Every December for 15 years now, composer Phil Kline has conducted his magical, ambient holiday piece, Unsilent Night, leading a procession of boombox-toting revelers through the streets of the East Village.
It's like going caroling, but with 1,000 other people, and all you have to do is push "Play".
Anyway, after several seasons of missing out for scheduling reasons, Scoboco finally joined the moveable symphony last Saturday night, and, borrowed boombox in hand, had a lovely, festive, silly, smiley time. The performance began in Washington Square Park, where Bo, Co and I picked up our cassette (there's also the CD option, or you can download an MP3 prior to the evening's proceedings), milled around with lots of families and laughing packs of friends and—because this year it fell on the same day as Santacon—plenty of slightly tipsy Santa Clauses, and then, on Kline's signal, turned on our "instrument". After a lap around the fountain (which, with so many people, took quite awhile), we walked across West 4th Street to Avenue A, then up to Thompkins Square Park. The piece—and the march—lasts about an hour, and it is a beautiful thing.
The music itself was appropriately robust—it's actually comprised of four parts, played simultaneously— and haunting and Brian Eno-esque. Bo called it "very John Cage-like" and, later on, "it reminds me of Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique" (can you guess who's taking Music History this year?). And with all those boomboxes turned up to max and at random distances from each other, the sound seemed to bounce off itself, with a doppler-like effect. It felt like you HAD to swing your box from side to side in time with the music's pulsations. Or, of course, carry it on your head. Definitely cool stuff, and definitely a nice, unsilent night.
Kline's project has gone international, with Unsilent Night parades in 16 cities around he world, including several this weekend. More info here.