Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Residents B'Damned?

Last Sunday a group met downtown to discuss the subject of noise complaints in the downtown area - more specifically, complaints having to do with loud music. In late February, the Zonemaven weighed in on the subject (click here to read that blog posting). Not much has changed since that blog entry. The main theme of the supporters of “nightlife culture” is that of entitlement with the underlying and hackneyed refrain “If you don’t like it, move.” Supporters of more objective measures of noise might pause in their demands as those decibel meters do not lie. As for Mr. Bornemann’s comment (I assume he has been quoted accurately) that “It’s not noise, it’s music.” is just flat out incorrect. It is all sound waves obeying the laws of physics – amplitude and frequency. When these factors exceed certain levels the sound becomes noise, a subjective measure, some would say. However, science is demonstrating that certain volume levels damage the ears and have deleterious effects on humans in terms of stress. Even musicians playing classical music, long associated with relaxation, are having problems with hearing loss as the result of their proximity to instruments. (Click here to read a NY Times article on the subject).

Consequently, noise abatement is not only about quiet enjoyment it is a health issue. A good summary of noise regulation can be found on Wikipedia by clicking here. I suggest the members of the City Council (not to mention the citizenry) do some reading on the subject before launching into a let's-change-the-code mode. As I asked (but received no replies) in my February blog post on the subject, "And finally - can anyone tell me why one cannot just turn the gratuitous noise down?"

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey, there. Check the comments section of your February noise blog for my response to the "Turn the gratuitous noise down" question. It's the second from last post.

zonemaven said...

Dear Anonymous,

I read your comments to my February blog entry the first time around and have yet to see an answer to my question. Your self-contradictory response of February 21st epitomizes the very reason there is a problem.

Anonymous said...

Me again. I'll elaborate.

I will never try to convince my sister that four-star spicy Thai food is better than two-star mild Thai food. That's just how we like our Thai food. Four-star spicy Thai food is not for everyone, and neither is loud music.

You may be thinking "That's a thin analogy. I don't have to eat your 4-star Thai food, but I DO have to hear your loud music." Well, no. You, or anybody else, is not under any obligation to live near where these activities occur. The locales where noisy activities occur is very easily researched.

The reason it can't "just be turned down" is because attendees would enjoy performances less, and the revenue of the venues would suffer as a result. There is a high demand for loud music.

Additionally, for high-volume enthusiasts, there is an additional level to the experience beyond simply listening. As you point out, sound is comprised of waves; more specifically it's differences in air pressure that our ears interpret as sound.

At high volumes, these pressure differences are not just detected in the ear as sound. They are felt on the skin as touch. Deep bass can resonate the chest cavity. It's the point at which, for many, music crosses the line from "sounding good" to "feeling good." It's not for everyone. Myself and many others love it.

You point out the health risks; for that I have no argument. But so often in life, the things we enjoy hurt us to some extent and we pick our poisons. To someone who doesn't enjoy this sort of thing, or can't relate to it, it would seem completely paradoxical to learn that earplugs abound at these events. I'm sure that makes about as much sense to you as wearing a sleep mask to an art gallery. But again, it's not just about the ears; high volume is also about the sense of touch.

I've spotted your comments on other local blogs and feel obligated to point out that, while championing civility, you commonly address the posts of others in a tone that is more curmudgeonly and demeaning than civil. While folks like me may not agree with some of your attitudes, it's clear that underneath it all you're a smart guy with concern for the wellness of those around you. Can't fault you for that.

So, know that despite disagreements, I find your perspectives and input compelling or I wouldn't be reading your blog.

I'll close with a noise question for the ZoneMaven: how would you feel about a zoned "Entertainment District" of downtown with different noise regulations? Something away from apartments and condos and closer to the industrial side of town? Reasonable? Feasable? Laughable?

Thanks.

zonemaven said...

Yes, the analogy is thin. :-) Since I like spicy Thai food, I will not comment further except to say your sister is missing something.

I would not be, a priori, against a separate district designated an entertainment zone. Nevertheless, with the city pushing for more infill downtown and in the so-called urban centers, the noise issue must be confronted. You might also want to consider that a good deal of the noise does not come from the music itself but from the individuals leaving the music venues in the manner of screaming, cursing, door banging, loud radios and tire squealing. This happens also in our neighborhoods and has nothing to do with volume of music and everything to due with drunken and loutish behavior.

As for curmudgeonly responses, I will admit to being frank and sometimes abrupt, especially with those who appear to take little time to think before they write. You can be sure that I review and revise all of my blog entries and comments on other blogs before I hit the PUBLISH button.

I applaud your willingness to continue to read my blog even though you disagree with some of it. Such open-mindedness is rare. If you write me separately at the zonemaven at hotmail dot com address, I will be happy to invite you for a beer - but it has to be a quiet spot...