Councilman Mark Squilla recently introduced a bill that would outlaw the playing of drums in public. On Monday, the bill was held – a postponement we hope lasts until at least 2099.
For one thing, even though cranky old people often mistake the two, "noise" and "music" are actually two different things.
Street music – especially drumming—is one of the soundtracks of the city.
According to the Councilperson's office, Center City restaurants and other institutions may have been bothered by drumming late at night. But rather than ban percussion outright, why not simply say "no drumming after 8 p.m.? Also, why single out drums? Why not include amplified bass, or electric tuba?
Our main problem, though is what happens when you try to codify this behavior into a prohibition. Here's the awkward language of the bill:
No person shall produce percussive sound using hands, sticks, or other devices in combination with any type of drum or cymbal, or with a device or object utilized in the manner of a drum or cymbal, such as a news box, bucket, can, or metal plate, outside of a structure in the area bounded by the Delaware River, the Schuylkill River, Washington Avenue and Spring Garden Street, which sound is audible at a distance greater than one hundred (100) feet from the location of such drum, cymbal, device or object, unless such drum, cymbal, device or object is being used in connection with a permitted or licensed activity or event.
Really? That sounds very close to "the day the music died."
The councilman's joyless language invites, if not derision, then certainly parody:
No young person shall produce percussive sound using but not limited to hands, sticks, tree limbs, elbows, arms, legs, heads, curtain rods, pencils, blunts, or other devices in combination with any type of drum or cymbal, or with a device or object utilized in the manner of a drum or cymbal, such as a news box, bucket, can, or metal plate, outside of a structure, blanket roll, steam vent, or tent.
Amended: Nor shall they laugh, chuckle, chortle, guffaw, or otherwise express joy. They shall not smile or grin; nor shall they raise one eyebrow higher than the other while simultaneously opening their eyes wide.
Furthermore, any indications of rhythm are expressly forbidden. That includes dancing, stepping, swaying, spinning, shaking, stomping, sauntering, or walking with addytood.
Here is a version that could actually save lives:
No person shall produce a percussive sound using pistols, revolvers, derringers, rifles, shotguns, semiautomatic rifles, semi-automatic weapons, muskets, grenade launchers, or howitzers aimed at any child, baby, teenager, student, young adult, adult, or AARP beneficiary, either male or female, in the area bounded by the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Canada, and Mexico, when such sound is audible at distance of less than 3,000 miles unless such device or object is being used in connection with a permitted or licensed activity or event.
Amended: No person shall produce the percussive sound of a body hitting, striking, or otherwise crashing onto the pavement, caused by the above mentioned pistols, revolvers, derringers, et al.
Surely there is a common-sense way to limit disruption from loud drumming at night, without dampening the spirit of a city known for music.