Imposed sound on German busses

In December 2002 the German bus and train company Duesseldorfer RHEINBAHN began to play the programme of the local radio station "Antenne Duesseldorf", first in one, later in two busses of their line # 724, on a trial basis, until March 2003. According to a media report, the idea to do so was to motivate more people to switch from using cars to using busses and trains, the more environmentally friendly alternative. One alleged positive side-effect of the on-board radio: Music contributes to a more relaxed atmosphere in the bus, as experiences in other cities supposedly show.

For the 3-months trial in Duesseldorf line # 724 was chosen. "This route runs through different parts of the city and is used by completely different types of passengers: From visitors to a grave-yard to youngsters heading to a recreational facility," explained Dirk Langsiepen, regional manager of operations. It is here where RHEINBAHN will receive a wide variety of feedback during the trial period. And the verdict of the customers shall decide if the radio-busses are to become a permanent contrivance in and around Duesseldorf.

Members of Pipedown-Germany alerted the organisation's president, Mr. H. Fiedler, who wrote Duesseldorf City Council that this was not merely an issue concerning a transportation company and its passengers, but one that encroaches on minority rights. Also, this ostensible minority is not a small one, perhaps 30% or more of the population, yet seldom noticed, because it often resigns silently when faced with predomination.

In spite of RHEINBAHN soliciting feedback from passengers, such information can always be "manufactured" to suit the proponent's purpose and give the connotation of a democratic decision.

Passengers who feel disturbed by the imposed music are not at all eccentrics with an outmoded hypersensitivity, as which they are often portrayed by business managers. Instead, they are people with quite normal sensitivity, taking music seriously. They are entitled to peace and quiet.

On the legal aspect of this matter, the presiding judge of the high court in Hamburg once wrote: "When two persons have a right and each of them can exercise his right ONLY by infringing on that of the other person, then the one has to yield who would encroach on the other person more than would be the case in reverse... That means that the imposition of having to hear something encroaches more on the personality than would the deprivation of being denied to hear something. Subsequently, the right not having to hear imposed audio is to prevail."

To avoid a misunderstanding, the usual sounds of operating a bus are not meant here. Those are sounds of a neutral kind and the inevitable by-product of the bus at work. The case in question is about sounds not merely registered by our ears, but also processed by the senses and sentiments, namely music that demands sensitive people's attention. Music, when meaningless, endless and undesired, annoys. The playing of audio in a public transit vehicle requires a permit from the authority, for which Mr. Fiedler asked the Duesseldorf council not to grant permission. He also urged others to protest that imposition.

We hear of unrestricted playing of many sound devices in public transit vehicles in many parts of the world. This imposition is proliferating like a cancer. Thus, we find the Hamburg judge's interpretation of the law particularly interesting and wish for many more such verdicts.

Presented by Vancouver New Music
Sunday, September 26 at 2:00 pm
Sunday, October 3 at 2:00 p.m.
Tickets: Free, but you must register
Info: 604.633.0861 Call to register and for venue information!

Guided listening walking tours of Vancouver neighbourhoods, led by composer and sound ecologist Hildegard Westerkamp with Jason Leslie, Jean Routhier and Chris O'Connor. Explore various Vancouver environments by ear, and listen to "place" as if listening to a mysterious new concert performance or sound event. In a soundwalk, the listening "audience" moves through a place and the environment "performs." The walking listener and the environment create a unique piece together that can only occur during the time of the walk. Vancouver New Music hosts four Soundwalks this year; the others occur 3 October 2004, and 17 and 24 April 2005.

Soundwalk Meeting Places:
Sept 26: Waterfall Building, in front of Elliott Louis Gallery, 1540 W. 2nd Ave., just off Granville Island.
Oct. 3: Lore Krill Housing Cooperative, 65 West Cordova. A sign or a volunteer at the entrance will point people to the meeting room or the interior court.

Note: Ms. Westerkamp informed us that the soundwalks are designed to also accommodate participants in wheelchairs.

Right to Quiet Society Newsletter, Fall 2004
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