Boombox Parade to Blast Cassette Music in Fort Greene

By Janet Upadhye on December 6, 2013 3:18pm 

 This photo was taken during an "Unsilent Night" parade led by Phil Kline.
This photo was taken during an "Unsilent Night" parade led by Phil Kline.
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FORT GREENE — Dozens of boombox-wielding parade-goers plan to march through the streets of Fort Greene the Saturday before Christmas, blasting their cassette tapes as part of a performance piece that has some neighbors steaming.

For the second year in a row, the Fulton Area Business Alliance (FAB) and Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) are planning a "Boombox Parade" — a collection of people playing music in unison from boomboxes — through the streets of Fort Greene on Dec. 21.

"Last year was beautiful and magical," said FAB director Phillip Kellogg. "More than 50 people started the procession and others joined as they saw what was happening and walked along to enjoy the music."

The parade will be led by composer Phil Kline who made the "walking-boombox-ambient genre" famous with his "Unsilent Night" marches that take place all over the world. He describes his events as an "ethereal, electronic soundscape played by the audience on boomboxes carried through city streets," according to a description on his website.

In Fort Greene, Kline will veer from his traditional "Unsilent Night" and lead locals in a newer piece entitled "Peregrine." He plans to provide the first 50 participants with boomboxes and cassette tapes set to play the 45-minute electronic score.

But not all locals are excited about the impending parade.

"I find this impending noise assault...BOOMBOXES!!!...encouraged to be played in all of the varieties of noise — sometimes masquerading as music — remarkable," neighborhood resident Sandy Reiburn wrote in an email to the community board, local officials and neighbors. "Parade walkers will avail themselves of whatever decibel level they choose."

In response, Community Board 2 District Manager Robert Perris wrote that he had attended such events in the past and found them to be "joyous and social."

He also said that restrictions placed on the musical score would help to regulate noise levels.

"Since the participants play a composition while walking, there are a couple of types of time constraints; the duration of the musical piece and how long the group is near any one location," he wrote in an email. "The boomboxes were collected by Mr. Kline after the conclusion of the event I attended, so anyone who lingers afterwards does so without a sound amplification device."

The parade will begin in front of BAM's Peter Jay Sharp Building at 30 Lafayette Ave. at 4 p.m. It will travel down Fulton Street, Cumberland Street, DeKalb Avenue and South Elliott Place before ending at 5 p.m. at Cuyler-Gore Park.

Hot drinks and holiday treats will be provided at the end of the march.

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