A light glows from a crowded tent. Bodies move in unison as a DJ’s head bounces up and down with the beat. And you hear – nothing?

Such is the Silent Disco, most recently staged at Tennessee’s Bonnaroo 2008 Music Festival, as seen on CDM’s events.createdigitalmusic.com. See Jason’s blog post, photos, and look at the whole festival in photos.

The trick was to provide wireless headphones, thus making a dance party for the iPod age. The result is certainly surreal, as you can see in video (watch about halfway in).

But I think the event doesn’t go far enough. How about a truly silent disco – no headphones, no sound whatsoever. Naturally, there should still be a DJ. (What are those guys really doing, anyway?) Dancers would have to synchronize on their own beat, a la the creepy hypnotic power of the “IT” in A Wrinkle in Time. (Google it.) Of course, this would be even more fantastic if you could do it at a festival, get a whole bunch of people in on the joke, and then confuse the hell out of everyone else.

Any takers? (Or maybe it’s been done before?)

Photo: Jason O’Grady.

  • wooster

    hmmm…john cage dance party?

  • wbskates

    We did that for a club promotion way back in '90. I was the DJ. WE were simucast on on of the local Radio Stations. It was Christmas, so the promotion was called Silent Night. Each guest was given FM receiver headphones-cheap FM receiver headphones. It worked fine for the early arriving guests and it was very surreal. Once it started getting busy, the door staff was overwhelmed by patrons complaining of the headphones not working properly, or them not tuning the station to the right frequency. We finally had to turn the volume up, but we still were broadcast on the radio.

  • Improv Everywhere has done something similar before… at Central Park! http://improveverywhere.com/2005/10/16/the-mp3-ex

  • ocp
  • velocipede

    I just watched the film Babel and it has a great scene that hints at how a deaf character experiences a disco. She seems to dance to the rhythm of the movements of other people in the disco.

  • Jacko

    They have had this the last few years in Australia as part of the Big Day Out festival. Only I think the difference was that every headset had a different song playing out of them, so everyone was dancing a completley unique way.

    Great to watch and paticipate in, Fantastic Concept!

  • just curious if any one did this before the apple commercial? 🙂 Seems like a fun idea to try anyway ..

  • Mark

    Here in the Netherlands TNO is working on a suit which is meant for several purposes, one of them being letting deaf people experience (dance)music as it is for us, the hearing.

    The vest is made out of a lot of tiny vibrators which can be turned on and off.

    I can't find anything (in english) on it now, although it has been featured on television here in the netherlands and in the UK (recently saw it on Stupid Science)

    Some people from my faculcy are involved in the music to vibrating-vest experience.

  • Luke Dodd

    Spotted something like this in London a while back (about 6 months I would guess) on a flyer, sadly I forget when/where it was or who was organising.

  • Polite

    I believe they've had this at the glastonbury (spelling?) festival in the UK for a few years as well. I heard that kylie or madonna or someone had their main act in this 'silent' way as well.

    Didn't know they had it at big day out, I'm obviously watching the wrong acts.. or maybe it doesn't happen in Perth.

    I don't really understand the point though, unless you are throwing an event somewhere with noise restrictions. Part of an event is hearing everyone cheering, singing along, etc. Plus surely it must cost a bundle to provide wireless headphones for everyone, and I bet they don't get back most of them in a usable fashion.

    Of course I'd probably feel different if I've ever seen anyone that does it.

  • philll

    😀 it´s often used for advertisement in tv, you see a lot of people dancing, i even did that for a tv spot, dancing in a nice bar,having fun,and no music at all 😀

  • simon

    I've read about these silent discos taking place in my home town Brighton and just up the road in London. I've never tried it but to be honest it sounds kind of like defeating the object of going out and sharing in listening to music. That is what makes clubs, live music so cool – the shared experience. I can listen to my own selection of music at home on my own and even dance to it if I want to. The reason I go out is to hear someone elses playlist or selection of music, stuff I might not have heard before.

    Saying that I do understand that there is something interesting about the concept.

  • ocp

    I'd say this is just one of many sorts of music listening habits; there's always room for other sorts.

    The great advantage is you won't bother neighbors with loud music spat by huge PA systems.

    Also, you're free to listen to whatever style suits you best (if given the option).

    And this doesn't mean the end of shared listening, just the evolution…

  • ocp

    BTW, look up this link for a DIY project on the subject: http://www.broadcastyourpodcast.com/
    Who knows, you might be throwing such a party some time soon ( ;

  • Apparently this was invented in 2002 at 'de Parade' -a dutch theater festival. Dozens of headphones were hanging on the ceiling for your grabs back then. Since then these guys launched a worldwide tour and went the wireless route.

    Truly awesome idea.

  • Much love to all the silent disco enthusiasts out there!