Saxual Harassment

It’s never too late to learn something new I always say, so after a discussion with a colleague last month I came to the realisation, in a penny dropping, nirvana achieving style moment, I would love to learn to play the Saxophone. The one thing I never considered however was the noise.

Over the years I’ve learned to play the Piano, a bit, and the Guitar, sort of, so I said ‘third time lucky, this’ll be the one that I can really dedicate myself to’. So I started researching my next venture. I read up on the history, watched videos on YouTube, compared prices, read the pro jazz-anti classical forums and the pro classical-anti Jazz forums, oh yes, it’s as fearsome as Celtic and Rangers.

And then the day came, I found it, reasonably priced, lots of accompanying paraphernalia and even a ‘play with me’ DVD. So I dashed home, assembled the body, put in the reed, tightened the screws, attached the strap and then it happened. As I blew into it, it produced a sound so loud that I could only compare it to the starting grid at Silverstone. It shook my being to its very core.

I knew it was invented by Adolphe Sax in 1841. I knew it came in Alto, Baritone, Bass, and Tenor. I knew Charlie Parker is considered by many to be the greatest Saxophonist of all time. However the most important fact, which I knew nothing about, nor had I even contemplated, was that it would produce a sound so loud it could probably be considered worthy of an Anti Social Behaviour Order.

As a considerate neighbour with a ‘do unto others’ type mantra, I realised there is no way on earth I’m going to be able to play this in my flat, but more importantly, I don’t want to be hauled up in front of a judge for simply trying to culturally better myself or to even just increase my levels of ability. So I then asked the question, could my Sax and I actually get an ASBO?

I asked a City of Edinburgh Council insider within the ASBO division, ‘so, what are my chances’? ”We have had to place orders on people for a number of reasons. In terms of instances when it was due to noise, it is generally because of complaints we have received regarding loud music being played between the hours of 11pm and 7am. I can’t recall us having to put an order on someone for playing an instrument though” he replied.

Great, I’m off the hook I thought, but he then added, “Our work is generally about enforcing curfews but the general rule with music is that it must be below 41 decibels. I do know in Leeds they had to ban a woman from playing Dolly Parton songs after she tormented her neighbours by playing them on a loop for months, so the orders can be tailor made if need be.”

The acronym itself immediately conjures up notions of Vicky Pollard, Kappa tracksuits and Burberry baseball caps but potentially, anyone could have this four lettered ban slapped upon them. Bagpipers in Edinburgh’s Old Town were told by police in June of this year that if they persisted in playing in the city’s Castlehill and Lawnmarket areas that they would find themselves being given the dreaded ASBO.

Police said that they had no choice but to take the action after receiving up to 20 complaints a day over the period of a year by members of the public. And that regardless of whether the musicians were a tourist attraction or that one might even expect to see and hear them around the capital, the police considered the pipers to be unlicensed buskers.

A Scottish Government report in 2007 exploring the use of the ASBO in Scotland stated that there were 344 ASBO applications submitted to the courts in 2005/06 and that most of the cases considered for ASBO applications were triggered by ‘excess noise’ within the home. Perpetrators were usually found to be male, over the age of 21 and living in the social rented sector.

The report also noted that very few ASBOs had been taken out against youths, contrary to public perception, however appreciable numbers of cases were being reviewed. A case file review found that a number of the cases were long running, demonstrating that ASBOs were being used as a ‘last resort’ measure for difficult cases.

Ok, so I’m probably not going to achieve an ASBO overnight but I don’t think I’ll be taking the risk, just in case. So I think the plan now is to find a tutor with hearing impaired neighbours or someone who gives lessons on a secluded mountain top, a la Maria Von Trapp, and confine my playing to their presence. I think I’ll start by checking the classified listings under services offered, wish me luck.