Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Saturday, April 19, 2021

I sure do pick the damnedest times to leave town. While I was funning and sunning in Florida, a silent rave broke out in Union Square yesterday evening.

What’s a silent rave? It’s a rave without sex, without Ecstasy, and without music — at least outwardly-audible music:

It was striking for what could not be heard.

On the west side of the square, city workers ripped up the street with jackhammers. On the east side, a stalled caravan of drivers, no doubt frustrated by streets’ closing for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI, leaned on car horns.

But in the middle, there might as well have been a Cone of Silence. A mass of people — a head-bobbing, arms-above-the-head, conga-line-forming full-tilt boogie-woogie — emitted what seemed like no sound but rather music visible.

Everyone danced in place, listening to an iPod and prancing to his or her own playlist. For long minutes, in the distance, only the square’s ever-present bongo players could be heard, while close up only shoes, or bare feet, could be heard padding on concrete. Video cameras and cellphones were everywhere.

Note that this go at silent raving differs from the conventional version, where all the separate iPods are synced to the same playlist. Personally, I prefer the Union Square method — more chaotic and freeform.

This couldn’t have been a more perfect opportunity for me. I may not be Facebook-enabled to have RSVP’d, but there were other ways of finding out. And the start time: 6:17PM? Practically my lucky number (don’t ask). Plus, like so many New Yorkers, I’m practically fused to my iPod.

The negative is that this is, obviously, little more than a latter-day flashmob scene. But with a decidedly individualistic edge: While social grouping is the point, having everyone listen and groove to their own private soundtrack injects some self-absorbedness into the experience. It’s really the natural next step in the prevalent iPod cocooning that everyone does daily. (That may be corrosive societal trend, but it’s pretty well unstoppable at this stage.)

I’m going to keep my eyes open for the next edition. A repeat of the Union Square site would be just dandy, but any Manhattan location would do.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 04/19/2008 07:36:02 PM
Category: Creative, New Yorkin', Pop Culture, iPod
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