.
Image caption The musician has to wear ear protectors to carry out every day tasks

At the time of his injury, Goldscheider was provided with hearing protection capable of reducing the noise by up to 28 decibels, but his lawyers claim this was insufficient. They say he was not given enough training in how to use it and protect himself, and that the noise levels should not have been so dangerously high.

The Royal Opera House does not accept the rehearsal noise caused Goldscheider's injury, and denies that is responsible.

In a statement it told the BBC: "Mr Goldscheider's compensation claim against the Royal Opera House is a complex medico-legal issue, which has been going on for some time and is still under investigation.

"All sides are keen to reach a resolution. The matter is now the subject of legal proceedings, and in the circumstances it wouldn't be appropriate to comment any further at this stage."

And according to Goldscheider's solicitor Chris Fry, part of the Royal Opera House's defence breaks new legal ground.

"Essentially what is being said is that the beautiful artistic output justifies damaging the hearing of the musicians performing it," he says.

"That's never been tested by the courts. We don't think the court is likely to uphold that, in particular where it's clear steps could be taken to maintain the beautiful sound and protect hearing at the same time."
Image caption The Royal Opera House denies it is responsible for Chris Goldscheider's hearing issue

Hearing damage suffered by rock musicians is well documented. Years ago The Who's Pete Townsend went public about his hearing loss and famously said a doctor had told him: "You're not actually going deaf, but I'd advise you to learn to lip read."

Brian Johnson of AC/DC and Ozzy Osborne have also been affected. But what is far less well known is that it is a significant problem in the more sedate and sophisticated world of classical music.

There are around 100 players in the orchestra at the Royal Opera House. The BBC has learnt more than a quarter report occasional or mild hearing illness, and that in the 2013/14 season, there were seven cases of sickness absence related to noise problems and a total of 117 weeks of sick leave taken. That's not music to anyone's ears.

Morris Stemp of the Musicians Union says there are many reasons for the hearing damage suffered by classical musicians.

"Conductors are allowed to ride roughshod over health and safety considerations," he says. "They put players on the stage where they will be in harm's way. And instruments are now louder than they ever were before because of the materials they are now made from."

Add to that the increased number of live concerts prompted in part by the drop in income from CD sales, and there is a mix of elements that can put the hearing of orchestra players at serious risk.

Chris Goldscheider's case casts light on a little known or discussed problem, and will be watched closely by all those in the classical music world.




http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-35938704

John F
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Re: Musician sues Royal Opera House over ruined hearing

Post by John F » Sat Apr 02, 2016 5:47 pm

Chris Goldscheider "renowned"? Never heard of him, and if the brass section was "immediately behind him," he was playing in the last desk of the violas, where the newest and/or least outstanding players are seated. Newspaper hype.

No question but that repeated or prolonged exposure to high levels of sound can cause hearing loss. My hearing isn't what it was, and one of the causes may be having ridden the New York subway for 50 years or so. And I've no doubt it's an occupational hazard for musicians. In most orchestra pits I've looked into, the brass and percussion are separated from the players seated in front of them with transparent shields, and it's said Goldscheider was provided with ear protectors, as many orchestral musicians similarly seated are, though he may not have used them, or used them correctly.

But as reported in the newspaper, Goldscheider's tale of woe seems to me decidedly odd. I don't understand how he could have suffered hearing loss exclusively from rehearsing and playing those 4 performances of "Die Walküre" in 2012, in the context of complete Ring cycles, but at no other time and repertoire in a presumably long and varied career of orchestral playing. And more generally, whether in orchestral playing or boxing or coal mining, one is responsible for choosing a line of work for which one is physically suited. Music isn't going to be played sotto voce for the comfort of the players.

The Royal Opera House is much more compact than the Met, but I haven't noticed that the sound from the pit is particularly loud. The conductor of those performances was music director Antinio Pappano, not particularly noted for extreme dynamics in the orchestra. Indeed, one review complained that "the orchestral sound didn't reach me with as much punch as I would have liked." (The reviewer was sitting upstairs.) These performances were in the context of complete "Ring" cycles. How does Goldscheider know that it was specifically in "Die Walküre," in passages like the Ride of the Valkyries that use the heavy brass at its loudest (because most of the opera is auieter), that his hearing loss occurred?

I expect Covent Garden will settle with him, even though I don't believe they are really to blame. What I don't expect is that the musicians of the orchestra will be able to decide for themselves how loudly they are willing to play, regardless of the requirements of the music and the conductor. But who knows? In litigious times like these, anything can happen and often does.
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Re: Musician sues Royal Opera House over ruined hearing

Post by lennygoran » Sat Apr 02, 2016 7:34 pm

John F wrote:My hearing isn't what it was, and one of the causes may be having ridden the New York subway for 50 years or so. ...I expect Covent Garden will settle with him, even though I don't believe they are really to blame. ... In litigious times like these, anything can happen and often does.
Well just don't you go suing the NYC subway-they're liable to settle with you and then be forced to charge us NJ senior metro card users more! Regards, Len :lol: :lol: :lol:

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Re: Musician sues Royal Opera House over ruined hearing

Post by maestrob » Sun Apr 03, 2016 12:02 pm

I note the date on the article is April 1....... :mrgreen:

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Re: Musician sues Royal Opera House over ruined hearing

Post by jbuck919 » Sun Apr 03, 2016 12:19 pm

It is also little known that some organists suffer hearing damage from the proximity of their own instruments, which can get very loud indeed. Organist Michael Murray has had this problem, and he is a name you might know. I wouldn't be quick to dismiss this violist's claim, or to minimize the possible extent of the problem.

My own hearing is in very fine shape, I'm happy to say, because I have never played instruments substantial enough where the pipes sound in close proximity to the organist. The largest organ I ever played on a regular basis is the one in the Princeton Chapel. (Aeolian Skinner rebuilt after my time by Mander), and it is quite a large instrument, but because of electro-pneumatic action (the pipes are connected to the keys by electrical circuitry rather than mechanically), the pipes can all be relatively distant from the console, and not at a level that projects their sound directly into the organist's ears.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Musician sues Royal Opera House over ruined hearing

Post by John F » Sun Apr 03, 2016 1:04 pm

I don't dismiss the violist's claim that he has suffered serious hearing loss, but I question his claim as to how and when it happened, and that the Royal Opera is to blame. It just doesn't add up, I think.
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Re: Musician sues Royal Opera House over ruined hearing

Post by jbuck919 » Sun Apr 03, 2016 4:32 pm

John F wrote:I don't dismiss the violist's claim that he has suffered serious hearing loss, but I question his claim as to how and when it happened, and that the Royal Opera is to blame. It just doesn't add up, I think.
It will be a hard case to prove, no doubt. What I don't understand is how they measured the decibel level under real-time conditions. This seems to me crucial. I did some research on that scale for an Academic Bowl category last season, and 137 decibels is indeed approximate to the sound intensity of a nearby jet engine, which is sufficient to rupture the tympanic membrane (eardrum). It is the loudest sound commonly encountered on Earth. British rules for civil cases are different from ours, as you know. Among other things, if his suit fails, he might have to pay the cost of the orchestra's legal defense. However, I find it difficult to accept doubt on the basis of experiential incredulity, which is a common fallacy and what you seem to be doing. The fact that this is one person reporting on a (to me, anyway) entirely credible situation when few have to our knowledge done so does not arouse my suspicions as it seems to do yours. Of course, I am merely conceding what I consider to be a respectable degree of credibility to the man's case and not attempting to put myself in place of the process that will determine whether he has established it to the criterion that the law requires.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Musician sues Royal Opera House over ruined hearing

Post by John F » Sun Apr 03, 2016 11:33 pm

jbuck919 wrote:doubt on the basis of experiential incredulity
What does that mean?

I've expressed doubt not on the basis of experience - I've never played viola in "Die Walküre" at Covent Garden - but from what I've learned in a lifetime of acquiring information about music and the experiences of musicians. Also common logic. "Die Walküre" is performed many times a year, maybe hundreds, all over the world. In the pit of the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, closed in and resonant as it is, the sound level is so high that the conductor actually can't hear the singers on the stage a few feet from him. If Chris Goldscheider's devastating hearing loss were truly the consequence of playing this opera four times in the Covent Garden pit, then hundreds of other musicians - including his colleagues in the Covent Garden orchestra - would have suffered it too. But as far as I know, what happened to him is unique - at least I've never heard of anything like it. Therefore.
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Re: Musician sues Royal Opera House over ruined hearing

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Apr 04, 2016 12:54 pm

There have been studies done on this, which are easily turned up in a Google search. One of the conditions described in the following article sounds exactly like what this performer has.

http://www.hear-it.org/classical-musici ... aring-loss

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

John F
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Re: Musician sues Royal Opera House over ruined hearing

Post by John F » Mon Apr 04, 2016 1:13 pm

Oh, I don't doubt that some musicians have severe hearing loss, though the article you link to sets the percentage with permanent tinnitis (what could be called the Beethoven Disease) at 15%. The article also says that less than 25% of the musicians use hearing protection - only 10-15% of those with normal hearing. The analogy that comes to mind is driving without a seat belt. They have their reasons, of course, such as that (unsurprisingly) hearing protection makes it harder to hear. It's a dilemma.

But none of this bears directly on Goldscheider's claim that playing in a specific opera in a specific opera house on a specific occasion was the direct cause of his disability. That claim may be necessary to try to pinpoint liability, sue for damages, and collect some money, but as an objectively defensible diagnosis it doesn't hold up. I don't think so, anyway, and nothing in this thread persuades me otherwise. (Obviously.)
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Re: Musician sues Royal Opera House over ruined hearing

Post by Chalkperson » Wed Apr 06, 2016 10:37 pm

I lost my part of my hearing back in the '70's thanks to spending too much time in front of Pete Townshend's amplifiers.

For those who don't know, he's in The Who, I'm proud of this fact, that it was my buddy Pete.

If it was Wagner, I'd be so embarrassed, the last thing I would do would be sue.

I'd get a new job, a proper one. Washing dishes.
Sent via Twitter by @chalkperson

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Re: Musician sues Royal Opera House over ruined hearing

Post by lennygoran » Thu Apr 07, 2016 5:08 am

Chalkperson wrote:
If it was Wagner, I'd be so embarrassed, the last thing I would do would be sue.

I'd get a new job, a proper one. Washing dishes.
You'd better watch out-Rattle's coming to the Met Sept 26th and opening their season and he's bringing Wagner along with him-it's Tristan and that may be responsible for poor Ben Heppner losing his voice! Regards, Len :lol:

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Re: Musician sues Royal Opera House over ruined hearing

Post by John F » Thu Apr 07, 2016 5:47 am

It could be worse than that. The first Tristan, Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfeld, died suddenly at 29 after singing the role only four times - some believe it killed him, though it was probably a stroke.

Ben Heppner's vocal problems came to a crisis years before he first sang Tristan. We were in the audience for "Die Meistersinger" when his voice cracked badly and repeatedly during the Prize Song in Act 3. Tristan came after a change of medication essentially solved the problem. The role was a bit much for his big but essentially lyrical voice, and he had trouble in Act 3 (as many Tristans do). But he sang a variety of roles in his five Met seasons after "Tristan," including Otello, and finally retired from singing two years ago at the age of 58.
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Re: Musician sues Royal Opera House over ruined hearing

Post by lennygoran » Thu Apr 07, 2016 8:44 am

John F wrote:
>We were in the audience for "Die Meistersinger" when his voice cracked badly and repeatedly during the Prize Song in Act 3. Tristan came after a change of medication essentially solved the problem. The role was a bit much for his big but essentially lyrical voice, and he had trouble in Act 3 (as many Tristans do). But he sang a variety of roles in his five Met seasons after "Tristan," including Otello, and finally retired from singing two years ago at the age of 58.
<

I remember that cracking so well-after the performance was over I ran into your now deceased friend Tony and we tried to console each other-it was so terrible after such a great performance by him up until the Prize Song. As for the history I recall this:

I believe I first saw Heppner in Tristan on this date--I couldn't believe what he went through that night-he had my throat in pain-he just kept going-incredible!


Metropolitan Opera House
December 6, 1999


TRISTAN UND ISOLDE {435}
Wagner-Wagner

Tristan.................Ben Heppner
Isolde..................Jane Eaglen
Kurwenal................Hans-Joachim Ketelsen
Brangäne................Wendy White
King Marke..............René Pape



Then I saw him again here-again he sang it for all it was worth:

Metropolitan Opera House
September 30, 2003


TRISTAN UND ISOLDE {439}
Wagner-Wagner

Tristan.................Ben Heppner
Isolde..................Jane Eaglen
Kurwenal................Richard Paul Fink
Brangäne................Wendy White
King Marke..............René Pape


My first Meistersinger ever was this one--I got into it late.

[Met Performance] CID:350043
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg {397} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/20/2001.


Metropolitan Opera House
November 20, 2001


DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG [397]
Wagner-Wagner

Hans Sachs..............James Morris
Eva.....................Solveig Kringelborn
Walther von Stolzing....Johan Botha

Then I remember on your recommendation we decided to go back and see it with Heppner-it was great until the crack--somehow I can't recall the exact performance when we were all there--my Hallmark calendar system let me down-- and heard the cracking-I can't seem to find any reviews of that but I do remember we were all wishing him well when he was going to do it that Saturday on the radio and Levine got him through it. Regards, Len

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Re: Musician sues Royal Opera House over ruined hearing

Post by slofstra » Thu Apr 07, 2016 1:15 pm

137 decibels out of the brass section? That is difficult to believe. I heard some incredibly loud rock bands back in the day, bad enough that I left the venue. None were ever that loud, and I don't see how you could get those kinds of volumes out of acoustically amplified devices. Perhaps if Donald Trump was blowing the trumpet? I understand he can blow really hard, but otherwise: I'm skeptical.

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Re: Musician sues Royal Opera House over ruined hearing

Post by jbuck919 » Thu Apr 07, 2016 3:12 pm

Chalkperson wrote:I lost my part of my hearing back in the '70's thanks to spending too much time in front of Pete Townshend's amplifiers.

For those who don't know, he's in The Who, I'm proud of this fact, that it was my buddy Pete.

If it was Wagner, I'd be so embarrassed, the last thing I would do would be sue.

I'd get a new job, a proper one. Washing dishes.
The obvious difference, and I am responding also to Henry Slofstra, is that with acoustic instruments proximity is everything. It is also a factor with amplified music, but in many cases the amplification is intended to create an overhwelming volume throughout the venue. (To Chalkie I was required to chaperone school "dances" in Maryland and I always left the room to observe through the fortunate glass wall of the cafeteria.) Everything anyone has said here has validity in evaluating the situation, but I still think that the points fall short of what is needed to dismiss Goldscheider's case. It is up to him to make it, of course, but I don't see it at the level of unlikelihood that some here do.

Incidentally, and I may have mentioned this before, my father, who will turn 88 in two weeks, has for years been too deaf to appreciate music, an appalling thing to happen to a musician. There was a lot of loud music, both acoustic and amplified, in his life too, but in his own mind he is certain, and I agree with him, that the main reason is the level of noise of the engines produced by the unpressurized USAF cargo planes that took his unit on hops to perform in distant locations when he was in the Air Force. Now I hope they have the sense to give anyone who is a passenger on one of those flying boxcars hearing protection, but they didn't in those days.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Musician sues Royal Opera House over ruined hearing

Post by John F » Fri Apr 08, 2016 1:10 am

lennygoran wrote:Ben Heppner
By the way, he was in town on Wednesday as MC for the George London Awards gala, and even sang a bit. I believe he does programs on Canadian radio about music, talking but not singing.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/08/arts/ ... ncert.html
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Re: Musician sues Royal Opera House over ruined hearing

Post by lennygoran » Fri Apr 08, 2016 7:43 am

John F wrote: By the way, he was in town on Wednesday as MC for the George London Awards gala, and even sang a bit.
That sounds like a nice event-wonder if they ever consider televising shows like that-seems it would be a good item for PBS-I see there are clips of previous years on you tube. Regards, Len

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Re: Musician sues Royal Opera House over ruined hearing

Post by John F » Fri Apr 08, 2016 8:14 am

The Richard Tucker gala has been televised for years, though I don't know whether it was done last year. Only public TV would do it, and public TV's classical music programming has been shrinking for a long time, so it's unlikely to happen.
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Re: Musician sues Royal Opera House over ruined hearing

Post by maestrob » Fri Apr 08, 2016 12:44 pm

John F wrote:The Richard Tucker gala has been televised for years, though I don't know whether it was done last year. Only public TV would do it, and public TV's classical music programming has been shrinking for a long time, so it's unlikely to happen.
FYI the Tucker Gala was televised last year (100th year celebration) and again this year already: both years were absolutely outstanding events, with famous cast members too numerous to mention.

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