Tuesday, August 13, 2013

"Character of sound"

The city's noise ordinance working group has hired a firm to develop what they're presenting as a "less anecdotal" study of the city's "sound environment."  The aim , they say, is to create a noise ordinance based on a set of objective enforceable data rather than continue to rely on the "complaint driven" system in place today.
Members of the music community have watched developments with an anxious eye since 2010, concerned that a curfew enforcement that forced street musicians including the To Be Continued Brass Band to stop playing would evolve into the start of an anti-live music trend.

Unrelated zoning and Alcohol Beverage Control Board actions involving popular live-music venues The Circle Bar, Siberia, Jimmy’s Music Club and St. Roch Tavern have fed this fear — a phenomenon the Oxford Acoustics report sees as a rationale for more a systematic approach to enforcement.

“Reactionary or complaint-driven enforcement causes others to perceive selective enforcement,” the report found.

Hannah Kreiger-Benson, spokesperson for the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans, a group of musicians and others worried about ordinance changes they fear could grow too restrictive, appreciates how the report makes the conversation more concrete.

The act of bringing science into the discussion is so worthwhile,” she said.

Is it, though? If t"bringing science into the discussion" results in a more efficient and objective system for shutting down live music, then what's really being developed here is a rhetorical cover for an even more aggressive pursuit of an objectionable policy.

I'd also like to know more about what kind of "science" is being done here. Something about this seems a little less than purely objective. 
The ordinance needs to be revised, according to the new report, because “the law doesn’t fit the situation,” said Oxford Acoustics’ David Woolworth, who is also a member of the rock band The Kudzu Kings.

Technology has presented a whole range of sound frequencies that earlier versions of the ordinance didn’t have to account for. The report draws particular attention to the sonic footprint of the low, bass frequencies present in much dance music.

“They travel so far, and they travel into buildings,” he said. “I spoke with a gentleman in Treme who said, ‘We’ve always had these things going on.’ The activity level may be similar, but actual character of the sound has changed.”

See, the "character of the sound has changed." The kids today don't go for the same pretty sounds their grandparents used to enjoy.  They like "low bass frequencies" used in new and mysterious kinds of "dance music."    Previously proponents of stricter noise enforcement would say unsophisticated things about how young people play their ethnic music too loud.  Now they can encode that same message into some jargon about changing technology and suddenly the same complaint is all sciencey.

All they've really done is apply a new technocratic-sounding approach toward an old political objective.  The whole thing is textbook Landrieu-ism.

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