Silent Disco Infrastructure
A bit of background about myself.
This all started for me with my desire to prevent sound camps from being silenced at Kiez Burn. I have worked doing live sound for over 20 years. I am an audio engineer, lighting designer, DJ and event logistics coordinator. I have been involved with burns ranging from 400 people to 70,000. I’ve been involved with underground raves in abandoned warehouses to 5 day long 120,000 person festivals with 10 stages utilizing multi-million dollar budgets. I’ve worked in every department of a music festival I could get involved with over the last 10 years, which is just about all of them at this point. I’ve also worked with multiple world famous nightclubs.
I recently attended a workshop hosted by Remy & Waldo regarding several interlinked issues that Kiez Burn was facing. The workshop itself was teaching the Advice Process (AP) in which community discussions can take place following a structured process to adapt a community driven proposal. I found the workshop very helpful for me to understand some of the background as to how the current climate surrounding Kiez has come to be. I’ve been doing my best to do more listening than talking as I am new to Berlin and Kiez. After joining Talk and reading all the current topics I decided to turn to the Burner Community at large and get a broader view of how Burners view the concept of a Silent Burn.
I posed a question.
Have you ever heard of or been to a silent burn?
I would like to note at this point that no one had ever been to an intentionally silent burn or even heard of one. I did find one burn (THAT NO LONGER EXISTS) that had zero amplified sound but not because it was forbidden. Many people referenced Rainbow Gatherings as being a Silent Burn, so if a SIlent Burn sounds like your type of thing maybe Google your nearest Rainbow Gathering they are worldwide.
There are many factors to take into consideration when viewing the data I compiled. Here are just a few details I find pertinent, there are absolutely more factors. These burns are from various regions in the US and some are more remote than others. Firefly (New York) and Apogaea (Colorado) already have very restrictive sound policies in place because of the surrounding communities and/or venue restrictions. Freezer Burn happened last weekend so very few people responded. Love Burn (Miami, Florida) or Burning Flipside (Austin, Texas) have a large sound system culture and the cities themselves are leaders in the US electronic music scene. Some of these burns are in the mountains and some are in very flat places which impacts how sound travels. In considering all these differences I noticed an underlying theme.
Since a Silent Burn does not exist to my knowledge, the discussion became more about whether or not one would attend such an event. Or their general opinion of this concept. All these burns have existing sound policies but only about half of them seem to be strictly enforced. I did my best to categorize the responses in these graphs in the link below.
Yes, they would attend.
No, that is stupid.
Quieter Burn (overwhelming support for this idea)
Referenced the Rainbow Gathering (which could be viewed as next level Snark)
Graphs showing Question Data
(Link in PDF below)
I find it important to address the implications of noise pollution. One person brought up the point that certain Emergencies Rooms at Hospitals have Sound Policies to stop all the chaos of beeping to give the patients reprieve from all those loud noises for set hours each day. Studies have shown this to be beneficial to the overall health of the patients.There were many concerns expressed on how thumping techno dominating the sound scape limits other auditory experiences people come to burns to enjoy. In communities where sound has become an issue I view an Educated & Informed Sound Policy enforced by a Sound Marshal as required infrastructure. Here are two links to some basic guidelines that could be adapted for Kiez by relevant bodies.
(Link in PDF below)
Sound Camp Application
(Link in PDF below)
That brings me to the 11 principles.
Are we really being Inclusive to the Community by moving venues vs adapting our event to make the neighbors feel like they are active Participants in this discussion? We could practice Immediacy and adapt to their concerns and implement changes to reflect our values of Participation. I challenge the entire Berlin Burner Community (as I’m aware a group is already doing this) to Radically Include this Community of year round residents in the planning and future of Kiez Burn. Maybe allocating some tickets specifically for the people who live there to come view what is happening at Kiez. I can’t help but think about how someone who knows nothing about Burning Man or Kiez Burn may be poorly informed by a quick Google search of what is happening out there. These would be FREE tickets to be given to influential invested bodies of the Freiland Community or anyone who lives there. Numbers to be decided based on interest. From my experience locals do not come and camp on their first visit, they come out for a few hours. It is important they feel welcome so they can see we have principles. Often this has resulted in some of them buying tickets in the future. We have even provided a schedule guiding them toward some of the optimal times to view the event in motion, Burn Night being one idea. Witnessing functionality in the daytime has been in higher attendance in my past experiences.
The fact the Freiland Community is willing to have us back says a lot to me. The fact they already host their own festival out there says to me the community is willing if we take their lives into consideration. I think it would be wise to continue developing this relationship with Freiland. Maybe we need to hire the professionals the AMT in Freiland recommends to put money back into their community regarding future sound applications. We would provide them with our already existing guidelines so they can be aware of our existing structure. Maybe I am wrong and this venue is a horrible spot and you will need to move in 2021. That was my original impression as an outsider that defaulted to past event organizing experience before I learned more about the situation in full.
What is my Dream?
I want to introduce Silent Disco Infrastructure to Kiez Burn. My idea would be to allow 3-6 Sound Camps each with their own Silent Disco Transmitter. 800 Silent Disco Headphones, each headset has 3 channels. They are available in different frequencies so essentially we could operate 2 systems each with 3 channels to include 6 sound camps. This would also include chargers and other necessary infrastructure such as bins for storage, racks for organization during the event, canopy, table, chairs, etc. This would need 1-2 volunteers per shift to operate during the event. FreeRange Disco is a not for profit Full-Time Burner Inspired Theme Camp with a Silent Disco that attends many burns throughout the US each year and people love it. FRD runs out of 300 headsets (they have since increased to 500) quickly and at that point they don't really need someone to watch the distribution point. It's ideal to have someone present at all times to facilitate check-in/out and charge ones as they die but not required. The ways in which this would be implemented are up for debate. One motivated individual is capable of implementing this the first year to help facilitate how to effectively document and operate. The founder of FRD has offered to come to Berlin to help implement a Silent Disco for the first year. A checkout system to track who has them, where the participant can leave their contact information or ID behind (ID was how they started but they changed to email address) is necessary. Identifying and implementing what method is best suited for our event is what matters most. They have had a high success rate in people returning them during the event and those who accidentally took them home have all shipped them back once they were home. The headsets they use have Red/Blue/Green LED lights (changes with the channel you are on) in the earmuffs which adds an interesting visual element to the landscape in the night time.
1 headset is appx. 35€
I would start with 200 headsets, 10 chargers and 6 transmitters and expand on the infrastructure based on data collected via people checking them in/out.
64 headsets, 4 chargers, 3 transmitters is one package I have found for 3.399,00€ on Amazon.
They are cheaper on Alibaba but that is a bit riskier in terms of what the final product is. One event organizer I know ordered 2 transmitters off Alibaba for their event and only one of them worked, it was too close to the event to resolve in time to be used. I have submitted requests for quotes to several companies to start the conversation of total package costs for my suggested numbers listed above.
Further clarification of my proposal.
This is based on the recent posts about Freiland being willing to allow us access to the venue in 2020 if we severely limit our sound. The Silent Disco would become part of the permanent infrastructure of Kiez but this is not meant to replace amplified sound permanently. A Silent Burn is an interesting concept and maybe an idea for a new burn but NOT this BERLIN based burn. Limiting how people can contribute to the community isn’t being very Inclusive. I like Freiland as a venue. This is based on Freiland expressing their willingness to renegotiate amplified sound in 2021. If they do not hold to this future plan I would expressly urge you to find a new venue in 2021. I'm aware the proposal for Freiland was not a Silent Burn but a burn with serious sound restrictions. This is a plan for how we still involve sound if they are not happy with our changes and complaints continue.
I would love to hear your feedback, I welcome your participation!