I love Christmas carols as much as the next girl—but I have to admit, after years of attending, listening to, and performing in Christmas concerts every December, the holiday hymns do tend to run together. But whether you’re the world’s biggest Santa-fan, a grouchy Ebenezer Scrooge, or even just an avant-garde enthusiast looking to expand your holiday music horizons, composer Phil Kline’s got just the carol for you—and it’s coming to Seattle this Saturday night.
Kline’s “Unsilent Night” is a contemporary twist on holiday caroling that is celebrated annually around the globe. But don’t worry, there’s no singing involved. In true 21st century fashion, all you have to do is download an app.
This nontraditional holiday carol is an electronic composition written specifically for outdoor performance in December. Participants each download one of four tracks of music which, when played together, comprise the ethereal “Unsilent Night.”
Countless participants meet up with boomboxes, speakers, or any other type of portable amplifiers and each hit “play” at the same time. Then they walk through the city streets creating an ambient, aleatoric sound sculpture that is unlike any Christmas carol you have ever heard.
And yes, I can say that from experience. Last December I dragged two of my siblings and one of my best friends out of the warmth of my Capitol Hill apartment and out onto the icy cold streets of Lower Queen Anne for “Unsilent Night.”
I’ll admit, they were a bit skeptical at first. Upon arrival, they proceeded to ask me a number of preliminary questions: “Wait, where are we?” “Is this another one of your weird new-music things?” “Will there be any alcohol?”
Honestly, I didn’t have the answers to any of those questions—and that’s exactly why I wanted to attend the performance in the first place. I am fortunate enough to live in a city that is constantly pushing the boundaries of what music is and what music can be—and I want to experience as much of it as I possibly can. I saw “Unsilent Night” as an opportunity to share in a new and unusual holiday tradition with some of my closest friends and family.
And as soon as we stepped out into the cold, surrounded by friends and strangers, all of us holding our phones and making music together, we were mesmerized. There we were, wandering the city streets of Seattle, immersed in an intricately woven electronic sound world of subtly Christmas-themed recordings. Together, we were walking through a new kind of winter wonderland: an experimental soundscape full of shimmering bells and time-stretched hymnal melodies.
It was a performance that captured the sparkle and the whimsy of the holidays in a new way—without any of the corny sing-alongs, the ill-fitting Santa hats, or the sugary candy canes.
For me, “Unsilent Night” was a beautiful reprieve from the chaos of the Christmas season. It was a time to silently connect with my friends and loved ones, immerse ourselves in shimmering, metallic music, share a smile and ultimately, have a new and memorable musical experience together. Because after all, that’s what the holidays are all about, right?
Five Pro Tips to Maximize your “Unsilent Night”:
- Download the app ahead of time to make sure your phone or electronic device has enough storage space.
- Bring portable speakers for a bigger sound—the louder, the better!
- Invite all your friends and loved ones to share in the moment with you—the more, the merrier!
- Wear gloves. And a scarf, a hat, a poofy marshmallow jacket, if you have one—and more gloves.
- Keep your heart, your mind, and your ears open!
Seattle’s rendition of Phil Kline’s “Unsilent Night” will take place this Saturday, Dec. 19. The procession begins at 5 p.m. at On the Boards’ Merrill Wright Mainstage Theater Lobby in Lower Queen Anne.