Silent discos are still the rage 1 year on

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Silent discos are still the rage 1 year on


A silent disco is held on July 9 in Hongdae, western Seoul, to celebrate the first anniversary of the arrival of the new dance-party format. Provided by SangSang Factory

Herds of young, fashionable people sweep across the dance floor, their flamboyant moves merrily matching the DJ’s playful loops and scratches.

But the blaring music? Strangely enough, it’s silent. It is a “silent disco,” an innovative gathering that delivers music via wireless headphones in large outdoor clubs.

The surreal atmosphere is no obstacle to the revelers, who explode with self-expression and silliness tinged with a hint of rebellion. And where else could you find an event like this in Seoul but in Hongdae, a veritable mecca of Korean nightlife.

SangSang Factory, the organizer of the silent dance parties, has been involved in around 35 different events throughout the past year, including the 2010 Formula One Korean Grand Prix Celebration and the World DJ Festival. In celebration of the first anniversary of the silent disco’s arrival in Korea, another thriving party was held at the Hongdae playground on July 9.

Last week the Korea JoongAng Daily sat down with Ryu Jae-hyun, director of SangSang Factory, to talk about the silent disco movement.

Q. What brought the silent disco to Korea last year?


Ryu Jae-hyun, Director of SangSang Factory

A. The Silent Disco movement was founded six years ago at the Glastonbury Festival [in Britain], and the movement has been spreading across continents ever since.

Having experienced the fresh, open atmosphere outdoors - a direct contrast to the cigarette-smoke-filled environment of normal clubs - I realized that there was a much broader and favorable selection of party venues readily available outside. The only dilemma with outdoor festivals is noise pollution, and I knew that a silent disco was the solution.

One of my beliefs is that a festival is equivalent to freedom and that true freedom can only exist when humans bond together in nature. Communicating with others is easy at a silent disco, unlike at conventional clubs where thrashing and thumping music from the speakers block conversations. At the same time, listeners are able to enjoy every bit of the music with their individual preference of volume.

Seeing the potential, I jumped into the production without hesitation. My previous job as a researcher for the Seoul Development Institute helped me a lot later as a festival director. With baby steps, it took me three years to put together the foundations for the silent disco.

Can you talk about the principles of the silent disco? How were they created and which ones do you believe to be the most important?

The principles of the silent disco originate from the 10 principles of the Burning Man Festival, an annual event held in Nevada. I look up to their values and philosophy.

The official principles of Burning Man speak for themselves: radical inclusion, radical self-expression, participation and civic responsibility. These basic regulations are what we need in order to construct an ideal atmosphere, a cultural community in which we express our creativity and freedom.

All of these principles are important, but I regard participation to be vital. Without the participation of individuals, there wouldn’t be any way to bring our visions into reality.

As a nonprofit organization, financial hardships are expected. What is the main source of your funding?

Unlike SangSang Madang, which receives funds from its sponsor KT&G Corporation [and has no affiliation with SangSang Factory], SangSang Factory is a nonprofit organization.

I will have to be honest with you and admit that we did encounter financial difficulties in the beginning. All of the initial expenses had to be drawn from the association itself. About 500 headphones were purchased, each of which costs more than 100,000 won ($95). Including the DJ turntables, mixers and midi controllers, it’s probably about a total of 60 million won that we’ve spent.

At the moment, we operate with donations from participants at each party. We ask the crowds to pay the amount equivalent to the level of satisfaction. The employed DJs and staff members, including myself, are all volunteers - the money is used purely for reinvestment.

What aspect of the silent discos do you think is attracting the public’s interest?

The key is the revolutionary mind. Silent discos were exactly what the public needed in a corrupted nightlife damaged by excessive alcohol and drugs. What people crave now is a sophisticated club culture with many experimental activities.

Not that I’m searching for an ideology, but I see the silent disco beyond its simple purpose of a “party.” The event itself can be interpreted as a performance art and the union of its artist.

Our followers share a humanitarian mind-set to break the wall between different generations, genders and races. People appreciate our values now, and this is what I’d like to call the “silent effect.” I feel lucky to be living in a world where new ideas become trends.

What are the benefits of a developed nightlife?

That would be the same question as to why one enjoys games. Games, entertainment and nightlife all link to an identical objective: fulfillment of the human instinct for play. The main factor of this is the fun of escaping from normality - not just an aberration but a cultural, artistic escape.

In essence, the main function of nightlife is developing anticipation and excitement - in other words, formulation of energy. This energy enables people to live the mundane days more dynamically.

In retrospect, which event would you pick as the most memorable and why?

Once, we purchased a signal transmitter, a device that transports signals to the headphones, and transformed it into a portable device. That’s how the “silent parade” across Seoul started.

We’ve had a couple of silent parades last year around some of the tourist areas such as City Hall, Gwanghwamun, Insadong and the Han River. The activity itself was aimed toward foreigners, and it was a step toward proving the generation of a healthy, socially beneficial festival.

I believe that silent parades could potentially transform into a great tourist package. The government’s green light is all we’re waiting for.

By Jang Yoon Contributing writer []

한글 관련 기사 [일간스포츠]

소리 없는 댄스파티 ‘사일런트 디스코’ 체험기

9일 토요일 저녁 9시. 서울 홍대 놀이터에 난데없이 긴 줄이 생겨났다. 줄을 따라가니 사람들이 머리에 헤드폰을 쓰고 마치 디스코클럽에 온 듯 몸을 마구 흔들고 있었다. 하지만 음악 소리는 들리지 않았다. 언뜻 보면 허공에 대고 허우적거리고 있어 '미친 사람들 아니냐'는 생각이 들 정도. 지나가던 행인들도 신기한 듯 하나둘 모여들었다.

이 희한한 모습은 조용한 디스코인 일명 '사일런트 디스코'다. 2004년 유럽에서 폐쇄적이고 좁은 실내에서 벗어나 오픈된 공간에서 디스코를 즐기자는 차원에서 생겨나 1년 전 한국에도 상륙했다. 지난해 7월 홍대에서 처음 시작돼 경북대, 대천해수욕장 등 33차례 파티가 열렸다. 요즘 젊은 춤꾼들 사이에서 화제를 모으고 있는 사일런트 디스코를 직접 체험해봤다.

무선 헤드폰 쓰고 디스코

사일런트 디스코는 나이 제한이 없다. 술을 팔지 않아 남녀노소 누구나 입장할 수 있다. 입장료도 따로 받지 않지만 기부금 형태로 1000원 이상을 받는다. 소음이 없기 때문에 춤을 출 수 있는 장소만 마련되면 어디서든 행사가 가능하다.

이날 홍대 놀이터에서는 오후 8시50분부터 입장을 기다리는 줄이 생겼다. 행사 스태프들은 기다리는 사람들에게 종이를 나눠줬다. 종이에 이름과 연락처를 적고 신분증을 내면된다. 옆에 선 스태프가 무선 헤드폰을 나눠주며 "주파수는 조정하지 마세요. 볼륨버튼으로 음량을 조절하면 됩니다. 과격하게 춤을 추시다 헤드폰 스펀지를 잃어버리시면 1만원을 내야 합니다"며 주의사항을 일러줬다.

헤드폰을 쓰니 바로 음악이 흘러나왔다. 클럽의 끈적끈적한 음악이 아니었다. 남녀노소 쉽게 춤을 출 수 있고 몸이 절로 들썩이는 16비트 음악이었다. 디제이 박스 옆에 설치된 스크린으로 스태프가 찍은 사진이 실시간으로 올라왔다. 자신의 사진이 나오자 사람들은 더욱 열광했다.

부비부비는 금지

디제이 옆에 서 있는 사회자가 분위기를 띄우다가 영어와 한국어로 공지사항을 알려준다. 물론 헤드폰으로만 들을 수 있다. "클럽처럼 행동하지 마세요." 편의점에서 싼 값에 술을 살 수 있는 만큼 성추행 소지가 있어 주의를 주는 것. "'부비부비'나 누군가의 엉덩이를 쥐는 짓은 삼가세요. 이 앞에 '머슬맨'들이 보이시나요? 진짜 무서운 사람들입니다." 디제이 박스에 우람한 남자 두 명이 손을 번쩍 들어보였다. 이들이 이곳의 가드 역할을 하고 있었다.

파티 참가자들은 삼삼오오 모여 춤실력을 한껏 뽐냈다. 시작된 지 30분이 채 지나지 않았는데도 150명 정도가 놀이터를 가득 메웠다. 디스코를 즐기기 위해 아직도 100여 명이 줄을 선 상태. 1시간이 지났을 때 땀범벅이 될 정도로 춤을 춘 사람들이 하나둘 헤드폰을 벗고 쉬었다. 행사를 주관하는 상상공장 관계자는 "계속 춤을 추기보다는 한 시간 정도 즐기자는 사람이 많다. 그래서 더 열정적이다"고 말했다. 매번 온다는 한 참가자는 "야외에서 춤을 춘다는 것 자체가 자유롭다"며 즐거워했다.

신기한 듯 사일런트 디스코를 지켜보던 직장인 최인아(25)씨는 "아무 소리도 들리지 않는데 사람들이 춤을 추고 있어서 이상해서 와봤다"고 말했다. 거리 소음 속에서 춤을 추는 사람들과 이를 지켜보며 수군거리는 사람들이 묘하게 교차하는 순간이었다.

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