04:28:31 pm on
Friday 12 Jul 2024

The Trappist Disco
David Simmonds

Innovations are a dime a dozen. Most of them will lead nowhere. Every so often, though, an innovation comes along that makes you feel like dancing.

A retro-inspiration for a new invention.

This one is “silent disco.” It’s the hot new trend, according to the New York “Times.” In a discotheque, patrons connect with the music through personalized wireless headphones instead of a public sound system.

This allows the club to stay open long hours, without bugging the neighbours. Apparently, the fun comes from the fact that using headphones allows multiple disk jockeys to vie for popularity, with each headphone flashing the current preference, of a listener qua dancer, in a distinct colour.

Hold on a second. You say, “Isn’t part of the fun of disco sharing the experience with others?” The “Times” article addresses that very point, “This is what we have been reduced to: dancing with ourselves. It’s isolating. Where’s the connection,” says one skeptical patron. The reporter witnesses the spontaneous formation of a silent conga line and concludes that silence does not necessarily equate to isolation.

The silent disco concept is quickly catching on in other areas. The wedding reception, where the urge to party into the wee hours brushes up against the need for silence past an early witching hour, has already been invaded by headphone entrepreneurs. There is no rule to say the headphone must stream only disco music, especially helpful at an ‘all ages’ reception where hip senior Uncle Jake insists on showing everyone he still has the moves to “Mustang Sally,” and a good chunk of the crowd has never heard or ever cares to hear, Wilson Pickett.

This new invention has multiple uses.

There’s no rule to say the invention is only for dancing at the disco. An old art form, square dancing, might be revived using headphones; silent square dancing. Dancers wearing headphones could follow an electronically connected caller just as easy as a public caller.

Other applications scream out for attention; for instance, why not silent disco tradespeople? Why is it that people sanding your floors or fixing your roof think that they have the right to listen to ‘New Country Nausea FM 96.6’ at top volume all day long? Now that the technology permits it, why can’t the contract simply stipulate that they put on silent disco headphones? Don’t try to tell me the onus should be on me to block out the noise, if I don’t like it.

Why if I want to watch a hockey game, must I listen to 10-second bursts of ear numbing arena rock music before a faceoff? Those that want to listen to that music be connected by headphone; the rest of us can be spared.

We begin to tiptoe into muddy ground. Who should bear the onus for cancelling out the noise: the emitter or the unwilling listener? Is there a right to silence or a right to noise, or both? Can the line ever effectively be drawn, let alone enforced? Experience with our County noise by-law does not encourage one to think that it can.

For an example of really deep muddy ground, take a possible ‘silent Sunday sermon.’ Let’s say that the rule of normalcy is for silence in the church. Parishioners could use silent disco headphones through which they would connect to the sermonizer, who could speak from behind a transparent, but soundproof shield. If a listener were tempted to turn the volume on his or headphones down, in order to catch just the drift of the message while attempting simultaneously to complete the more difficult clues left over from the Saturday crossword puzzle, well, that’s the free market system for you. This ought to act as an incentive to pastoral excellence.

Perhaps the free market system might borrow from the multiple disk jockey practice and employ indicator lights that show up on headphones someone has turned down. This, in turn, would lead to the development of ‘hearing aids,’ which worked mostly as external noise cancelling devices. This would lead to the banning of the devices. This would lead to churches frisking people on entry. This would make churches more like discos. This might mean parishioners might just head straight for the disco, instead of church. This would lead to an erosion of our spiritual fibre and hasten the demise of civilisation, as we know it.

Disco just keeps giving.

Who knew that such far-reaching implications could originate from the disco sector? What is next? A Trappist disco, where you dance in total silence, with no sound from anywhere, is possible. A blind disco, where your eyes are covered, making dance partner selection more random and forming a spontaneous conga line a little more difficult, is likely, too. If either of these discos becomes a reality, I might have to take cover at the YMCA.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

More by David Simmonds:
Tell a Friend

Click above to tell a friend about this article.