Phil Kline’s sound sculpture “Unsilent Night” has, in the course of its 23 years, become something of a standard in the new music scene. The piece — which will be performed in Asheville on Wednesday, Dec. 17 — asks performers transporting a chorus of boom boxes, CD players and smart-phones to march together through town as the 45 minutes of Kline’s composition fill the winter air.
Kline, a noted composer of concert and experimental music, organized the first performance of the piece in 1992. He and a group of music elites meandered through Greenwich Village amidst a cloud of ambient noise. The piece quickly spread in popularity and has since become an annual tradition in New York and in cities around the world — at times drawing upwards of 1,000 performers.
Under the direction of Frank Meadows (of Apothecary) and Corey Denham (of 10-Can Percussion) Ashevilleans will congregate at Pritchard Park with speakers ready to blast. Meadows says, “The only thing you need to participate is a boom box or a device from which you can access the ‘Unsilent Night’ app. We’ll be providing cassette tapes and CDs for those with boom boxes, and those with smartphones are encouraged to bring portable speakers or DIY amplifiers.”
“‘Unsilent Night’ sort of takes on the characteristics of its city in many ways,” says Kline. The piece interacts with its environment and ultimately becomes the environment: “It’s an attempt at a kind of magic.” In much of the YouTube documentation of the piece, screeching city busses, the rumble of distant construction and chorales of car horns all meld into the twinkling sonority of Kline’s electronic bell tones. “Unsilent Night” offers an chance to reflect and enter into an acoustic conversation with one’s day-to-day surroundings.
As the holidays draw near, friends and families look for opportunities to gather together in the spirit of the season; Asheville’s upcoming performance of “Unsilent Night” offers an excuse to take to the streets — to explore, celebrate and make noise. “Christmas is about the middle of winter and the return of light coming back to us”, Kline says, “I wanted to have a party.”
WHAT: Unsilent Night
WHERE: Meet at Pritchard Park
WHEN: Wednesday, Dec. 17, at 6:30 p.m. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org