The Sound of Silence

What would New Orleans be like without music? A New Orleans with only silence instead of street performers, live music clubs, marching bands, jazz funerals, Mardi Gras Indians and restaurants. Wow.

Most of the protests against the ridiculous existing noise ordinance consist of musician and music fans bombarding City Hall or the Council Chambers with signage, musicians and brass bands. How about using silence as a protest tool?

BrassBand2The Music and Cultural Coalition of New Orleans has worked hard to evaluate the proposed Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance, which has been under consideration for years now, and has made some very valid suggestions. They were presented at a “teach-in” on January 21, 2015 and copies of their recommendations were distributed at last week’s Best of The Beat Awards. Thanks to MACCNO for studying this issue and making recommendations on behalf of the music community.

I have a suggestion, and it’s pretty radical: when the city tries to pass a CZO that inhibits or prevents music in the city, the musicians in the city should GO SILENT. Do you know what Mardi Gras would be like with no marching bands? How about Bourbon Street? Frenchmen Street? Royal Street? Conventions? Jazz funerals?

Making one day silent would, of course, take an amazing effort on the part of local music-makers. Musicians: do you care enough about being able to play your music and are you courageous enough to literally go on strike and not make music for an entire day?

Think what an impact that would have!

I’m living in a dream world, of course, because unfortunately musicians are poor enough and hungry enough that someone would break the silence, which is a shame.

But until politicians, the City Council, the Mayor’s Office stand up to the people who want to shut down music in our neighborhoods–the small contingent of neighborhood groups (who absolutely do not represent the majority of the city’s citizens)–we don’t have a shot in hell. Make them think. Give the city some negative publicity (am sure that national media would pick up on this story: “New Orleans Music Is Silenced.”). The neighborhood groups, while small, are well-funded (thus, have the ability to pay for publicists and billboards). And so they have the ability to be very influential. They coalesced as the “Riverfront Alliance” and put up the money to pay for a billboard across from City Hall that got major publicity in the local media (not from OffBeat, until now). Don’t you think the City Council (many of whom are supported by the music naysayers’ members) will respond to this?

The squeaky wheel gets the grease. And these people have the money to make a pretty big noise (how ironic).

And then, of course, there’s the Stuart Smith connection. Smith and reps from the groups he bankrolls—the VCPORA and Friends of the Vieux Carré—are meeting with Smith at his home at 516 St. Philip to discuss those issues and to “strategize” on February 4, when Smith will be in town (he lives most of the time in Miami). I would presume it’s to discuss how they can win their fight against live music. Maybe there should be a sit-in (no music, God forbid!) around his house to protest when he comes down from his majestic cloud to give his followers the best strategic advice (and maybe a few bucks?) to organize the next strategic moves against music.

I think a profound silence is what’s going to end up being the “squeak” that could finally get the politicians’ attention. Who’s up for it?

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  • M Thompson

    Might have to do it for a week to really drive the point home. Imagine the reaction from tourists/visitors who arrive to the sound of musical silence throughout the city. I am sure that the powers-that-be would get an earful of comments!

  • Steve Gilbert

    Stay within the law, but hit ’em where it hurts the most.