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Friday, December 09, 2005

Better Than Carolling: Unsilent Night

Unsilent Night is a roving holiday concert performed by a group of volunteers holding boomboxes, each blasting a different part of the piece. What a wonderful idea! Composer Phil Kline has performed Unsilent Night in Manhattan every year since 1992, and the third annual San Francisco performance will take place on Wednesday, December 21, 2005, at 6:45 PM, starting in Dolores Park. Bring your own boombox and Kline will hand you a tape or cd with one part of the music on it. Of course, I'm such a music nerd that my first thought was, "How do they keep all the parts in sync?" But I guess the point is that they're not.
A moving piece of ambient public art, Unsilent Night can be compared to a holiday caroling party, except that participants don't sing. Instead, each carries a boombox playing a separate cassette, CD, or MP3 that becomes part of the piece. In effect, Kline and his co-performers become single elements in a huge, mobile sound system.

Performed within the confines of the city streets, Unsilent Night reverberates off the cars and buildings, resulting in a magnificent, drifting cloud of shimmering, echoing sound. The 43-minute piece includes chiming bells, choral voices, and various electronic effects. (Kline cites Brian Eno and Charles Ives among his influences.)

3 Comments:

Blogger jon said...

fantastic.

want it in sync? one laptop in a backback with a multichannel sound card and as many of those little low-power fm transmitters as you can get on as many different channels as possible.

software: easy. :)

11:21 PM  
Anonymous Renae said...

But, um...I kind of LIKE singing...
But the boombox idea *is* pretty cool. If any of you do/see this, let me know how it is! :-)

4:05 AM  
Blogger .hc said...

I went with Laura (my gf), so I'll throw in my two bits. It was overall quite nice, and can stand on its own as a work of art. Its funny tho that Steve Reich was not mentioned as a influence since it obviously draws heavily from him. A major part of the piece is based on the phasing of the tapes based on not starting at the same time and also being separately in space. But if you listened to the tape alone, then you'd probably think Music for Airports.

But when talking about caroling, as the Title compares it to, I think it compares poorly. Caroling is totally based on the strong participation of everyone involved. Sure, some people can sing quietly, or skip parts they don't know, but overall, the point of it, and what makes it great is that everyone sings. So in Unsilent Night, yes, anyone can bring a boombox and play the tape, but I have to say that overall it felt very passive. I started to get a little bored, so I started singing along. I think that the medium could be much better explored, with various levels of participation, much like caroling provides.

For example, some people could play the tape, some people could sing various parts, others could play basic instruments that are installed on cell phones or whatever. Then I think it could be better than carolling. But until then, its not really comparable.

It was funny on our way home from Unsilent Night, we ran into a pack of carollers. It made it clear what's lacking in Unsilent Night.

6:35 PM  

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