We've all heard about the physical hazards of second hand smoke, almost ad nauseum. But what we've heard little about are the psychological hazards of "second hand music". A March 2007 article in Science Daily discusses the similar mental effects of psychological and physical torture, and identifies forcible exposure to loud music as one of seven broad categories of torture. A Wikipedia article also addresses this issue.
What do I mean by "second hand music"? I'm talking about someone else's music which invades your living space. Loud car stereos with ear-shattering bass thumping from rap or metal music, your neighbor's stereo blasting Metallica through your walls...and even high school marching bands practicing at 6 A.M. on weekday mornings.
According to an October 15th, 2009 story in the Tooele Transcript-Bulletin, the latter problem is being faced by people in Tooele, Utah who live near Stansbury High School. The school's marching band practices every weekday morning beginning at 6 A.M. when school is in session. But it's not just the noise that disturbs neighbors; it's also the fact that the band is violating a county noise ordinance which prohibits the use of any radio receiving set, television, phonograph, drum, tape player, compact disc player, musical instrument, or other machine or device for the production or reproduction of sound in a way that is plainly audible on public property or on a public right-of-way so as to be a nuisance between the hours of 10 P.M. and 7 A.M.
Also disturbing to neighbors is the inflexible attitude of Stansbury High School Principal Kendall Topham, who's made a few concessions, but insists that the early hour is the only time the band can collectively practice together. Some of the mitigating measures instituted include having the students warm-up in the band room, asking that marchers maintain their distance from the northern fence line, and requiring that students play into the west bleachers rather than toward homes.
But the neighbors still complain nonetheless. “They start banging and tooting at 6:20 a.m. on the football field every weekday morning with no muffling devices whatsoever,” said Kami Tripp, whose home sits a road width away from the practice field. “We were patient at first and said nothing, thinking that the later sunrise and cold would put a stop to the early practice. Unfortunately, now the band turns on the stadium lights to facilitate their practice and the cold air carries the sound even more.” The noise not only wakes Tripp during an hour when she would prefer to be sleeping, but also wakes her young children.
Sarah Freitas, whose backyard abuts the school, merely wants the noise ordinance to be enforced. “My neighbors and I want that ordinance to be enforced. I don’t break the ordinance. None my neighbors break the ordinance. I feel that it’s not asking a lot to expect the school to abide by it as well.”
These people aren't all "NIMBYs", either. One commenter pointed out that they moved to the area BEFORE the high school was built. Fortunately, some public officials are sensitive to the neighbors' concerns. Tooele County Attorney Doug Hogan said he understands why the band practices at an early morning hour, but said such activity is a violation of county code 6-21-5-2. And Tooele County Sheriff Frank Park, whose office is charged with enforcing county code violations, said that should practices continue before 7 A.M., they will be forced to step in. “We’ve been talking with the high school and right now as the ordinance performs they can’t play music until seven in the morning,” Park said. “It’s not a felony type deal, but it is a nuisance.”
What's astonishing is the number of commenters who suggest that these people just "suck it up" and "show a little school spirit". I doubt that any of them have to live with the problem, so is it really their place to pass judgment on those who do? Listening to someone else's second hand music thumping through your walls can be quite annoying, and arouse feelings of rage.
Actually, there is a simple long term solution which could be initiated at the start of the next school year. Start school one hour later. This would permit the band to begin their practice one hour later as well, at 7 A.M. rather than 6 A.M. While some people might still be unhappy about the noise, they would be more likely to accept it if the school was complying with the noise ordinance.
Update October 29th: The band now begins practice at 7 A.M. to comply with the noise ordinance. Problem solved.