Jarvis DeBerry makes a great case for an increase in volume of the music AND THE VOICES out in the streets of New Orleans, the U.S and the entire planet.--Steve fly.
By Jarvis DeBerry, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
on January 02, 2014 at 4:05 PM, updated January 02, 2014 at 4:06 PM
In a long ago "Critic's Notebook" published in The New York Times, the jazz critic Ben Ratliff reports on a remarkable Thelonious Monk International Piano Competition. Monk, you know, was one of the great innovators of jazz who seemed to always be pounding on notes crammed between the 88 keys of the piano. Ratliff found that year's competition remarkable because the chosen finalists weren't safe choices. He said all four "were special musicians, and the two with the most percussive sound came in at the top." Thus, he figured that it was the rare, if only, Thelonious Monk International Piano Competition he'd seen that Monk himself might have won.
When the New Orleans City Council introduced stricter revisions to the city's noise ordinance last month, legislation that aims to make the French Quarter quieter, I couldn't help but think of another innovator of jazz, one who came decades before Monk and almost a quarter century before Louis Armstrong, a New Orleanian who would likely find the new New Orleans hostile to him and his sound.
Even if we scoff about the most famous claim about Buddy Bolden - that he could push the sound of his cornet "clean across the river" - there's got to be something to all those stories about how loud he played. Even if he couldn't stand on the east bank and be heard in Algiers, it's a safe bet that Bolden could be heard - and not just by folks who were actively trying to hear him. "He woke up the working people and kept the easy living." That's what Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn say in their tribute song "Hey, Buddy Bolden."
There hasn't been a time I've been in New Orleans when I haven't been among the working people. I had to get up to go to the office when I lived next to Little People's Place in Treme and more recently when my backyard abutted the Maple Leaf, home to Rebirth Brass Band's Tuesday night gig. Even if I hadn't lived so close to Little People's Place, there was still the matter of my residence in Treme, a neighborhood where you can be certain that the music will find you even if you don't go looking for the music.
It wasn't a free-for-all. People were neighborly, and a big part of that is respecting other people's tolerance for noise. That said, there seemed to exist there a higher tolerance for noise, which may just be another way of saying that the people there had adapted to their aural environment.
I might still be in Treme if I could have afforded to buy there. The same holds true for the house I rented in Riverbend. That neighborhood was also out of my price range. You would think that if noisy neighborhoods were a significant problem, people wouldn't be spending so much money to live there. But they are spending more, aren't they? Right or wrong, there seems to be a perception that noisier neighborhoods are more quintessentially New Orleans than quieter ones.
One of the first things Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Ronal Serpas, his chosen police superintendent, did when they got in office in 2010 was slap a mute on the To Be Continued brass band, which played regularly at the corner of Bourbon and Canal Streets. That was a surprise, given Landrieu's previous role as the state's lieutenant governor and the lieutenant governor's role as the head of the state Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism.
People who are still actively creating culture in New Orleans, which often corresponds to people producing loud music late at night, have not been big fans of the mayor's push to quiet them down. But, at least on its face, this ordinance is not about Landrieu. It was introduced by the entire City Council, which suggests that the votes are already there for passage.
The proposed changes would be unlikely to be controversial in most cities, and perhaps that's why so many local folks are alarmed. There's a real fear that such rules could fundamentally alter our character. Ours is a city that has a history of live music, but the Music and Culture Coalition said in a statement that the proposed revisions would make it "much easier to shut down venues that offer any form of live entertainment."
And it would make it an unlikely place for the next Buddy Bolden to create out loud. But the proposed changes would limit us all. Know that four-note trumpet call that kicks off "Second Line (Joe Avery's Blues)"? ba-da-Baaah-Dah! Next time you hear it, don't say, "Hey!" say "Shhhhhh!"
Jarvis DeBerry can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/jarvisdeberry.
FATTENING BLOGS FOR SNAKES 2014