When You Listen to Music, You’re Never Alone - Issue 57: Communities

When You Listen to Music, You’re Never Alone - Issue 57: Communities

On a late spring evening in 2015, at South Street Seaport, a square on the southern tip of Manhattan, hundreds of people slipped on headphones and slipped into their own worlds. It was a clear night, perfect for a stroll, but attendees weren’t interested in local shops and restaurants. They were too busy dancing silently to the music, tuning in—or tuning out—to a “silent disco.”

The silent disco is a concert that passersby can barely hear, and that attendees can customize with a flip of the switch. At this event, a wireless signal allowed dancers to choose their favorite of three playlists. Each pair of headphones covered the ears and gave off a robotic glow. “This is what we’ve been reduced to: dancing with ourselves,” one dancer told a reporter from The New York Times.

To some observers, the silent disco represents a peculiar form of shared isolation—a way to turn up the volume of modern alienation, to look social but remain solitary. “Headphones have been creeping into musical activities that once were social,” the writer and jazz musician Eric Felten lamented in the Wall Street Journal.

DANCING BY YOURSELF: Critics who lament that “silent discos” symbolize individualism and the…
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