Sunday, December 13, 2009


A few nights ago, I wandered the streets of downtown Los Angeles along with a host of angels and wise (wom)men who came bearing boomboxes playing a copy of composer Phil Kline's "Unsilent Night." Anyone could send him an email and he'd send you a free copy of his electronic work. Everyone met at the pre-determined spot, and off we went. It lasts roughly 45 minutes. Here's the first ten, recorded on my new digital recorder:

Unsilent Night (12-10-09)

Of course, when the order is given to hit play, not everyone's in perfect synch. And that would be boring if they were. Like Terry Riley's 1966 Minimalist landmark "In C," the whole piece seems to be in the same key, and alternates from smooth ambient passages to more upbeat rhythmic ones, so having multiple versions going at once starting at different times doesn't create cacophony - it adds richness. It's a unique performance every time, depending not only on how many copies of the piece are playing and when they started, but where the audience is - everyone involved is in a different geographic space so the sounds will hit everyone's ears differently.

Since its 1992 debut, "Unsilent Night" has become something of a holiday standard. It's happening in 25 cities this year, some still yet to come as of this writing, so check da site for a location near you. Apart from it being lovely music, I think it's a way to add to the warm fuzzy feelings the holidays can bring about in us. A communal event in the cold cold night, but not the same ol' caroling-in-Victorian-costumes routine. The end part of my recording even suggests church bells ringing, or chimes, while avoiding all Christmas music cliches.

You and your friends can buy your own copies, and host your own event, I suppose.

Did anyone else out there go and take pictures? The above photo was just one I found on the web from a different staging of "Unsilent Night."
The night we went was during LA's monthly Art Walk. Never done it before, but man, that's a happenin' scene. In fact, all the live music and djs we encountered along the way sometimes drowned out the boomboxes. Unsilent night, indeed...

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