Studio News from John, Part 11: Noise complaints / Studio renovations

When you live and work in New York City, a certain amount of noise is to be expected.  After all, as Paul Simon once sang, "One Man's Ceiling is Another Man's Floor."  I suspect Mr. Simon was using metaphor, but on a very practical level, he spoke the truth about people living together in close quarters.  (Why do they call them "apartments" if people are so close together?)  And by extension, almost every wall is someone else's wall, too - and on the other side of that wall, someone is probably learning to play a musical instrument.  

In Signe's building, her studio is right next to a recording studio, and this situation is just not conducive to a quiet, creative atmosphere.  Mostly this studio specializes in hip-hop music, which I personally don't listen to or appreciate, and this music is very focused on a driving, throbbing, shake-the-walls kind of beat.  Furthermore, it caters to a certain clientele that to fully appreciate the nuances of the music, has to engage in a certain herbal supplement.  (To me, if you have to get high to appreciate the music, there might be something wrong with the music, but hey, what do I know about it?)

So this has created a situation where the noise from next door is incessant, and the smell is often nauseating, and over the last few months has grown worse and worse, creating an interminable distraction that is simply not conducive to a creative atmosphere next door.  

There have been many conversations with the neighbor, ranging from friendly to combative, everything from the simple suggestion to use headphones to an attempt to coordinate schedules, so that the music (theoretically) wouldn't play during animating hours, or conversely so that animating hours could take place when the music isn't vibrating through the walls.  Then there were months of playing loops of forest noises:

rushing water:

and music found on YouTube that's designed to make us all smarter:

And happier:

in vain attempts to counteract, or at least overtake, the noise coming from next door.  Nothing has worked.  

The terms of the building's lease are, in my opinion, quite clear.  Every tenant in the building is responsible for controlling the noise AND odors coming from their space - and this applies to cooking odors as well as "baking" odors, legally there is no distinction between the smell of pots for cooking and pot for smoking.  Every single tenant has the right, according to the lease, to a peaceful working environment, and a responsibility to not interfere with the peaceful working environment of others.  But repeated calls to the landlord have not resulted in any punitive action, or change in the noise level.  Furthermore, it's the financial responsibility of a sound studio to employ proper sound-proofing, from a legal standpoint if not a neighborly one.  

The lease also forbids excess vibration caused by excessive noise - in the long term, this is much more potentially damaging to the building's structure than the noise itself.  

So, where does this lead?  Right now the solution seems to be to seal up all the gaps in the wall, to prevent any fumes from passing through (because apparently NOT smoking pot all day is unenforceable and therefore out of the question...) and to build another layer of wall on THIS side, with special sound-proofing panels that look terrible, but hopefully will cut down on the vibration passing over. 

The workers are here today installing them:


This meant removing EVERYTHING from this long wall - the shelving, the pictures, the art, and moving the desks and cabinets to the middle of the room, and then after we'll have to move everything back, then look at this industrial, brown/grey paneling going forward.  It's a terrible sacrifice to give up an entire wall of the studio just for soundproofing, and we're not entirely sure if the panels will even have the desired effect, to reduce the noise from next door.

It seems like this is the last resort, in order to get back to a situation where Signe can once again focus on her animation, and not have to blare the sounds of a forest environment all day, just to cancel out the music coming from next door.  For the sake of sanity and the creative process, this is what has to happen.  It's a point of fact, nobody ever complains about having a studio next door to an animator - you never hear anyone say, "Why is my neighbor always DRAWING so loudly?"  Plus I've found over the years that animators are usually very quiet people who tend to, or are forced to, keep largely to themselves.