My Favorite Things: Holiday Edition

Unsilent Night

Last Saturday night I joined hundreds of other holiday revelers in one of my favorite offbeat, annual Village traditions: Phil Kline’s Unsilent Night. Now in its twentieth year, Unsilent Night proved to be the most magical 45 minutes I have ever spent meandering through the Village streets.

Unsilent Night 2011, by Taylor Davidson: taylordavidson.com/writing/2011/12/18/unsilent-night/

Though this underground tradition has spread to multiple cities worldwide, the first Unsilent Night took place in 1992 right here in the Village. That winter, Phil Kline wrote a multi-part electronic piece with a decidedly holiday feel; a self-described “public artwork in the form of a holiday caroling party.” In Washington Square Park, he gave each of about fifty friends a boombox and a cassette tape with a different part, and simultaneously they all hit PLAY then walked together toward Tompkins Square Park. According to Unsilent Night’ website, “What followed was a sound unlike anything they had ever heard before: an evanescence filling the air, reverberating off the buildings and city streets as the crowd walked a pre-determined route.”

The evening proved so magical that it has been repeated every year since. Unlike many NYC holiday events, this one is free and as low-key as they come. This year, on December 17th, we grabbed hot chocolate to ward off the cold, then inconspicuously gathered, hit PLAY, walked, and quietly ended. It was as enchanting and as mystical as any good holiday tradition should be, minus the hype and the stress. And set against this music, the architecture of the Village looked especially majestic.

Taylor Davidson, a participant in this year’s Unsilent Night, wrote a wonderful post on the event. Watch the video below to learn about this beloved Village tradition.


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avatar Elizabeth Finkelstein is GVSHP's Director of Preservation & Research.