Performances Reviews

‘Unsilent Night’ and Participatory Music Reviewed

Cover of "Unsilent Night"
Cover of Unsilent Night


Saturday marked the 20th anniversary of “Unsilent Night,” a communal caroling party and ambulant sound installation that has become one of the more unlikely New York holiday traditions. When Phil Kline — the man in the horn-rimmed glasses — composed the music in 1992, it was intended to be played on portable cassette players, which participants shouldered as they walked through the streets of Greenwich Village. The work, made up of sustained chords, bells and, toward the end, wordless choral singing, is recorded on four separate tracks; parade participants receive one of these to play on their devices. These days most use iPhones and MP3 players, but there was a hard core of regulars who shouldered archaic-looking boomboxes, and the occasional parent perching a laptop on the roof of a stroller.