updated 9/13/2005 12:57:19 PM ET 2005-09-13T16:57:19

It's a scene familiar to any summer music festival -- open fields full of sweaty young bodies writhing in time. But this one appears to be missing a vital element -- sound.

At Britain's famed Glastonbury music festival this weekend, festivalgoers can take part in a "silent disco."

The music, instead of being pumped out through stacks of speakers, will be streamed to the audience through personal sets of wireless headphones, and it'll look like the dancers are jumping around to a nonexistent beat.

"I imagine it will be quite funny to see a couple of thousand people dancing in complete silence," says Emily Eavis, a festival organizer and daughter of Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis.

As famous for muddy hijinks as for the music acts it attracts, Glastonbury has become a staple on Britain's summer arts calendar since it was first held in September 1970. The 125,000 tickets for this year's three-day event -- which started after torrential rains Friday at a farm near Glastonbury in southwest England -- sold out within 24 hours.

Besides featuring performances by Coldplay, White Stripes , Fat Boy Slim and Basement Jaxx, this year's festival continues the Glastonbury tradition of seeking out the quirky -- pole dancing workshops, circus acts, burlesque and belly dancing.

In recent years some of Glastonbury's frivolities have been curbed by local council noise restrictions, which mean the main performance stages are forced to shut shortly after midnight.

While the introduction of headphones in one of the dance areas at this year's festival will allow the music and dancing to continue into the night, Eavis says the decision is as much about keeping with Glastonbury's quest for the odd.

"There's so many ridiculous and quirky things that go on here, it's just another opportunity to do something silly," Eavis says.

The wireless headphones, which work by having partygoers tune into a restricted radio frequency through which the music of the disc jockey or band is broadcast, are the brainchild of Nico Okkerse and business partner Michael Minten from the Netherlands.

Okkerse says the pair perfected the technology at raves, and Glastonbury will be the biggest event at which the technology has been used.

"Although it's a very simple thing, people are so amazed the first time they see it. They are calling all their friends ... they laugh like crazy," Okkerse says.

To make things more bewildering for onlookers, those participating in the Glastonbury silent disco will have a choice of tuning their headphones to two different frequencies and picking a performer of their choice.

It could make for a scenario where some in the festival's dance area are listening to one kind of music and others to something entirely different.

Okkerse says at a recent event participants could choose between a hip-hop act or a performance of guitar ballads.

"Some people were jumping around like crazy, while others were completely concentrated even when others were jumping around them just feet away. It worked really nicely."

And he maintains the sound quality is far superior than most outdoor concerts which rely on public broadcast systems.

"You hear the music much better because you have a full stereo wherever you are."

But Okkerse says the stereo quality doesn't make for a sterile sound.

A good sound technician, he says, will add a little audience noise into the mix, so those in attendance still enjoy the atmosphere of being part of a festival of thousands.

"It's not like you are in a studio, looking from behind the glass at an artist. It's not like the cleanest thing on earth -- it's rock 'n' roll."

But unlike most rock concerts, where holding a conversation means screaming over the music, Okkerse says with headphones "if you want to communicate with someone next to you, you just take off one part of the headphone and talk."

Eavis can't imagine too many at Glastonbury will choose chatting over tuning in: "I think you'd feel like you are part of something that's a little bit exclusive, only a finite number of people are listening to it and you wouldn't want to miss out on that, would you?"

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