An unusual procession of carolers will wind their way through the streets of downtown Detroit Friday. For the second year in a row, a group of Metro Detroiters will bring the free, moving, participatory sound sculpture called "Unsilent Night" to the city's streets.
The gathering is the creation of composer Phil Kline, who put together the first Unsilent Night event about 20 years ago in New York City. It consists of a parade of people carrying boomboxes through city streets, playing multiple tracks of Kline's composition at the same time. The event has gained popularity since its humble beginnings in Greenwich Village and now has participants in more than two dozen cities around the world.
Kline's website describes "Unsilent Night" in more detail:
It takes the form of a street promenade in which the audience becomes the performer. Each participant gets one of four tracks of music in the form of a cassette, CD, or MP3. Together all four tracks comprise Unsilent Night. The fact that the participants play different "parts" simultaneously helps create the special sound of the piece.
Bronwen Hupp, 33, of Ferndale, started the Detroit event last year with her boss, Jay Scott, and a former co-worker, Adam Cox. The three worked together in the sound department of an Oak Park media studio called RingSide Creative.
Hupp she said heard about "Unsilent Night" on National Public Radio and it piqued her interest.
"We do sound for a living, so it kind hit a special audio-related note for me personally, which is why I wanted to participate," she told HuffPost.
Hupp and her crew had originally tried to contact the event's Detroit organizers, but discovered there were none. So they decided to take on the event themselves.
She describes the gathering as a swarm of music all playing at the same time. The score mixes bells, chimes and synthesizers and, according to Hupp, what you can hear changes depending on where you are in the procession.
"Last year I started at the beginning of the group of people, and then I kind of stayed back," she explained. "What you're hearing of the composition is slightly different depending on who you're standing next to and what part of the composition is playing for them at any given time."
Locating the event in Detroit was very important to Hupp and her fellow organizers. She said she wanted to give people from the suburbs an incentive to check out the energy of downtown Detroit.
"There's so much going on and there's so much life in the city that we wanted to have this other really cool event find its way to Detroit," said Hupp. "With all the tall buildings and different experiences, it's so perfect in the city. "
Friday's Unsilent Night starts at 1515 Broadway at 7 p.m. and will wind down to Grand Circus Park. It should last about 35 minutes. Hupp said the only thing participants need to do to get involved is bring a boombox and to contact the event's organizers beforehand to notify them of their sound system's audio format requirements. Organizers will provide carolers with cassettes, CDs and MP3 tunes at the parade site.