Posted in music | tour dates on November 24, 2009

by Andrew Frisicano

DOWNLOAD: Phil Kline - From Light (MP3)

Unsilent Night

Phil Kline's Unsilent Night is a free outdoor participatory sound sculpture of many individual parts, recorded on cassettes, CDs and mp3s, and played through a roving swarm of boomboxes carried through city streets every December. People bring their own boomboxes and drift peacefully through a cloud of sound which is different from every listener's perspective. Since 1992, this 45-minute work has grown into a worldwide annual communal event that has become an essential part of many winter holiday celebrations
The performance, in its 18th year, will happen in 13 North American cities (as of now) this year - with events planned abroad too. Full list of locations below. The Unsilent Night material is available on CD through Cantaloupe Records.

This year's Unsilent Night New York will happen on Saturday, December 12th. The group starts at the Arch in Washington Square Park at 7pm and walks to Tompkins Square Park (approx. by 8pm). The track posted above, "From Light," is meant to accompany the group's "arriving in the quiet of the East Village, 7th Street to Second Avenue."

Clips from the previous three NYC Unsilent Nights, more info on its creation from Phil Kline and all dates are below...

Unsilent Night 2008: East Village Hit With Ambient Boom-Box Symphony

Unsilent Night - NYC - 2007

UnSilent Night - NYC 2006

Unsilent Night began with the simplest of aims: I wanted to have a Christmas party. I produced a multichannel tape, recorded the separate strands of the music onto cassettes, got a few dozen friends with boomboxes together and gave them each a cassette. We started them all at once and walked around the Village [in Manhattan], creating a block-long stereo image for an audience which consisted of us and whoever happened to be passing by. It was one of those experiments that worked beyond expectation. The music spread and filled the air in such a way that it was difficult to pinpoint where it was coming from even when in the middle of it. The sound mass seemed alive, blurring and oscillating due to slight variations in speed and pitch, and a constantly evolving polyphony was created in the moving throng as one could hear individual machines suddenly coming into focus, then receding back into the overall cloud of sound. That was December of 1992. Unsilent Night has been presented annually since then, with the music changing a bit year by year and the crowds getting much larger. The 2000 version heard here consists of material composed between 1994 and 1999. Since it is a piece of music meant to accompany a walk, here?s a quick intinerary:

1) "Unsilent Night" - We meet and begin by the fountain in Washington Square Park.

2) "The Milky Way" - leaving the park and heading east to Broadway.

3) "Rondes des mages" - turning left on Lafayette. (In 1994 we began on the East Side and this music played as we walked around Tompkins Square.)

4) "The Crossing" - negotiating those traffic lights on Bowery by Cooper Union.

5) "From Light" - arriving in the quiet of the East Village, 7th Street to Second Avenue. The antiphon "Lux de luce" is from a 13th century English manuscript.

6) "On the Waters of the Sun" - Saint Mark's Place, 2nd Avenue to Tompkins Square. The hymn "Christum wir sollen loben schon" is by Martin Luther.

7) "Schones Klang" - arriving at the gates of Tompkins Square. The title came from a passing pedestrian in Berlin last year.

8) "Angels of Avenue A" - winding through Tompkins Square Park until we end up under the big trees on the south side.

Lurking behind the musical novelty is the fact that this is a Christmas piece. Christmas is a multi-layered phenomenon in our times, an ancient observation of winter solstice and the awaited return of the sun, melded into the biblical drama of persecution, flight and miraculous birth, and, finally, the modern drama of family reunions, big meals and shopping quandaries. It is a happy season frought with the tension of anticipation and for some people, burdened by the realization that they may not get what they want, it is the most stressful and depressing few weeks of the year. That drama, along with the bustling theater set that is New York City at Christmas time, provides some of the background for this piece. I think I was hoping to give a gift and, perhaps immodestly, show that sometimes good things do come right out of thin air.

Unsilent Night - 2009 North American Dates & locations
12/10/09 Yale Bookstore New Haven, CT
12/10/09 Spring Street Arcade Los Angeles, CA
12/11/09 Pearl and 13th Street Boulder, CO
12/12/09 O'Keeffe Museum Santa Fe, NM
12/12/09 Penn Station Baltimore, MD
12/12/09 Washington Square Park New York, NY
12/13/09 Historic Chicago Water Tower Chicago, IL
12/13/09 KiMo Theater Gallery Albuquerque, NM
12/14/09 Ethical Society Building Philadelphia, PA
12/18/09 Pack Square Asheville, NC
12/19/09 Gaslamp Trolley Station San Diego, CA
12/20/09 English Bay Vancouver, BC
12/21/09 Cambridge City Hall Cambridge, ON

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Comments (6)

has anyone ever gone to this?

Posted by Anonymous | November 24, 2009 2:54 PM

If you've never been...GO!

Posted by Anonymous | November 24, 2009 3:21 PM

it's a lot of fun. a great tradition.

Posted by v | November 24, 2009 3:23 PM

this looks pretty cool

Posted by Anonymous | November 24, 2009 6:38 PM

Went a few years ago. Was very fun. Definitely worth it. I wonder how big it has become. I can imagine it is quite a mob scene.

Posted by Anonymous | November 24, 2009 9:04 PM

i've gone the past 2 years and fell in love with it....it is a tradition now that i couldnt stand to miss. communal fun and if you want the full experience then you have to bring your own boom box and get a TAPE....not a cd or mp3....from Kline. (the tapes inevitably go out of sync making each performance unique and altered) The sounds are beautiful....as are the bewildered faces of passers-by as an army of ambient carolers push through the streets between the 2 parks. Then the music magically ends shortly after you arrive in Tompkins Square Park. JUST GO! you wont be disappointed.

Posted by tiredteachernextday | November 25, 2009 9:52 AM

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