Rangers and SPL meters to monitor sound art theme camps

Postby spectabillis » Fri Sep 29, 2006 3:57 pm

yes, something objective yet reasonable to understand is needed before this can go somewhere.

dragonfly, you think you can come up with something solid? anyone else?

frog, dude your a star for comming into this.
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Postby diane o'thirst » Fri Sep 29, 2006 4:18 pm

Boxorox said: "I gently encourage you to read the whole thought."

I did...I was attempting wittiness...hence the laughing wolficon...though irony aside, having sections of the city reserved for this, that or the other type of music wouldn't be a bad idea, either. It's no more cliquish than grouping theme camps according to interpersonal connections, alliances and preferences, and similar, complementary or dovetailing mission statements. Isn't this a rough definition of a Village?

Anyway, the idea of registering sound systems is a good one, but we run up against the "Fuck you capitalist American pig this is Burning Man I can do whatever the fuck I want and there's nothing you can do about it" anarchic mentality. Which will be with us even if the ORG does indeed Disneyfy the event at the behest of insurance companies, BLM and Pershing County's Finest.

I agree with Frog's suggestion to include a real sound technician if you're intending to bring a sound system. That seems to be the fairest and most reasonable way of dealing with the problem. If you're going to the trouble of hauling big-ass speakers, electronics, lights, a dance floor and a structure to protect it all out, what's one more person to fill out your camp roster? One more person to socialize and party with and instead of scattershotting your sound indiscriminately, you'd be getting compliments on your awesome sound set-up. No need for extra rules, kudos instead of calumny. No bad news there. I actually visited a couple LSSC's at 10 o'clock and wasn't in pain from the noise.
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Postby dragonfly Jafe » Fri Sep 29, 2006 5:41 pm

alot of good thoughts here...keep them coming! The Org is starting to think about paying attention, I can feel it.


Here is another thought (just seeing if it sticks to the wallor not)

maybe we need a dual standard within the city proper;

between 10am and 2am, 90dB at 25' (the current Ranger rule)
between 2am and 10am, 80 dB at 25' (new part)

unless you are in the LSSC, then there are no rules (other than you cannot make people's ears bleed too much)

thoughts?
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Postby spectabillis » Tue Oct 03, 2006 4:17 am

i am backed up on private messages and emails over this, but thought i would post the followiing policy info from the website. there are three main areas this is currently under..

'on the playa' > 'event' - http://www.burningman.com/on_the_playa/ ... olicy.html

'event survival' > 'preparation' - http://www.burningman.com/preparation/e ... sound.html

'resource guide' > 'theme camps' - http://www.burningman.com/themecamps/re ... html#sound

Sound
The playa is a natural amplifier and it doesn't take much to produce a large amount of sound. Bass travels multi-directionally and cannot be effectively contained with any structures. This gives "sound" as an art form an unfair advantage over other art forms. Burning Man is dedicated to radical self-expression, but it is also dedicated to creating community. This means we all must find a way to get along with our neighbors. Our past history has led us to this point where we MUST give guidelines on amplification and limit space for this sort of art. Sound Policy

The following four rules make up our basic sound policy:
Neighbors should talk to one another when sound becomes problem and try to resolve the issue through direct communication.
Large-scale sound installations MUST be located along the ends of our city. They may express themselves unless community complaints persist.
A maximum power amplification of 300 watts is permitted behind this Large Scale Sound Art Zone in greater Black Rock City.
Any complaints about excessive sound will become the concern of the Black Rock Rangers. Concerns about excessive sound can result in:

a) volume check and mediation between camps,
b) volume check and a final warning on complaints,
c) the disabling of equipment.

Loud vs. Quiet
Again this year we will have no "loud" and "quiet" sides of the city. These are relative terms, and they set up expectations that may be impossible to meet. These terms create infinite gray areas regarding what is perceived to be "loud" or "quiet," and this results in difficult negotiations between neighbors.

Large Scale Sound Art
All large-scale sound systems will be located in the Large-Scale Sound Art Zone. Like all theme camps, these camps will be encouraged to be as creative and interactive as possible. The primary rule is that all speakers MUST be turned away from greater Black Rock City toward the open playa at all times. The deadline for large-sound art installations is first-come, first-served, so when these spots are filled, no more sound systems will be permitted within Black Rock City.

Sound Complaints
If you believe your neighbor's sound is too loud and you are not able to effectively negotiate a solution, you may report this to a Black Rock Ranger station or directly to a Black Rock Ranger. (Please do not mistake a BLM Ranger for our own). Black Rock Ranger Stations are located at both Outposts and in Center Camp. A complaint should contain:
The exact SOURCE of the sound. (Vague reports will result in no action or ineffective action.)
The exact TIME of the disturbance. (Vague reports will result in no action or ineffective action). Please report problems when they happen, although reports filed the next day can be useful with persistent problem camps. We will not take action on issues of taste.

As a community, we need to work together to keep sound at desirable levels. This means that everyone involved is personally responsible for how they affect everyone else's experience. If your neighbor believes your sound is too loud, you must work with them to find an acceptable volume. You will need to check in with those that you are camped near to find out what other events are planned and work with them to create a schedule. With these actions you should be able to handle all of your own sound issues. If everyone works together there will be no need for Black Rock Rangers to monitor sound. Please pass this information around to other participants in your theme camp or village and to those that are not planning on being listed on the map. A community effort is need to pull this off.


the following is under 'event survival' > 'preparation' > 'community' - http://www.burningman.com/preparation/e ... unity.html

Noise Control
Sound travels on the playa, and not everyone will want to sleep when you do. Be advised that the only reliable way to get a quiet, uninterrupted night's sleep is to bring earplugs. If you use an amplified audio system at your camp, the volume must be held to reasonable levels. Speakers must be elevated off the playa surface, and backed by a truck, RV or anything large and solid enough to prevent the sound from traveling backwards. The maximum power amplification is 90 decibels. If a problem with sound levels continues after sufficient requests and warnings, the source of power for such device or system will be disabled.

Art cars with sound systems are subject to the same standards, and must cut their sound when approaching art installations and performances. The hum of generators can become annoying over a long period of time. Please keep your neighbors in mind. We recommend generators that are sound insulated. Do NOT dig a trench to sound-insulate your generator - enclose it in a wooden box. Do visit the Generators article on the website for more detailed information. Do visit Generators at Burning Man for more detailed information.


the following is under 'preparation' > 'event survival' > 'participant responsibilities' - http://www.burningman.com/preparation/e ... ities.html

6. Large-scale Sound Art zones are located along the streets of 2 and 10 o'clock at the far ends of our settlement. Within the city the maximum power amplification is 90 decibels. Be thoughtful of your neighbors. If a problem with sound levels continues after sufficient warning, the device or system will be disabled. See Noise Control for more information.
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Postby dragonfly Jafe » Tue Oct 03, 2006 10:10 am

The first step is to get the Org to publish a consistent "rule" for sound, and publish it conspicuously. It is significant that you were able to locate a reference to the 90db limit, in addition to the reference located in the Ranger handbook. This "proves" that it is an official part of the sound policy already adopted by the Org.

The second step is education and dialogue within the BRC community by it's citizens. This should occur year-round, including during a camp's planning, during the application for placement, during camp set-up, during the week, and during the rest of the year. Additional "best practices" for setting up a sound system should be published year-round (and maintained on the website). Tips, methods of testing, successful layouts, and the like would be included.

a third step (possibly new) would be to have skilled volunteers available to assist in mediation training/mentoring, as well as possibly more direct involvement. Perhaps this would take the form of "block sound volunteers" who would pro-actively engage in dialogue with ALL camps on a block. This dialogue would have the purpose of; educating citizens as to the official sound policy, assist with development of mediation skills within individuals, offer measurements to camps setting up systems or in doubt of their sound level, and lastly offer a last-attempt at self-mediation before the intervention of Rangers is requested. Individuals requesting Ranger intervention would be asked if they had interacted with one of these volunteers (in addition to directly with the camp in question), and if not possibly directed to one in their neighborhood or nearby.

the last step (hopefully rarely needed) should be an effective escalation process that citizens may engage, to help resolve the issue without resorting to violence (this process should also be published conspicuously to be effective). This process should included verification that the complainer has sincerely attempted resolution without success, and that 3rd party mediation/intervention is required to help avoid the potential for violence (such as names, dates, results, etc of discussions).

It seems that 300w max amplification / 90dB @ 25' is the official policy unless you are within the LSSC zone.

In the literature posted by Spectabillis (official Org documents), there are some inconsistancies, however;

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1) the first paragraphs mention 300w, but no dB limit. While the 300w rule is a fair appx. of the most powerful amp that can be used without violating the 90dB standard, and is more easily followed by most citizens, it needs to also refer to the dB limit. Whenever one is mentioned (300w), the other should also be mentioned (90dB @ 25'). This should be the "official phrase" whenever it is used;

"A maximum power amplification of 300 watts, or a maximum measurement of 90dB at 25', is permitted outside of this Large Scale Sound Art Zone in greater Black Rock City."

2) next, any dB number is only meaningful as a measurement at a specific distance.

- using just a dB number as maximum amplification is technically contrary to how sound measurements/limits are used in the field of Acoustics.

"The maximum power amplification is 90 decibels." is pretty much meaningless, and illustrates at best a typo.

the statement should read "a maximum measured sound level of 90dB at 25 feet" .

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I am seriously considering offering the services I call for in step 3 next year (ie-becoming a block "sound volunteer"). I envision walking around, with an SPL meter and some handouts, engaging (non-confrontationally) individuals, DJ's, and camp managers with discussion of the sound policy and why it is important to follow. The SPL meter would be used for educating the camp, and not "identifying" rule breakers (ie-no records/reports to the Org or Rangers). In the case of irate neighbors, I would help mentor them in possible approaches to resolve the issue satisfactorily themselves, and what the "official" escalation path consists of. Basically what I was calling for the Rangers to do more of, without directly involving the Rangers. It would ensure I was well known to all the camps within my neighborhood (hopefully in a positive fashion), and give me another excuse to wander around and talk to my neighbors.

Individuals desiring to act in a similar fashion should at the least posess (and know how to use) an SPL meter. In addition, they should be skilled in mediation techniques, and have a basic knowledge of the acoustic principals involved.

A class/website may need to be offered to begin the "training" such individuals (although a truly comprehensive class would take days, if not weeks). The Org need not provide this class, although if an effective citizen effort was achieved it would be nice if they would at least acknowledge it (ie-mention it in JRS, etc). Topics would include at a minimum;

1) the official policy (and the philosophy behind it)
2) Acoustics 101
3) How to use an SPL meter
4) Best Practices for sound camps (tips, lessons learned)
5) Mediation 101
6) The Escalation path (as last resort)

of course, individuals would have to have good self-control and do their utmost to not become emotionally involved in any situation.

thoughts?
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Postby BoxaRox » Tue Oct 03, 2006 11:51 am

Jafe, ya done good. Just for the sake of healthy debate, I'd like to pick at just a couple of things.

First is the 300 watt limit. I wonder about the necessity of including this detail, since this number provides little relevant knowledge about how things are supposed to work. 100 watts can exceed the 90 dB/25ft limit (and will almost certainly do so in a more annoying fashion than a 1000 watt system)

I move that the 300 watt limit be struck.


My second question has to do with the mediation process. If the 90dB@25ft standard is successfully adopted, the issue of complaints becomes largely binary, (either the music is too loud or it isn't) and a system of escalating mediation becomes just a delay on the way to final resolution.

For the purposes of discussion, I'm assuming a classic rock&hard place conflict, where both parties refuse to give an inch.

By applying this 90 dB limit, we are suggesting that sound system operators may make that much noise with impunity. In return, the plaintiff can count on immediate relief from extreme offenses, and reassurance that his annoyance at least won't get worse. (louder than it is)

This makes mediaton a fairly simple and direct two-step process:
1. fact finding (is the music to loud or not)
2. action (turning the music down or telling the plaintif to go fly a kite)

I suggest that once the conflict is identified, the effort (formerly) spent on negotiation be redirected to "enforcement" (continued monitoring of the situation to insure that the volume stays within the set limit)

The only other thing to keep on the table for the time being is whether a lower "wee hours" acceptable volume limit also be implemented.

--------------
bored readers may bail out now

As I emulate the scales of justice using these criteria, I see that it includes no protection for "first occupancy." IE: I set up my tent in a nice quiet zone, and on Wednesday, here comes the raver camp with their meters and sets up 20 feet from my tent.

Guess that's where the negotiation comes in.

That's enough for now.
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Postby Ron » Tue Oct 03, 2006 11:59 am

dragonfly Jafe wrote:....
of course, individuals would have to have good self-control and do their utmost to not become emotionally involved in any situation.

thoughts?


Thanks to you for doing the experiments and posting your results, as well as your research. Very cool stuff.

For myself, I'm ad advocate of keeping things simple. After years of working in security, as well as training LEO from all kinds of military and civilian groups in same, I'd go for working with existing BRC institutions. My top level put would be to form a group, empowered by the LLC, to find a solution and put it into place. Said group should have members from the Rangers, DPW, DJs, and a few random campers. Say six to eight total folks. Any requirement the ORG has (i.e., don't spend money, don't inhibit art, don't ruin camper's health, don't change rules, whatever) should be given to that group. Then they get to go build a process and solution. Trying to do that construction on a public board with thousands of participants is a recipe for heartache, seems to me.

If I were on that board my recommendation would be to keep the existing rules and add education and enforcement efforts. We'd look for volunteers to publish the rules akin to the potty and MOOP efforts currently underway. We'd work with Frog and his placement folk to see what help could be given there. And we'd build a two part enforcement effort within the Rangers and DPW. After neighbor complaints the Rangers show up to educate and mediate. If the equipment and volume are not brought into line with the rules DPW shows up, with heavy equipment, to 86 the camp. Just like they would if a camp were dumping lots of oil on playa, say. And real LE, armed and with the power to arrest, should be used as the final authority. But those are just my puts, frankly the process is as important to me as the outcomes. Comes with the MBA, and general attitude problem, I suppose...;)

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Postby dragonfly Jafe » Tue Oct 03, 2006 12:42 pm

...just because there is a 90dB at 25 feet standard, does not mean it should always be invoked.

I am reminded of a "technique" used by tapers of bands (ie-bootleggers). To get a clear recording, it is desireable not to have people next to you who talk, clap, hoot, or whistle. However, expecting the average band-goer to behave thusly is ludicrous - their ticket allows them to behave thusly at a concert (and trying to discuss the issue with someone who is talking, etc, defeats the whole purpose). Therefore the accepted technique is to have a group of friends, who will behave according to your needs, to form a wall around you. They in turn are given first copies of the recording, etc. By maintaining a "buffer" of people around you, issues are greatly minimized. Everyone else has a good time. Everyone is happy. No conflict results.

If, say, a camp desires to have a loud sound camp located outside of the LSSC zone, one technique that they could use to minimize complaints would be to enlist the aid of other camps to camp next to them that also want a loud sound camp (but do not do so themselves). If everyone within say 200' of the sound camp is "in the know", they are very unlikely to complain. Camps that would normally be bothered by the camp in violation are now too far away to be significantly bothered, therefore will not complain. Another technique would involve establishing walls of RV's, campers, etc. between neighboring camps, with the speakers perhaps pointed inward towards these walls instead of across the street. Both of these techniques used together would all but eliminate complaints.

So I don't think that simple measurement followed by fail/pass is desireable. Camps wanting to play loud music outside of the LSSC zones have a good reason for wanting to do so. Rather than totally eliminate their reason as unacceptable, I feel that allowing them the freedom to do so as long as they also take the responsibility for dealing with the consequences of breaking the rules is a good thing. If they are truly unwilling to mediate complaints (or are just ignorant of the rules), then the measurement should be the 2nd step - but I feel that individuals attempting to work it out 1-on-1 should always be the first step. Because if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it.....
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Postby dragonfly Jafe » Tue Oct 03, 2006 12:54 pm

btw - I started a new thread titled "backyard sound measurements" for the purpose of discussing just that, testing and results, without getting involved with who should enforce rules.

viewtopic.php?t=15373

I would also recommend that discussion of solutions be restricted to this thread, and that the "outpost23" thread be allowed to die away, since they should not be singled out by the title as the only/worst offender....
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One Rangers experience

Postby Frank the Vintner » Mon Oct 16, 2006 10:30 am

While walking my shifts as a ranger this year I was asked a few times about the noise rules. My answer was always the same. Go communicate with the people that are generating the loud sounds and reach an agreement.

In my own case I was sitting at Barbie Death Camp and Wine Bistro and Bunny Camp across the street was so loud that it was impossible to communicate with someone right next to you without shouting. And shouting wasn't always successful.

It took one visit to politely explain the situation and obtain a successful resolution. Your results may vary. This is Burningman after all.

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Postby isiseyes » Thu Oct 19, 2006 1:08 am

BoxaRox wrote:PUBLICIZE the standard widely. (the existing 300 watt standard has been a fairly well-kept secret) And ENFORCE it. This includes telling people who complain about camp(s) which are NOT in violation to STFU.

A pain? Of COURSE it is a pain! But ain't all the bitchin about loud music a pain too? I would think that BOTH sides of this issue would be thankful for an unbiased standard that lets EVERYONE know exactly where they stand.


Bingo.

And I think education should be the first and most important part of trying to find a solution to this problem, because honestly the vast majority of the people making both the noise and the complaints have no clue what the rules actually are.

And of course, there's also the fact that the vast majority of people making sound complaints have never once tried to communicate with the noisy camp before trying to flag someone else down to solve the problem for them... but I digress :)

Before everyone gets fired up about adding to the rangers' already heavy workload and completely strapped equipment budget, can we talk about grassroots campaigns to educate people both on what the rules are and how they can solve the problems on their own with simple communication? After all, I was under the impression that Burning Man was a radically self-reliant event.

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Postby Player » Fri Apr 20, 2007 3:51 pm

isiseyes wrote:
Bingo.

And I think education should be the first and most important part of trying to find a solution to this problem, because honestly the vast majority of the people making both the noise and the complaints have no clue what the rules actually are.

And of course, there's also the fact that the vast majority of people making sound complaints have never once tried to communicate with the noisy camp before trying to flag someone else down to solve the problem for them... but I digress :)

Before everyone gets fired up about adding to the rangers' already heavy workload and completely strapped equipment budget, can we talk about grassroots campaigns to educate people both on what the rules are and how they can solve the problems on their own with simple communication? After all, I was under the impression that Burning Man was a radically self-reliant event.

Ranger Mockingbird


Bingo, Ranger Mockingbird! I remember last year I and my wife and several others politely tried "simple communication" to get Outpost 23 boasting 2000 watts at 5am to tone it down. They had a sound system for 5000 people and everytime I looked there were about 5 or 6 bodies bouncing around. We pleaded for our sanity, and were rudely scoffed at and this camp put up signs saying, "If you don't like our music, then move," which we did. Oh, wait a minute! That was YOUR camp, wasn't it? Your words above are a mockery, and is that how you got your playa name?

Personally, I was under the impression that Burning Man was a place where people treated each other with compassion. But the new 80s-American-style ethos of, "Hey - it's Burning Man - I can do whatever I want!" has permeated BRC under the banner of "radical self-expression."

I feel that if one lacks compassion for one's own neighbors, one has lost the right to call oneself a responsible burner.

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Postby robbidobbs » Sun Apr 22, 2007 7:26 pm

I remember 2006 when I was squatting on someones property, woke up monday morning to see the big DEEP END sign up across the street.

Fucking shit! I was so glad I worked day shift.

or 2005 when I woke up next to Naked Kareoke Camp. I love those guys, they fed me Kaluah coffee and zuccini bread. They turned it down after 1am.
I still have memories of Pink Floyd covers.
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