The Blog Squad

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

City Noise

This afternoon brought a couple happenings of note in the city of Richmond.

Most significantly, Mayor L. Douglas Wilder’s spokesman announced that William A. Harrell, the city’s chief administrative officer, had resigned his position to take the job of city manager in Chesapeake. On the surface, it appears to be a benign event at City Hall — Harrell hails from Chesapeake, and at worst, the manager job could be seen as a lateral move.

In the press release from the mayor’s office, Wilder said: “I would like to thank Mr. Harrell for his services to the City of Richmond over the years, and I am sure that he will serve the City of Chesapeake well. Having spent most of his career as a ‘city manager in training,’ I am confident that Mr. Harrell will be able to hit the ground running in Chesapeake now that he is returning to his hometown.”

Also today, the independent radio station WRIR and its downstairs neighbor, The Camel, managed to circumvent what had potential for becoming a legal tete-a-tete.

The Camel, billing itself as “Richmond’s New Social Oasis,” opened early this month on the ground floor of 1621 W. Broad St., just beneath the radio station.

Days after The Camel’s grand opening on March 3, WRIR issued an e-mail to its volunteers, its board and The Camel’s CEO Farid Alan Schintzius. It openly stated WRIR’s grievances and strongly suggested legal action if The Camel didn’t correct the problem:

“When there is amplified live music at The Camel, it is quite audible in WRIR's studios and offices. In fact, it shakes the floors and other structural members of the building. This transmitted noise makes it very difficult, if not impossible, for WRIR to operate. Production of pre-recorded programming can't take place while there is live amplified music at The Camel. Broadcasts are accompanied by the sound of background music coming through the studio microphones. And it's very difficult for WRIR volunteers to think, write, converse or concentrate with the continuous thud of bass vibrations.”

I spoke with Schintzius this morning, and he wholeheartedly agreed with WRIR’s assessment, even marveling at the amplification properties of the building’s brick and wood. He told me he saw the issue more as an opportunity than a problem, and as WRIR suggested, he’s taking steps to soundproof The Camel and insulate the upper floor from any sonic overspill.

Of course, he says, it’s going to take a fair piece of change – how much is unclear — so he’s planning a fundraiser in association with, appropriately, the experimental music collective 804noise.

But this afternoon WRIR sent out a follow-up e-mail announcing that the station and The Camel planned, in the near term, to coordinate broadcasting schedules and live performances downstairs to avoid future conflicts. And beyond mid-March, according to WRIR’s latest e-mail, The Camel had agreed to schedule only acoustic music in its space until the soundproofing is in place.

It seems there may be a slight wrinkle since the upcoming fundraiser features the participation of 804noise, which seem to suggest some electronic sound in the house. Maybe not.

However, if you’re so inclined to join the fray — to both put an end to noise and give rise to it — you can show up at The Camel on April 7 at 7 p.m. when the events begin. Schintzius says the evening will also include a silent art auction. “We’re calling for ‘noisy’ art,” he says, adding, “whatever that means.”


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