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StreetNoise Orchestra Turns 10!

Ten years ago on Thursday, March 28th, 2013, the very first rehearsal of the StreetNoise Orchestra (SNO) took place. But it wasn't an overnight success.

SNO's Roots Grow Deep

The cacophany of brass and riotous display orange and green that you know today did not spring onto the streets of Innsbruck out of thin air. SNO traces its roots back to the activist Italian "bande aperte" scene, which inspired the creation of our band and continues to influence us.

In bande aperte, amateur wind instrument players perform without a conductor or score. As the musicians interact and improvise with each other, they create a truly unique and spontaneous musical experience that includes a wide range of genres, from traditional folk tunes and popular songs to protest songs and original compositions. The bande aperta movement didn't just create vibrant and spontaneous music - it also played a crucial role in political causes. Their loud, very loud, horns and drums helped make their voices heard and brought life and color to the streets.

We give many thanks to Titubanda (Rome, Italy) who inspired the birth of our band through Felix Rauch, one of SNO's founding members. If Titubanda is our mother band, then we can't forget to mention their mother, the Banda degli ottoni a scoppio (Milan, Italy), which has been pounding the pavement and invigorating the streets of Milan since its founding in 1985. And of course we thank the Masala Brass Kollektiv (Graz, Austria) with which we have had much cross-pollination. Our musical and political journey has been shaped by these incredible bands (and others!), and we are proud to be a part of such a rich and vibrant tradition.

Baby Steps

At that first rehearsal in 2013, a few musicians interested in starting an Innsbruck activist street-band met in the rehearsal room of the band mais uma in Rossau in Innsbruck, where they rehearsed for about a year. Among the first members were musicians on tenor sax, baritone sax, snare and percussion. In the early days they played songs like "Bubamara", "African Marketplace/Homecoming Song" and "Peter Gunn". Soon more songs like "Nice Aroma" and "Gimme some Lovin" were added.

In 2013, more members joined the StreetNoise Orchestra (SNO), including a trumpeter and alto saxophonist. But the percussion section was unstable, so SNO only performed a few times with the rhythm ensemble, mais uma.

mais uma was founded in Innsbruck in 1997 and directed by Ingrid Wild. They play a mix of samba, samba reggae, samba de roda, and other traditional Brazilian and Cuban rhythms. Their music is simple yet genius, combining individual instruments with the samba groove.

In SNO's early years, mais uma played a crucial role in our growth. They filled in for SNO's unstable percussion section at joint performances. By working closely with mais uma, SNO gained valuable experience and we were able to eventually stand on our own feet as an independent activist street-band.

The StreetNoise Orchestra's first performance took place in June 2013 at the Christopher Street Day parade (a European LGBTQI festival similar to America's Pride). There they played with only four musicians: a trumpeter, an alto saxophonist, a tenor saxophonist and a baritone saxophonist, while mais uma took over the percussion. The second gig took place in the autumn of 2013 at two day anti-facist demonstration, by then the band had grown a bit bigger with trumpet, flugelhorn, alto sax, tenor sax, baritone sax, and tuba.

sno 2013 CSD
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sno-2014

Despite the initial difficulties and the ongoing crisis due to the lack of playing members, the band finally came together. The next big step came in March 2014 when the StreetNoise Orchestra started its extremely busy playing season until the beginning of July.

A Social Experiment?

In the past 10 years StreetNoise Orchestra has become a fixture on the Innsbruck music scene, growing to more than 15 active members and delighting audiences with its unique energy and exceptional sound. We have played over 300 gigs and have held over 500 open weekly rehearsal (every Wednesday nights at 7pm, come join!).

SNO has also been the subject of three academic papers exploring the expansion of public spaces and creation of egalitarian forms of artistic practice and self-organization while rejecting hierarchical and authoritarian structures.

"Streetnoise is more than the Hum of its Parts. Artistic and Political Motives of a Musical Collective" Traue, B., & Umhauer, A. Wissenschaftliche und künstlerische Zugänge, 2018, pp. 265-270.
"Musical Collectives and the Right to the City" Ostermann, T., Rauch, F., Traue, B., & Umhauer, A. Politische Bildung und politisches Lernen in Tirol, 2018, pp. 93-105.
Public law aspects of street music in Tyrol” Panzenböck B. 2020.

Street Noise Wins Right to Play in the Street

An important struggle that SNO faced in the past ten years was a legal dispute with the city of Innsbruck over our right to practice art in public spaces.

In the years 2015 to 2016, SNO received several fines of almost 1000 € from the city administration. In a lawsuit against the city of Innsbruck, SNO insisted on its constitutional right to free artistic expression and fought against the regulations of the city that excluded street music from the legal freedoms for street art.

Is music not art? The court sided with StreetNoise Orchestra, confirming that SNO does not need a city permit for playing on the streets in terms of artistic freedom. This ruling resulted in the city of Innsbruck largely liberalizing its street art regulations.

Full text available (in German) on request: orchestra@streetnoise.at

An expressive oil painting of a personified Tuba with the streets of Innsbruck in the background digital art style , green, orange

The Future Sounds Bright

Over the past 10 years, SNO has achieved numerous successes, and overcome significant challenges: engagement with important activism and social justice initiatives, performances at festivals all around Europe, organizing and hosting our own festival Stratiato in 2019. However, the hard work of maintaining and growing a self-organizing leaderless collective is ongoing.

A handful of the original members from that first year are still with us, others have come and gone. We are very thankful to all members, past and current, who have helped develop and explore challenges of maintaining a leaderless direct-democratic organization, while upholding the principles of openness and inclusiveness.

We look forward to looking back on the further successes and exciting developments of the StreetNoise Orchestra with old and new members alike!

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