Audiles unite unsilently

BY | Posted on | FILED UNDER Categories Audile, Culminant, Manhattan, Typhlology

A few hundred audiles braved the cold to unite at the Washington Square arch in the early evening of December 15, 2008 to help create Unsilent Night. In Phil Kline’s annual non-sectarian holiday happening, a cloud of people carries the recorded sounds of bells, thumb pianos and gamelan like audio in boomboxes on their shoulders, under their arms, into a moving soundplay.

I particularly experienced this audio walk from Washington Square to Tompkins Square, as a lesson in seeing space with ears. In the openness of park one hears the auditory beauty for what it is, becoming instantly aware that the movement of people within the cloud will add a texture not conceivable at the Met or most any other sound venue. Once this urban highland band of MP3s and cassettes enters the canyon of Washington Place the spatial awareness lesson #2 announces itself: the block had become boombox. We heard what we heard before with reverb. How I wish my clone could have walked on Waverly crossing Greene and Mercer. How I wonder if he’d heard Washington Place in stereo.

Broadway came, and added its honks and squeaks, St. Mark’s Place its vaudeville rumble, and all along there was the chatter of participants, punctuated by the silent awe of people just coming upon us.

The chatter stopped when Tompkins Square Park summoned to form a huddle for a culminant Grand Finale. And if cell phones were still used, it was to expand the audience.

After the crowd dissolved, the night was cold again, but I had received new eyes. At next year’s Unsilent Night, I may come blindfolded.   

2 thoughts on “Audiles unite unsilently”

  1. This is such a great piece. In Buenos Aires this summer I heard a similar banging of pots and pans, though in a very different context. Latin American street protests often include a compendium of ear delights that spark thoughts of kitchen chaos and good food to eat. Your audile piece makes me think about the two words listen and hear and their nuanced but oh so important distinction.

  2. I think all musicians are audiles, which certainly makes me one! I am always listening. This reminded me of a great experience I had in Prospect Park this past weekend. On my way back home after a picnic, heading around the lake, I started to hear drums. Since lower frequencies carry farther, I was hearing mostly the bass sounds. As I neared Drummers Grove, the sound not only became louder, but the tonal variety grew as well. Up close, bells, shakers, a trumpet, and a steel pan player were audible amongst all the drums. As I passed out of the park, it continued to change. The interaction of space, time and sound is constantly changing, unpredictable, and joyous!

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