Phil Kline’s ‘Unsilent Night’ Debuts at Art Omi this Christmas | Holiday Events | Hudson Valley | Hudson Valley; Chronogram
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Phil Kline’s ‘Unsilent Night’ Debuts at Art Omi this Christmas 

The Sonorous Holiday Classic Returns to the Hudson Valley Saturday, December 21st

click to enlarge PHOTO: TAYLOR DAVIDSON
  • Photo: Taylor Davidson

The music of composer Phil Kline, a veteran of New York’s downtown scene, is set to transform the Art Omi Sculpture & Architecture Park into a winter wonderland on Saturday, December 21. A luminous soundscape played by the audience; Unsilent Night is a free, participatory, outdoors event that has been celebrated worldwide every December since 1992.

Despite its present-day cultural capital, the event grew from humble beginnings. “When we had the first one, it was just me and friends, and I don't recall thinking it would be an annual thing until afterwards when someone said, ‘let's do it again next year,’” Kline remembers. “But, as a participant, carrying my boombox, it has the same effect as always. It is such a joy to be in a warm crowd making beautiful noise.”

click to enlarge PHOTO: BRYAN ZIMMERMAN
  • Photo: Bryan Zimmerman

This year marks the fourth consecutive presentation of Unsilent Night in Columbia County, yet the first in its new setting at Art Omi, something the sculpture park’s communications director, Jessica Puglisi, believes will provide a distinctive experience even for those who have previously attended a performance.

“Every iteration of Unsilent Night is molded by the specific route and acoustic conditions therein. In a city, buildings, people, and traffic work their way into the composition, shaping the sound and experience,” she says. “Because most presentations of Unsilent Night happen in a city or town, Art Omi is an unusual setting for Unsilent Night. Instead of the predominantly man-made acoustic architecture, we anticipate a quieter, more subtle landscape—maybe some skittering on the forest floor, or crunching of frosty ground underfoot, or perhaps some distant animal or bird calls. Participants will get to listen closely to this subtle, atmospheric piece.”

click to enlarge PHOTO: BRYAN ZIMMERMAN
  • Photo: Bryan Zimmerman

Kline concurs that there is “something special about a pastoral setting, a more tranquil and contemplative experience.” But he also holds more personal reasons for this somewhat unorthodox choice of location. “For me, it's a home thing,” he says. “I've lived in the city most of my life, but this part of Columbia County is now a second home. Our daughter went to Art Omi summer camp for years, and we know the place well. To walk the fields with friends at night, with the installations lit up in the rolling hills and the music twinkling in the wintry air—well, it might be ideal.”

Today, this landmark work of avant-garde public art takes place in more than 130 cities across five continents, but Hudson Valley attendees will be lucky enough to have composer Phil Kline (and his vintage boombox collection) leading the parade. He has worked directly with Art Omi on a route that engages many of the installations and views of the landscape.

click to enlarge PHOTO: TAYLOR DAVIDSON
  • Photo: Taylor Davidson

“The sound of Unsilent Night is all of the best parts of winter rendered as music. The piece is at turns glistening, tinkling, hypnotic, mysterious, foreboding, and ultimately purifying,” says Puglisi. Kline’s composition comprises of four separate parts, which, when played simultaneously, make Unsilent Night. The New York Times has said, “During the procession, the sense of wonder spreads outward as onlookers are enveloped in a nebula of phosphorescent sound.”

Participants can choose to play any of the four Unsilent Night tracks through any means they wish. “Today, most people use digital audio players, so I make the audio available in that format as well—but there's something about the twinkling, hallucinatory effect of a warbling cassette tape that I enjoy,” says Phil. A mobile app, a Soundcloud livestream, and files available for download ensure that participants can contribute in myriad ways. Participants are encouraged to bring a boombox, speakers, or be creative and invent their own sound rig, with a selection of Kline’s own boomboxes also available to borrow on a first-come, first-served basis.

click to enlarge PHOTO: TAYLOR DAVIDSON
  • Photo: Taylor Davidson

“Be prepared to walk quietly in a big group in the darkness of the country for up to 45 minutes with only an unearthly soundtrack and warm communal buzz to guide you through the night,” says Puglisi. Participants should plan to arrive with their mobile devices and external speakers no later than 5:30pm, wearing warm clothes and winter footwear. Art Omi also invite people to bring headlamps if they have them.

“In this season that is supposed to be joyous, but can also be quite stressful, Unsilent Night offers a welcome respite,” Kline says. It's easy to do, you get to be part of a large party playing gorgeous, glittering music, and it's free.” Those who are unable to attend the event but wish to hear this year’s presentation can tune in to Wave Farm who will be live broadcasting on WGXC 90.7-FM.

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