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Wordless Caroling: Phil Kline’s Unsilent Night, Nationwide

Unsilent Night CD cover; photo by Tom Jarmusch.

There are, of course, numerous classical music works that have become iconic holiday traditions in and of themselves–Handel’s Messiah, Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols among them.

Composer Phil Kline’s Unsilent Night, a boombox parade now celebrating its 20th anniversary as an annual December event in New York City, has in its own way, joined this pantheon of joyful holiday rituals.

A free event conceived by the composer as holiday caroling-as-public artwork, the ambient composition consists of four movements, each recorded on a separate tape. Each participant is given one of the four tapes, to play on boomboxes collectively as they walk through thecity streets. While boomboxes and cassette tapes remain the preferred medium, the performance is now updated to include iPods, iPhones, MP3 players as well, but the concept remains the same–to create a communal experience, as loudly as possible.

This year’s event in New York City takes place on December 17th at 7 pm, beginning at the arch in Washington Square, but numerous performances are scheduled throughout North America and worldwide. To download an MP3 of your part, to play at your local Unsilent Night event, visit complete dates, with contact information for those looking to participate (which I heartily recommend) is below:

UNSILENT NIGHT 2011 DATES (rain or shine)

December 2: Oxford, England (
December 3: Baltimore, MD (
December 8: New Haven CT (
December 9: Austin, TX (
December 9: Mobile, AL (
December 11: Edmonton, AB, Canada (
December 14: Philadelphia, PA (
December 17: Dallas, TX (
December 17: New York City, NY (
December 17: Portland, OR (
December 17: Salt Lake City, UT (
December 17: San Francisco, CA (
December 17: Toronto, ON, Canada (
December 19: Cambridge, ON, Canada (
December 21: Charleston, WV (
December 21: Seattle, WA (
December 22: Traverse City, MI (
DATE TBA:Detroit, MI
DATE TBA:Jackson, MS (
DATE TBA:Melbourne, Australia (
DATE TBA:Silver Spring, MD
DATE TBA:Vancouver, BC, Canada (

For more information, including video from past events, visit