Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Phil Kline's UNSILENT NIGHT Parades Through 40+ Cities This Month

Phil Kline's UNSILENT NIGHT Parades Through 40+ Cities This Month

This December, composer Phil Kline's mobile sound-sculpture UNSILENT NIGHT - a landmark in avant-garde public art - takes place in more than 40 cities across the United States, Canada, and Europe. Streets, parks and sidewalks will come alive with "a shimmering sound-wall of bells and chimes that is dreamlike to wander through in the December nip" (The Village Voice).

Unsilent Night is one of the more unlikely holiday traditions to spread around the world. It is beautiful not just for what The New York Times calls its "phosphorescent sound" but because anyone can present it or participate, using any kind of sound blaster. Even the onlookers in shops and apartments become listening participants.

This year's flagship New York City event celebrates its 27th year and takes place Sunday, December 15, 2019 at 6:00 p.m. when Phil will lead a massive chorus of boomboxes from the West Village to the East Village. Hundreds of participants will gather at the arch in Washington Square Park, and less than an hour and mile later, end up in Tompkins Square Park.

Meanwhile, throughout the month similar parades will play out in dozens of cities as diverse as Cambridge Ontario, Lubbock Texas, and North Battleford Saskatchewan.

Unsilent Night responds to the qualities of each city and community: the people, the architecture, the lay of the land, the weather, all combining to make every event unique.
• In Cambridge Ontario, it's presented by the city itself as part of a big multimedia holiday festival.
• Some are quite intimate, gathering groups of friends in towns like Malden MA and Traverse City MI.
• Music organizations, local presenters, and arts festivals embrace Unsilent Night as a happening to bring together their community, such as the new music collective Nief-Norf in Knoxville TN.
• The oldest continuous Unsilent Night outside of NYC is the San Francisco edition, which always ends with a stunning descent into Dolores Park.

Unsilent Night is an original composition by Phil Kline, written specifically to be heard outdoors in the month of December, always as a free event. It takes the form of a promenade in which the audience becomes the performer (each participant gets one of four tracks of music that they play simultaneously), walking a carefully chosen route through a city's streets.

It started in winter 1992, when Phil 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 some 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: an evanescence filled the air, reverberating off buildings and streets as the crowd walked a pre-determined route, creating a mobile sound sculpture different from every listener's perspective. "In effect, we became a city-block-long stereo system," says Phil. The piece was so popular that it became an annual tradition, and then an international phenomenon.

While technological advances and a mobile app (Android and Apple) allow the piece to now be played through a multitude of devices, Phil Kline originally designed the piece to incorporate the unreliability, playback delay, and quavering tones of cassette tapes. "Today most people use digital audio players, so I make the audio available in that format as well-but there's something about the twinkling, hallucinatory effect of a warbling cassette tape that I enjoy," he says.

The studio recording of UNSILENT NIGHT, which layers all the tracks, is available on Bang on a Can's Cantaloupe Music label.

Phil Kline is a creator of songs, choral and chamber music, orchestra and theater pieces, guitar noise, electronica and sound installations. After studying poetry with Kenneth Koch and David Shapiro at Columbia, he joined the thriving Downtown New York art and music scene, founding the band the Del-Byzanteens with Jim Jarmusch, Luc Sante and James Nares, collaborating with Nan Goldin on the soundtrack to The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, and playing in the notorious Glenn Branca electric guitar orchestra.

His early compositions often used massive numbers of boombox tape players as a medium, most notably in the outdoor Christmas piece Unsilent Night, which is now performed annually in dozens of cities around the world. He then became known for songs and instrumental music, such as Exquisite Corpses (written for the Bang on a Can All-Stars), Zippo Songs and Rumsfeld Songs, The Blue Room and Other Stories for String Quartet, and the mass John the Revelator. His Sinatra-inspired song cycle Out Cold, written for Theo Bleckmann, premiered at BAM's Next Wave Festival.

Recent works include Old Man of the Mountain for amplified string quartet and the recorded voice of William Burroughs, the memorial piece For Louis Sarno for strings and piano, and the orchestral song cycle Florida Man. He is currently working on The Life and Dreams of Nikola Tesla as Enacted by the Honorable Inhabitants of the Grand Gotham Hotel, a music theater spectacle in collaboration with Jim Jarmusch.

His music is available on the Cantaloupe, Starkland, and CRI record labels.

How to Participate: www.unsilentnight.com/participate

019 LIST OF PARTICIPATING CITIES

(Schedule updated daily at www.unsilentnight.com/schedule)

(click on city name for details)
Athens, GA: December 20
Atlanta, GA: December 14
Birmingham, UK: December 11
Cambridge, Ontario: December 12
Carson City, NV: December 22
Cincinnati, OH: December 6
Cleveland, MS: TBD
Colorado Springs, CO: December 21
Denver, CO: December 19
Flagstaff, AZ: December 7
Frankfurt, Germany: December 18
Gettysburg, PA: December 5
Granville, OH: December 10
Houston, TX: December 4
Indianapolis, IN: December 20
Kirksville, MS: TBD
Knoxville, TN: December 6
Lubbock, TX: December 4
Malden, MA: December 8
Monticello, MN: December 15
Nashville, TN: December 20
New York, NY: December 15
Nevada City, CA: December 21
Norfolk, VA: December 19
North Adams, MA: December 12
North Battleford, Saskatchewan: TBD
Oberlin, OH: TBD
Omi, NY: December 21
Oxford, UK: November 16
Philadelphia, PA: December 21
Reno, NV: December 15
Sacramento, CA: December 15
San Francisco, CA: December 14
Seattle, WA: December 6
St. George, UT: December 5
Traverse City, MI: December 6
Tuscaloosa, AL: December 4
Washington, DC: December 14
Wilmington, DE: December 5
Winchester, VA: December 7


Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes, and More from Your Favorite Broadway Stars

Related Articles View More NationalTours Stories

More Hot Stories For You