Composer Phil Kline Leads Chorus in UNSILENT NIGHT Tonight

Tonight, December 14, 2013 at 7:00pm, composer Phil Kline will lead a massive chorus of boomboxes from the West Village to the East Village in the 22ndannual holiday presentation of UNSILENT NIGHT. People gather at the arch in Washington Square Park, and less than an hour and mile later, end up inTompkins Square Park.

Unsilent Night is Kline's free outdoor participatory sound sculpture of many individual parts, played on cassettes, CD's, Mp3's, and iPhone and Android apps, 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 its debut in 1992, Unsilent Night has become a cult holiday tradition in NY, drawing crowds of up to 1,500 participants. It has also grown into a worldwide annual event, and has been presented in over 65 cities and on four continents.

Kline says: "Every year I present Unsilent Night, which is like a Christmas caroling party except we don't sing, but rather carry boomboxes, each playing a separate tape or CD which is part of the piece. In effect, we become a city-block-long stereo system."

Unsilent Night was designed twenty years ago to withstand the unreliability, playback delay and occasional quavering tones of cassettes. "Today most people have CD's and mp3 players, so I make those available as well--but there's something about the twinkling, hallucinatory effect of a warbling cassette tape that I enjoy," says Kline.

The Village Voice describes Unsilent Night as "a marvelously fluid, traveling spatial sound sculpture that disintegrates and reforms at nearly every stop light."

How did UNSILENT NIGHT begin?
In winter 1992, Phil Kline ( had an idea for a public artwork in the form of a holiday caroling party. He composed a four-track electronic piece that was 45 minutes long (the length of one side of a cassette tape), invited a few dozen friends who gathered in Greenwich Village, gave each person a boombox with one of four tapes in it, and instructed everyone to hit PLAY at the same time. What followed was a sound unlike anything they had ever heard before: an evanescence filled the air, reverberating off buildings and streets as the crowd walked a pre-determined route. The piece was so popular that it became an annual tradition, and then an international phenomenon.
The studio recording of UNSILENT NIGHT is available on Cantaloupe Music (CA21005).

Phil Kline

"Magic was happening as you sat there. Here was a true original." - The New York Times

Phil Kline is a composer and sound artist who makes music in many genres and contexts, from experimental electronics and sound installations to songs, choral, theater, chamber and orchestral music.

Raised in Akron, Ohio, he came to New York to study English Literature and music at Columbia. After graduation, he dived into the downtown New York arts scene: founding the rock band The Del-Byzanteens with Jim Jarmusch and James Nares, collaborating with Nan Goldin on the soundtrack to The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, and playing guitar in the notorious Glenn Branca Ensemble.

His early compositions grew out of his solo performance art and often used boombox tape players as a medium, most notably in the Christmas piece Unsilent Night, which debuted in the streets of Greenwich Village in 1992 and is now performed annually in dozens of cities around the world.

Other notable early compositions include Zippo Songs, a song cycle for Theo Bleckmann, based on poems Vietnam vets inscribed on their Zippo lighters; The Blue Room and Other Stories, written for string quartet Ethel; and Exquisite Corpses, commissioned by the Bang on a Can All-Stars. The music theater spectacle, Locus solus, based on the novel by Raymond Roussel, was presented at the Ryerss Mansion Museum in Philadelphia in 2006.

More recent works include the Mass John the Revelator, written for vocal group Lionheart; The Long Winter, written for pianist Sarah Cahill; and scores for three evening-length dance pieces by Wally Cardona: Everywhere, Site and Really Real. The sound installation World on a String opened the season at the Krannert Center in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, in September 2007; and SPACE for string quartet and electronics was performed by Ethel at the gala reopening of Alice Tully Hall in 2009.

2011 saw the premieres of A Dream and its Opposite, written for the La Jolla Symphony Orchestra; Canzona a due Cuori, commissioned by the St. Luke's Chamber Ensemble; and a book of organ pieces commissioned for the gigantic Kotschmar Organ of Portland, Maine. A new monodrama for Theo Bleckmann, Out Cold, premiered at the BAM Next Wave Festival in October 2012.

Kline is currently working on an opera, Tesla in New York, in collaboration with writer-director Jim Jarmusch. He lives on the Lower East Side of Manhattan with his wife and daughter.

More On: Washington, Literature, Vietnam, September, Alice Tully Hall, Symphony, Festival.

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