200 Days in the Life of the College

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Silent disco: Like a  disco, but … quieter

By Nora Grenfell ’12

Into the wee hours of Sunday morning, a few bodies still linger on Minor Field, blanketed earlier tonight by students silently swaying to music that passersby could not hear. With headphones dangling from their ears, clutching iPods of every size, shape and color, they had been listening and chaotically dancing to the same beats of a predetermined playlist of songs, occasionally punctuating the night air with their fists.

Silent disco features music provided in advance via a filesharing site advertised on Facebook. On a scheduled night, disco-ers gather at the field, plug in their headphones and simultaneously press the “play” button. Dancing follows. Tonight’s crowd is part of a growing phenomenon, one that has become a bi-annual event on College Hill since beginning as a birthday party in 2008. In his sophomore year, William Kalbacker ’11 attended “Silent Disco 2,” organized by fellow rugby players Brendan Campbell and Matt Gordon, Class of 2009. Since then, Kalbacker and Jeremy Safran ’11 have enthusiastically assumed the organizers’ role and have seen the event grow from some 50 participants to several hundred. “I have no idea why it’s gotten so big,” Kalbacker admits. “It sounds pretty lame on paper. But every time, more people will come.”

Over the years the silent disco playlist has grown as well, to more than 2,000 downloads, many of them the same songs that blast at parties or from the WHCL speakers on Martin’s Way. But as the night ends, first-years, seniors, “dark-siders,” “light-siders,” writers, pre-meds and everyone in between are stomping the turf to the tune of Dancing in the Moonlight by King Harvest. It is a song played by Hamiltonians for close to four decades, dating back to the days of vinyl. Its lyrics are thus all the more appropriate for the several hundred who electrify a September night in Central New York.