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December 2, 2011

Guest blogger previews Mobtown Modern presentation of 'Unsilent Night'

Thanks again to Logan K. Young for this blog post:

When it comes to Christmas in Baltimore, natives and visitors alike know all about the “Miracle on 34th Street.”

Festooned with garlands, swathed in luminaries, so sparkling are the Hampden row houses there that Charm City was recently named a Top 10 Destination for Holiday Lights.

But for those who prefer their yuletide a little less Town & Country and a lot more rock ‘n’ roll, there’s always Phil Kline’s crowd-pleaser, “Unsilent Night.”

Since 1992, downtown New York composer (and erstwhile Del-Byzanteen) Phil Kline has gathered an ever-increasing number of revelers in Greenwich Village and handed each one a mix tape. After all, ‘tis truly better to give this time of year.

Each participant then ...

loads his or her cassette into a separate boom box (the bigger...the better) and, all together now, the audio occupiers trod from Washington Square to Tompkins Square Park blasting Kline’s carols. Fa la-la-la-la; Merry Christmas, to all!

On the Kline tapes, however, are not carefully curated songs to get you in the Christmas spirit -- no Bing or Burl, much less Bieber -- but instead disembodied excerpts from Kline’s ambient masterpiece. From the snaked line of ghetto blasters to the trippy, but pleasant sounds themselves, the overall effect is quite striking -- like one of Gabrielli’s canzonas care of Ingram Marshall.

In a sign of the times, Kline offers .mp3s now, but not even an inert string of 1s and 0s could make his night “unbeautiful.”

For six years now, the honest, hard-working people of Baltimore have mounted their own performance of this crowd-sourced opus. In fact, “Unsilent Night” has taken on a life of its own, really, what with some sixty cities both here and abroad staging performances this month.

Saturday night, starting at 4:45 p.m., Mobtown Modern will join forces with the Enoch Pratt Southeast Anchor Branch Library to present Kline’s rite of winter. As always, the public is cordially invited to join the Highlandtown fray. Just B.Y.O.B.B. (your own boom box, that is), and they’ll provide everything else -- for free!

Eine “Kline” Nachtmusik, indeed.


Posted by Tim Smith at 6:08 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Clef Notes

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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