The Cacophonous Beauty Of Knoxville's Unsilent Night

Dec 5, 2014

Participants serenade downtown Knoxville during the city's inaugural "Unsilent Night" performance in 2012
Credit nief-norf

  Since 1992, Holiday revelers in cities around the globe have been taking to the streets each December with boom-boxes and other portable music devices to perform Phil Kline's sparse, nebulous composition "Unsilent Night".  

Kline's piece is composed of four separate audio tracks which can be played simultaneously.  Each participant plays one of the tracks on a portable audio device while slowly parading through his or her particular city.  The result is an ever-shifting, strange and beautiful mix of Holiday Cacophony, one that sounds vastly different from city to city.  "This music can tell us what Knoxville sounds like," says University of Tennessee School of Music Assistant Professor Andy Bliss, who organizes Knoxville's Unsilent Night performance.  "There is no other replication of Market Square, physically and acoustically speaking, the way this music and this particular group of people are standing in Market Square, for example, and the way that sound reverberates can't be recreated anywhere else."

Knoxville joined this unconventional tradition in 2012, because of Bliss' efforts (he's also an accomplished percussionist and composer and leader of the avant-garde musical group nief-norf).   Friday December 5, Bliss' roving band of electronic carolers will once again walk the streets, alleyways and sidewalks of Knoxville in the unique, mesmerizing procession that characterizes an "Unsilent Night" performance.

Bliss says anyone can participate and no musical training is necessary.  You simply need to bring a portable music device, some speakers and the ability to push the "play" button when prompted.