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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.
Eddie Boros’ Tower of Toys grew and stood for a few decades on 6th and B. It was taken down in May 2008, a year after its creator’s passing. At my first encounter with the tower, the garden was closed. It was a cloudy day. It drizzled. The tower stopped me in my tracks. I lingered to take it in, looking through the bars of the fence. As a recent art school graduate, the Tower of Toys mesmerized me. It both honored and defied design theory. The structure was showing honesty in how it was built, starting on a broad base, tapering towards the welkin of this skyscraper city. It showed clarity in how it was created. If there is a comparison worth making with an architect-built structure it might be San Francisco’s Transamerica Pyramid, while in the realm of outsider architecture the structure has evoked Simon Rodia’s Watts towers for many. Eddie Boros defied what I learned in design theory in his construction and connection details. Although his tower looked and stood like a tall structure, its details did neither suggest that it should, nor assure its stability or longevity, where Rodia’s creation does. But Boros wasn’t a designer or architect in that schoolish way. He built from passion, with intuition, using that rough-n-tumble New York grit as the tower’s backbone and his own longevity as mortar. How cool is that
A photo album:
An elegy: http://nymag.com/news/intelligencer/47237/