Trappist Monks? Those are the ones who take a vow of silence. The Silent Disco Squad wants to get people moving… in silence. Participants download a soundtrack ahead of time from Sound Cloud and meet in a predetermined public location. On the dot, flash mob style, headphones locked and loaded, the group presses play and begins to dance for the next 1 1/2 to 2 hours, depending on the length of the mix.
Organizer David Zangwill says, “We’re all synchronized. We’re all hearing the same music at the same time.”
Zangwill explains how it works. “We meet at a certain time and place and everyone brings their own music device and headphones (mp3 players and smart phones). For people with smartphones, some friends and I build a Sound Cloud .api that allows users to stream the mix in sync. At 6:30, it starts streaming. If you go to website while it is streaming live, you’ll be redirected to hear the stream so that you are at the same time as anyone else. You can even join in late.”
What about people with smartphones? “I distribute the mix at 48 hours ahead of time for people to load on their devices. At the site, we do a 3-2-1 countdown,” he says.
The idea came to Zangwill after he traveled around to different festivals and intentional spaces. “I felt disconnected from the world around me,” he says, “I wanted to figure out a way to breach that urban isolation, the lack of eye contact. I feel that there’s no sense of community in major cities.”
He saw the solution in music. “I’m a big music fan and I saw that music has power to bring people together. Sharing music is when the lights come on between people.”
To Zangwill, the Silent Disco brings a shared music experience to everyone. “It’s community building exercise in my mind,” he says.
Silent Disco seems to be successful. So far, six Silent Disco Squads have taken place in Montreal since Zangwill began holding them in May. “The numbers have grown from 25 to 120 participants,” Zangwill says. When asked if he considers the events successful, he responds, “It’s too early to tell how successful it’s been. Every experience is rewarding.”
During an event, the Silent Disco Squad rarely stays in one place. “I like to start by the Tam Tam statue,” Zangwill says. “We start there and walk different places. One time we walked up the mountain and did a sunset dance party. One time we ended up at Piknic Électronik. Once we walked down St. Laurent and ended up at Place des Arts.”
Zangwill hopes to see Silent Disco grow. “I intend to concretize and solidify the Montreal community,” he says. “I’d love to see other people continue to step up and help me organize it. I’m looking for champions in other cities.” So far a woman in Toronto held a Silent Disco.
Looking ahead, Zangwill sees it spreading to every major city. “The whole thing is an experiment. I’d love to have a Silent Disco community in every city. In the summer of 2014, I intend to hold 5 in Toronto, 5 in Montreal, and 5 in NYC during the summer.”
“It’s a magic event,” he concludes, “You can only experience it by participating. It re-enchants a disenchanted world.”
The Silent Disco Squad event takes place Thursday, October 31 at the Mt. Royal Metro Station at 6:30 p.m. As the plan is to go on the metro, participants are advised to download the Sound Cloud .api ahead of time.