The World Without Music (Monday’s Bow March 12)

Daily Bow LogoWhat would the world look like without music? We shudder at the thought…

I recently came across a site called The Haystack, an editorial site for Wheat Ridge High School in Colorado. One piece in particular caught my eye:

If you have ever been around little kids for more than thirty minutes, you will most likely hear them spontaneously burst into song for no reason at all. It is one of the funniest and most endearing moments, depending on the child, but no one can argue that it is just part of life even from such an early age. Growing up you can find music is your daily routine: singing in the shower, blasting music in your car as you try to wake up, even listening to music in class to drown out the Charlie Brown “wah-wah-wa-wah-wahs” from your teachers. However, our public schools believe it is important to take music programs out of the school budget and deprive children of music.

According to The Denver Post, “The district is looking at $70 million in budget reductions over the next two years. A Citizens Budget Advisory Council created a list of recommendations for cuts, including eliminating elementary instrument instruction and more than 18 music teacher positions.” However, Jeffco Public Schools are sending mixed signals. Under the music department on their website, their closing statement is this, “The study of music develops essential skills in critical thinking, creative problem solving, effective communication, and team work. Participation in music supports our District’s Mission: To provide a quality education that prepares all children for a successful future.” So why are they taking all those benefits away from kids?

You can read the full article: “A World Without Music.”

This piece is incredibly powerful because of who and where it is coming from. Maybe we have all-too-often seen the attitude of that child who rebels against overbearing parents and refuses to play an instrument, complaining about wanting to play video games rather than sit down and practice their cello on a Sunday afternoon. But, we may not realize that there are many in the young generation who know very well what is happening to the public arts.

For the young, music might still represent something innocent, untainted by the “adult” world of professional auditions, rules, and contracts. To them, it might still be purely about passion (even if they haven’t matured enough yet to realize it.)

What happens when you take that away from them? Some might argue that the demise of music is overblown. But one headline from Delta, Canada that reads “Bylaw considers music nothing more than noise” suggests otherwise.

Want to see what a world looks like without music? Look no further:

Is it illegal to play music in Delta? The bylaw suggests it is.

Music is noise, according to the Delta bylaw officer who visited my home. He stated that driving by the front of the house with his car window open, he could hear the musicians rehearsing inside. As a neighbour’s complaint had been filed with the Corporation of Delta, the bylaw officer was sent to investigate and a $200 fine was the possible outcome.

For reference, this complaint occurred on a Thursday at 11: 30 a.m.

Opening the door to greet the officer, I heard a table saw running in a nearby garage. Power washers running continuously for several hours are not uncommon in our neighbourhood, nor are dogs barking, lawn mowers, tree chippers and a host of other potential auditorially offensive devices.

Don’t we consider these kinds of noises sounds of the neighbourhood? Most would agree and consider it as acceptable.

Preferring not to use the term noise when describing the occurrences I hear affords me the latitude to include a child’s laughter or excitement in scoring a road hockey goal as sound. A raucous 50th birthday party in a nearby backyard is the sound of celebrating. The skateboard wheels grinding against the road as it scoots down the street sound like a young person’s transportation.

A neighbourhood usually learns to get along with these sounds, unless one person objects. It is at this point the individual objecting has a distinct advantage and a lever over the alleged offender.

The way the current bylaw is written is too vague as it pertains to music. It allows one neighbour to exercise control over another. If I don’t like your music, I can report it as an offence. Frankly, I can take it even further; if I don’t like you, I can use the fact you were merely playing music that I can hear (according to the bylaw) as a reason to create some strife toward you.

So where does that leave practicing live music in Delta? Should it matter if the musicians playing at my home were from the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra or from a rock band? Does a child learning violin deserve more or less leeway than an accomplished blues musician practicing harmonica?

Where are the guidelines? The fact is there are none. Music, according to Delta’s bylaw, is noise, so long as one dissenting neighbour says it is.

So as to abide by the law and avoid a $200 fine, I stopped the rehearsal.

If you have the courage to, you can further enter this twisted world devoid of the harmony of music by reading the full article in the Delta Optimist (an ironically named online newspaper, considering the topic…)

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