It's referred to as a boombox parade. What is the music like? Is it loud and raucous?
Most people consider it loud and joyous. Glittering and mysterious. The average effect seems to be somewhere between pacifying and invigorating. Joe Woodard of The Los Angeles Times describes it as "A dreamy fruitcake of parts, tranquil even through its anarchy." And K. Leander Williams in Time Out New York says “Kline’s luminous, shimmering wash of bell tones is one of the loveliest communal new-music experiences you’ll ever encounter, and it’s never the same twice.” The Onion calls it “an ambient wash of heaven-sent shimmer, recognizable as seasonal mostly for its modulating bells and time-stretched hymnal melodies.”
How long is Unsilent Night?
It is 45 minutes long, the length of one side of a 90-minute cassette tape.
How do I get the music?
Your local event’s organizer will hand out a limited number of CD’s and cassettes before the event begins.
You can also download an Mp3 of any one of the four tracks of Unsilent Night on the Participate page. The music is divided into four tracks each approx. 44 minutes long. You only need to download one track. At the event, all the tracks played simultaneously make up the entire Unsilent Night piece.
I have a copy of the commercial recording of Phil Kline’s Unsilent Night on Cantaloupe Music. Can’t I just play this in the parade?
Not really! In the live outdoor Unsilent Night parade, people play one of four individual parts of the piece. The commercial recording of Unsilent Night is a “studio” performance of all of those parts combined. You could use the commercial recording as a last minute substitute if for some reason you’ve lost your single track—but it isn’t ideal.
If I don’t have a boombox, can I still participate?
If you don't have a portable music player, you are still more than welcome to participate in the walk and hear the music. However, the more boomboxes there are, the better the piece sounds, and the better the experience for all involved. So we strongly encourage everyone to come with an audioplayer, if you have one available.
Can I use an Mp3 player or other music player besides a boombox?
Yes! Old fashioned boomboxes are ideal (and they look cool too), but we get Mp3 players, iPods, iPhones…People have even brought their laptops hooked up to large speakers mounted on a wagon. We’ve seen people with speakers mounted on helmets, and one guy who brought a boomin’ system on a Cushman cart. It helps to hook up small electronics like iPhones to a speaker, otherwise the sound is weak. Be as creative as you wish, as long as the sound is BIG.
A word of advice about boomboxes: hold them UP, on your shoulders. When held at one’s side, the sound gets lost and doesn’t carry.
More advice: Outdated and rare as they are, cassettes are still the ideal mode of play. CD or Mp3 players are fine too, though one warning with CD’s: they are much more likely to skip when you walk with them.
As Phil Kline told the San Francisco Examiner, "Unsilent Night was designed in 1992 to withstand the unreliability, playback delay and occasional quavering tones of cassettes. About 90 percent of people have CD and Mp3 players now, so I make CDs and downloads available as well, but there's something about the twinkling, hallucinatory effect of a warbling cassette tape that I enjoy.”
Does Phil Kline lead every Unsilent Night?
Every year Phil leads the original NYC parade, as well as a handful of other cities who invite him out. Phil enjoys getting to know each city’s unique landscape and community, and depending on his schedule, is also available to lead workshops, lectures, and performances of his more traditional compositions. If you’re interested in having Phil lead your event and/or present more of his works, inquire within: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is Unsilent Night family friendly?
Absolutely! People often bring their children, even infants and toddlers in strollers. Unsilent Night has in fact become a holiday tradition for many families. Some families have been doing it for the past 20 years, and their children have grown up walking Unsilent Night.
Can anyone present an Unsilent Night?
Yes! Anyone can produce this—individuals, arts organizations, museums, universities, towns & cities have presented it. Start your own! Contact us at email@example.com, and we will send you simple how-to guidelines.
Is there a fee to present Phil Kline’s Unsilent Night?
It depends on who is presenting it and in what context. For many individuals we give a gratis license. However for professional organizations, arts presenters, municipalities and others for whom Unsilent Night is part of a marketed season, we do charge a licensing fee on a sliding scale.
Is there a minimum number of performers necessary?
Not really. We always say the more the better. There are four different tape parts involved. We’ve had groups as small as a dozen or so, which can sound quite wonderful, especially if the streets are quiet or narrow and resonant.
Do I need to get a permit to present this sound parade?
It depends on where you want to do it. We have found that in most communities, a permit is not necessary, even in New York or San Francisco, where the crowds number in the hundreds. It might be best to check if one is needed for your city or town since these rules vary.
Does every city have to present Unsilent Night on the same day?
Not at all. Any date in December leading up to Christmas is great. New York City’s is usually presented the weekend before Christmas. It’s your choice what day to present it, and what time, although we recommend starting after sunset.
Can one charge admission?
No. Presenters may not charge admission for participation in Unsilent Night, or for the music. This event has always been free and open to the public, and always will be.
Where should we post video and photos of our event?
One additional area that we are developing is a media library. We've taken our own pictures, video and audio of previous Unsilent Night events in New York City, and we are certain that you and your participants have also accumulated quite a collection! We're hoping to gather as much of this as we can at sites like YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for both centralized viewing and sharing. Please let us know if you have any such media, or please point us to people and sites that have it, and if you would allow us to access it, that would be a great benefit to the cause. Send them on to firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can post them on our channels.
Has Unsilent Night ever been cancelled due to weather?
The only Unsilent Night to be cancelled due to weather was in White Horse, Yukon in 2005. The temperature was 30 below zero and the boomboxes froze.
Is Unsilent Night a religious piece?
No. Unsilent Night is about the holiday spirit in general, as it might relate to solstice, Christmas or Chanukah. It is very much in the tradition of a festival of lights, although in this case the lights are for the most part sonic (however some cities take this literally and involve lighting in the boombox parade, which is great). There are no recognizable Christmas carols in Unsilent Night, though if you listen closely, you might notice a few ancient chants.