the first unsilent night

Photos by Dakota ParrishThis year I decided I was going to participate in an Unsilent Night performance/walk/sound installation no matter what. I was determined to go this year, considering I heard about this piece in 2006 and thought it was the coolest idea ever. Who needs carolers when you can round up a few of your friends and friends of friends and freshmen and head out with analog tape players or even CDs or boom boxes and even apps on your cell phone.

Some backstory: In 2012 Cincinnati finally had their first Unsilent Night parade sponsored by the Contemporary Arts Center (huge thanks to Drew Klein) and Drew called (or texted?) me and asked if I wanted to participate and if I wanted to lend out my collection of tape recorders. Unfortunately at my new academic engagement, I had to listen and grade juries of all kinds (winds, brass, organ, voice, guitar, you name it, I had to be there). So, I was stuck in Delaware all day, but my tapes made it.

The next year I could go, and that was exciting. I loaded up my tape recorders eager to hand them out to unsilent night carolers…but then Ohio created crappy weather and the CAC had to cancel. I was bummed.

This year. This year I would go. I could totally drive down Friday night. Could I bring the tape recorders this time? Maybe not (since I would have to cancel an independent study and bolt after teaching the last theory class of the semester), but hey. I would be there. I would be there for my very first huge Cincinnati Unsilent Night.

In the meantime, I told a student of mine about this piece, and he said he wanted to go experience it. I said we should just do one at OWU anyway. That was two months before December.

Normally my life goes like this: I have these grand plans of scheduling an über-cool event two months before it’s supposed to happen, except I completely forget about it and schedule it two weeks before it’s supposed to happen. Or maybe even one week. Or, if I’m lucky, a few days prior to the actual event. (Medical professionals will claim the procrastination virus hits both college kids and professors alike.)

There I realized I had to plan this event or else it wasn’t going to happen. Since I waited so long, I thought, well, I should make this a low-key event. It was too late to request the tapes or CDs of this piece. I thought, there’s an app that could work and the kids could all play it on their cell phones. Done. I asked my student to pick a date that would not conflict with his chem-lab OR with the crazy choir schedule, which turned out to be the Monday before finals. Done. This would be a good test run, right? I didn’t have to stress about publicity because who had time for that? I’d put in a word for our local announcements and create a Facebook event. That would be simple enough.

And yet, before I knew it, the school’s publicity guy contacted The Delaware Gazette. (Oh yes, they called me.) And then Phil Kline himself contacted me (over Facebook) and mentioned that his wife saw the article in the newspaper and had to explain to her that Delaware is also a town in Ohio (I have to explain that all the time). He politely requested that let his people know about the performance.

Okay, so now we had to do this performance…especially because car problems prevented me from making the drive down to Cincinnati anyway.

So here we are with our little digital holiday parade. Someone brought a handful of cell phone amplifiers for others (yes, they exist!), and we made it happen. (Note that I’m carrying a bucket to amplify my iPhone speaker. Yes, a bucket.)

This first annual performance went smoothly (in that, we had a good crowd!). Maybe next year my small army of tape recorders (with new batteries, no less) will be able to perform a true version of this piece. (I say “true” version because originally the piece was written for analog tape players. However, what do you think? Maybe the digital kids can appreciate a true analog performance?)

Anyway. Happy New Year. :)

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