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Mailbag: Why is the sound of music verboten?

Mailbag: Why is the sound of music verboten?

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While I was rehearsing with some friends around 7:30 p.m. on a weekend, an anonymous neighbor called the police on us.

The officer was kind and understanding as he explained the ordinance to us. Ironically, we had to stand close and speak loudly to be heard over the sound of the neighbor’s edge trimmer.

Now, I fully support there being a noise ordinance. But as I looked more carefully at the ordinance to find a way to rehearse legally, I was struck by the very low threshold for music. Sound, including speech, that can be perceived from 50 feet away is prohibited at any time of day.

That’s the distance from my friend’s garage to the sidewalk. I have good hearing, and can tell if someone is speaking to me from that distance. So, by the text of the ordinance, I could get a citation for violating a city ordinance by having a conversation on my front porch during the day!

Gardening is just as much of an aesthetic pursuit as music making. Both hobbies require producing sound. It’s completely reasonable to have limits on the time of day that one can make sounds, and to have limits on the duration. Musicians need to practice to maintain their art, and most people can’t afford a soundproofed studio.

Why is it considered OK to have the sounds of leaf blowers, mowers and trimmers wafting through the neighborhood while the sound of music is verboten?

Daniel Watkins




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