Mon 27 Jan 2020 9:28AM

Silent Disco Infrastructure

JS Jeff Spirlock Public Seen by 125

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.

Sound Policy
(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.

FreeRange Disco

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!


[deactivated account] Sat 25 Jan 2020 3:49PM

WHOA that is pretty damn badass @Smallmovez - thank you for doing the deep research and prep work on this! As Dreams (processes, budget n'all) are still to be dreamed up from the basics this year, may I inspire you to make a few small moves (sorry, I couldn't resist) in the meantime?

1. posting the relevant bits on the existing thread "Sound of Music"?

2.maybe - just an idea - consider pairing up with @Paul aka Khromo who started the important conversation to lead an AP (advice process) together? And make the decision - because the Ap lead(s) can ;)

3.would you consider - if you are on Facebook - sharing this super interesting research from burns around the world (and relevant background) on Facebook - where most hippies hang out, still. The community needs to know about this awesomeness!

I am all in and support the idea, plus propose financing Silent Disco set up as part of infrastructure - as it is necessary for being able to continue with/at Freiland location and would be very healthy in the new future of quieter sound (plus some decent raving on the big nights)

Again, thank you so much <3 Looking forward to burning with you!


Vlad Wed 29 Jan 2020 10:44PM

Silent disco is bad on so many levels (bad sound, no sound waves coming through your body, no possibility to chat, no feeling of community). I understand the idea considering all the trouble and maybe there are better variations of it, but the ones i tried (borderland etc) might not be worth spending energy and money on them.


Vlad Thu 30 Jan 2020 8:16PM

We should do the same thing club de visionere has, lamps handing from the cable, and inside each lamp is a speaker, so that people standing below the lamp are inside a sound bubble.


[deactivated account] Fri 31 Jan 2020 12:24AM

As a big sound lover, I was originally very sceptical about the silent disco system. However, having experienced it at two Scandi burns (The Borderland) I say it is a valid system one can have A LOT of fun with. As I am personally in favour of trying a quiet burn on 2020, I love and support this idea <3


Jeff Spirlock Fri 31 Jan 2020 1:17PM

I do not like how I traditionally have experienced many silent discos with a single transmitter. I like it when all 3 channels are implemented and rotated throughout all the interested sound camps. In a large clearing that is unobstructed I can listen to all the stages anywhere inside the venue. I have heard concerns expressed about it limiting connections between people but I have experienced the opposite. With the different colors LED lights in the headsets enabling those surrounding us to see what camp we are listening too it has sparked many conversations that are music related in an environment conducive to us actually being able to discuss vs in the middle of a pounding dance floor. In an environment that can be extreme to ones senses the headsets provide a nice reprieve.


meowmeow Fri 31 Jan 2020 1:52PM

This sounds just like a silent disco. I really like silent discos. They are great! I’m curious what the greatness of the silent disco has to do with the replacement of other discos. Surely there’s a non-binary approach to the existence of sound stages. I really loved all the burns where i could enjoy the silent discos while so many other things happened: art pieces, workshops, sounds stages, etc. They magically all existed simultaneously.


Vlad Sun 2 Feb 2020 1:06PM

It depends, sure it is a sucking position, being doctor on duty is at least rewarding because you help a person, being layer on duty mean you have to be sober and potentially have to break hippie bubble and chat a lot with some bureaucrats who are not very force coming i presume.

On the other hand shielding the community and saving the music can feel quite rewarding as well if communicated properly to a duty person and the community.

As personally for me, I lack the experience as i only been to so many legal battles in my life. My brother is a layer but he just started his career, but considering he is a teetotaler i should bring him with me i think :D


[deactivated account] Sat 1 Feb 2020 11:47PM

@Smallmovez agree. I have have experienced the thing with 3 channels playing (3 different lights to signal what frequency you are on) - this did not diminish connection - the opposite, in my opinion.


meowmeow Thu 30 Jan 2020 11:34AM

Silent Discos are cool things in themselves and could be worth looking into as an add-on to an already existing plan for good music, but I agree that they generally suck as a sound system and should not be considered as an option in regards to a conversation that somehow evolved into the idea of eradicating a quality music set-up.


Jeff Spirlock Sun 2 Feb 2020 3:46AM

This was my attempt at a solution to not alienate sound camps from previous and future years if Freiland was the venue decision. I personally think a burn that severely limits volumes between 10pm - 4am on Friday or Saturday sounds lame. It is not a deal breaker though and it appears the majority of the international burner community felt similarly. I needed decision makers to see how small the support was behind a silent burn. A quieter burn and a burn with zero amplified music are not the same thing. Having and enforcing an intelligent Sound Policy vs banning amplified sound on site are not even remotely close to the same thing.

Rules need to be enforced and they were.

Problems still exist.

What next if we can't find another venue?

From my experience when local law enforcement and I do not see eye to eye on the interpretation of a law it becomes a very complex issue to remedy. For example a city ordinance aimed at preventing campfires in city parks read "No Open Flames Allowed Inside Park. Only structures designed to contain fire are allowed for open flame use". My argument was the large stage in front of the pavilion was cement and therefore by design was a structure that was fire proof and safe for fire performances. The Fire Marshall and City Police both agreed with me but the Parks Department had the final say. The Parks Department didn't disagree but wanted the City Council to clarify the law which may or may not be addressed in this multi-hour long, open to the public city government meeting. Ultimately I found a better venue with less restrictions as this was not the only factor with that location.

I think the fact that the locals at Freiland were not pleased with the Sound Rules from previous years is a major issue. One that not everyone is seeing the bigger picture. Say we go to Freiland and abide by the rules but come Friday evening they say no more music. None, turn it off or leave. Now I have no clue if this can actually be enforced, I doubt they can force us to leave. But it is one scenario that is possible. Would any sound camps return after 2020 if this scenario happened? I didn't poll the Berlin Burner and Kiez Burn communities intentionally as I wanted deeper feedback.

I found it pretty funny that so many referenced a Rainbow Gathering as a burn without amplified music. I have never been to one but my understanding is the communal aspect is quite similar. Lots of DPW has volunteered key infrastructure roles for various gatherings. As much as I love that community the thought of only stringed instruments for the duration of the event is far less appealing. I do love the sound of nature though.


CJ Yetman Sun 2 Feb 2020 11:36AM

I have been to a Rainbow Gathering. I never made that connection, but I can see where it’s coming from.


CJ Yetman Sun 2 Feb 2020 1:15PM

I was the lead of the Site Leads last year, so I know what it’s like to be sober and deal with difficult shit while the party goes on, talk to authorities, etc. Making legal threats during those situations is a whole different can of worms that I’m not willing to open. Legal processes don’t always end up the way you expect, there is little to no certainty. During the event when shit goes down, you need certainty. It’s the only reasonable, safe thing to do. You don’t want to play Mexican stand-off with the amt or the cops by threatening to sue them if they don’t do what you want.


Vlad Sun 2 Feb 2020 1:23PM

Mexican stand-offs are fun:

Did you get a threat of being closed at any time last year at KB?


CJ Yetman Sun 2 Feb 2020 1:44PM

I don’t want answer that, or even characterize it for fear of mischaracterizing it because I was not the one that directly spoke to the amt about it last year, but I think it’s safe to say that we were told that it needed to be quieter even if our measurements said it was within limits. There was definitely some push back from our end, but at some point you have to decide what’s the safest, most practical thing to do. And you have to consider long term effects as well... the fact that their considering giving us a permit for this year at all is evidence that while they weren’t fully satisfied with the result last year, they believe that we acted in good faith and have trust that we can handle the situation this year. I seriously doubt that would be the case if we threatened to sue them, during or after the event.


Vlad Sun 2 Feb 2020 2:09PM

That is good tactical, i can only applause to that. This is how to be done hard but gentle push back. Emergency layer on duty can only help with that.


[deactivated account] Sun 2 Feb 2020 8:23PM

@Smallmovez good on you trying to put parks on fire! (this is totally not constructive to this thread and the reply threading is broken (?) but I had to say it!) :P


[deactivated account] Sat 1 Feb 2020 11:50PM

Dear @meowmeow , I am not sure I am getting your point? Could you structure your response more helpfully/factually rather than rant-like? Rants are not helpful on Talk - this is a decision and collaboration platform? I also think I saw you exploring the thread called Sound of Music = you probably know that there is a possibility we might HAVE to have a silent/very quiet burn this year? @Smallmovez is exploring a solution geared for that necessity.


meowmeow Sun 2 Feb 2020 2:03AM

It is correct that I am counter-ranting previous rants from another thread. The greater context of how The Sound of Music somehow evolved from solving a sound problem to openly embracing silence should be quarantined from other threads. I apologise for not treating this one as if in a vacuum. Moreover, in a world where finding such a solution would require a paradigm shift, I find the silent disco to be a great addition to this plight and thank smallmovez for his help in this regard. I’ll save my redundancy for elsewhere.


Vlad Sun 2 Feb 2020 12:26PM

Just a piece of mind: the message i wanted to throw at the community: ordnungsamter who is closing your party based on ungrounded complaint (meaning complaint about behavior within the means of established regulations, e.g. sound is not exceed allowed limits) is personally liable for damages caused by his actions. Which can (and actually did on a smaller scale for me) prevent the closing.

I don't see silent disco as a backup, we all have mobile phone and can turn any music we want with pretty good speaker quality at any time, but it is not the same.

The more i think about it: I would really love to bring a sound bubble dance floor, where smaller speakers are hanging in the air and point down, people are dancing under them - inside the bubbles in smaller tighter groups: cuddling, funny and real. Would appreciate any help calculating what doe sit take to set something like this up, since it is very custom made and has to be build ourselves!


CJ Yetman Sun 2 Feb 2020 12:44PM

Are you willing to take the lead on the legal battle? Hahaha


Vlad Sun 2 Feb 2020 12:55PM

Dont understand the "hahaha", maybe you want to explain it?

I hate the legal stuff, but when i had to I opened internet + used my common sense to create an argument and as a matter of fact it worked pretty well for me in the times i needed to do it. The fact then everybody is afraid of legal battles it does not mean nothing can be done, a structured, but consistent approach breaks walls. Also remember that both sides are afraid, and if you indicate that the other side will loose as much and at the same time you show a possibility of a neutral solution reducing potential damages the situation cool down pretty fast. This is my experience with escalating legal conflicts in Germany and elsewhere.

In the community we have layers (last kiezburn two were present i know of), layers do this kind of stuff for a living and usually excel at arguing and very experienced with this kind of procedures. Same as with doctors, we might create an emergency contact list and create a legal strategy before the event in case things going south.


CJ Yetman Sun 2 Feb 2020 12:59PM

The hahaha is because it sounds like a terrible responsibility. I certainly would not want to do it. Sounds like you wouldn’t want to either. But someone would have to do it.