Phil Kline's Avant-Garde Holiday Tradition UNSILENT NIGHT to Parade Through 37 Cities This December

Phil Kline's Avant-Garde Holiday Tradition UNSILENT NIGHT to Parade Through 37 Cities This December

This December, composer Phil Kline's mobile sound-sculpture UNSILENT NIGHT takes place in more than 37 cities across the United States and Canada. 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).

A landmark in avant-garde public art, 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 26th year and takes place Sunday, December 17, 2017 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 Seattle, Nacgodoches, and Florence Alabama.

No two Unsilent Nights are the same. Austin does theirs on bikes; Hudson explores its secret past through lesser traveled alleys and enclaves, with the support of experimental non-profit Wave Farm and WGXC radio; 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 North Adams MA and Traverse City MI. Music organizations 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, and this year's biggest newcomer, the Breckenridge (CO) Music Festival, which will involve the whole town with talks and workshops, a tree lighting, and what will be the first real High Rockies Unsilent Night. The SF Contemporary Music Players continue the San Francisco tradition, which always ends with a stunning descent into Dolores Park.

Visit for more information. In NYC, Hudson, and North Adams, Phil Kline will hand out a limited number of vintage boomboxes from his collection - and cassettes for those who bring their own.


(Schedule updated daily at

Detroit, MI: December 1
Fargo, ND: December 1
Flagstaff, AZ: December 1
Florence, AL: December 1
Knoxville, TN: December 1
Newnan, GA: December 1
Port Jefferson, NY: December 1
Breckenridge, CO: December 2
Seattle, WA: December 2
Winchester, VA: December 2
Norfolk, VA: December 6
Wilmington, DE: December 6
Cambridge, Ontario: December 7
Delaware, OH: December 7
North Adams, MA: December 7
Traverse City, MI: December 8
Malden, MA: December 9
Nacgodoches, TX: December 9
San Francisco, CA: December 9
Atlanta, GA: December 10
Edmonton, AB: December 10
Mount Pleasant, MI: December 10
Philadelphia, PA: December 11
Indianapolis, IN: December 16
Louisville, KY: December 16
Nashville, TN: December 16
Sacramento, CA: December 16
Austin, TX: December 17
New York, NY: December 17
Denver, CO: December 21
Athens, GA: December 22
Hudson, NY: December 23
Colorado Springs, CO: TBD
Columbia, MD: TBD
Joshua Tree, CA: TBD
Montréal, QC: TBD
Oberlin, OH: TBD


SUNDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2017, 6:00 PM

S.A.T. Participants meet at 5:45pm at the arch in Washington Square Park
END: Tompkins Square Park by 6:45pm
WHAT TO BRING: Boombox or any other kind of amplified sound rig

If going digital, be sure to pre-download the tracks to your device at


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 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.


A veteran of New York's downtown scene, Phil Kline stands out for his range and unpredictability. From vast boombox symphonies to chamber music and song cycles, his work has been hailed for its originality, beauty, subversive subtext, and wry humor. Early in his career he cofounded the rock band the Del-Byzanteens with Jim Jarmusch and James Nares, collaborated with Nan Goldin on the soundtrack to The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, and played guitar in the notorious Glenn Branca Ensemble. Some of his early work evolved from performance art and used large numbers of boomboxes, such as the outdoor Christmas cult classic Unsilent Night. Other notable works include Exquisite Corpses, written for the Bang on a Can All-Stars; the politically-infused Zippo Songs and Rumsfeld Songs; John the Revelator, a setting of the Latin Mass written for early music specialists Lionheart; and the Sinatra-inspired song cycle Out Cold, written for Theo Bleckmann and premiered at BAM's Next Wave Festival. Phil hosts a daily radio show on WQXR/Q2 in NYC and is currently collaborating with filmmaker Jim Jarmusch on a music theater spectacle about Nikola Tesla. His music is available on the Cantaloupe, Starkland, and CRI record labels.

Photo by Tom Jarmusch

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