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The Death of Street Music in New Orleans

The Death of Street Music in New Orleans

When you walk down the streets of New Orleans, Louisiana (Nola) there’s much to smell, see, experience, but mostly hear. Hear the beautiful sounds of music floating across the parks, bars, and street corners. Music is the heartbeat of Nola. So what happens to this amazing city when law enforces restrictions on when and where

When you walk down the streets of New Orleans, Louisiana (Nola) there’s much to smell, see, experience, but mostly hear. Hear the beautiful sounds of music floating across the parks, bars, and street corners. Music is the heartbeat of Nola. So what happens to this amazing city when law enforces restrictions on when and where music is played?

Royal Street Musicians

The unique music culture began in the pre-American era mixing European instruments with African rhythms and is credited for nearly 9 million visitors to Nola in 2012; spending six billion dollars in part by attending many of the 110 music venues and 650 alcohol beverage outlets (ABO’s).

The problem -  many of those ABO’s are not zoned for live music. Local residents are divided. Many residents are working with Neighborhood Associations to help these venues attain proper permits to save these new and old cultural icons such as Bacchanal and Mother In Law Lounge. While other residents, even after decades of bars next to neighbors and the recent benefit of increased tourism, are filing noise complaints on neighborhood bars such as St. Roch Tavern and MiMi’s in Marigny, pictured below.

Neighborhood Respect sign MiMi's in Marigny

Some organizations, such as Hear the Music Stop the Noise, say they can find ways to combat noise without eliminating street music, parades, and live music. Claiming music is not the issue but the technology behind it. But what does this mean to regulate noise and why confront the issue now? In most cases bars existed before the residents, so is this a zoning issue or an architectural one? If urban planning is the answer, does this mean many of the 126 music festivals will still be allowed in current locations? Will permits, noise level restrictions, and curfews be the answer? Or is this an issue of architecture? Perhaps if residents move in after existing venues, they should retrofit their homes with double pane windows, fill cracks, soundproof bedrooms. In addition bars should be required to soundproof venues, keep front doors closed, and monitor decibel levels.

If noise regulations are enforced in the musical city of New Orleans, will the cultural quality of life be improved or impoverished? Various sounds occur in response to different cultures across the globe. How are they embraced or regulated?

Credits: Images by Allyson McAbee. Data linked to sources.

Intern photo

Allyson McAbee is a graduate of Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge with a degree in Landscape Architecture. Currently living in New Orleans, Louisiana she works at a residential design, build firm while volunteering at gardens and farms aroun...

  • JBR

    This is such an important issue in many Latin American countries- we must allow expression through music- otherwise, serenades would never have existed!
    If music has always been a part of New Orleans, it should remain so. In Spanish countries, music is integral to social gatherings and they are allowed to continue- the cultural richness would disappear otherwise.
    Keep on playing NOLA!

    • http://www.theglobalgrid.org Allyson McAbee

      Excellent point! There are so many examples of countries where the music is vital to the culture including wedding ceremonies held on the street in Cambodia. Loud and beautiful music is played from tents set up on the streets beginning early in the morning. But we live or visit these places a lot of times because we enjoy the culture/feeling of that place.
      Depending on what city and what country plenty of other sounds/noises are heard such as motorbikes, sirens, kids playing, airplanes, construction. So, why try to regulate something that becomes a part of our environment. We should just learn to adapt or move somewhere else. There are much more offensive problems occurring, why worry about noise in the heart of a city?
      Before buying a house in the French Quarter make sure it’s not next to a bar that’s been there 40 yrs!
      Keep on playing NOLA!

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