Fill Up The Tank — With Music!

20150904_182253The Tank is running a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for recording equipment and other improvements. You have less than a week to get in on one of the most amazing movements around. Go to http://kck.st/1VYAru8 before 1 PM, February 28, 2016 to donate. Or to learn more about The Tank and hear music recorded there, try http://tanksounds.org/

What is The Tank and why would you want to donate? To the welders who built it and the railroad men who set it in place, it was just a cylinder of steel. To several generations of Rangely high school kids, it was a place to do those things kids do behind their parents’ backs. To the musicians who discovered its mind-blowing acoustic properties back in the seventies, it was an underground recording studio. Now it’s becoming much more – a phoenix rising silver out of its ash-colored nest at the top of a hill. By dint of deep commitment, incredible organization, and amazing dedication on the part of many people, The Tank has entered a new incarnation as an international Center for the Sonic Arts.
I attended an open house over Labor Day weekend which gave me glimpses into all these histories, as well as one into the future.
The steady stream of townspeople included those who already knew The Tank and those who didn’t. One man told me, “it’s been here forever. Forever.”
Those who had never heard of it, walked around the outside, taking in its sheer bulk, admiring the scrap-metal sculpture on one side. One couple peered inside tentatively before taking off their shoes to enter. But then they quickly immersed themselves in the soundscape.
What is The Tank? It is all about that sound. The townspeople, old-time Tank visitors and newbies alike, got that. One woman, eyes wide, said, “it’s like a cathedral. The sound just blossoms.” Her hands spiraled up over her head. A man gave an impromptu Mozart concert, throwing his arms out to express how the notes reverberate in The Tank. His next piece was the ABC song. He said it didn’t matter. The Tank would give whatever you sing power. He was enthusiastic about what children could learn there.
It was the kids who got it best. Inside The Tank, I watched small children pick up first a rattle, then a tambourine, listening to the echoes with surprising attention. As one family emerged, the three kids chorused, “we have to come back here, Mom, we have to come back”.

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It was delightful to see people enjoy sounds in The Tank. Sharing its unique resonant properties is the dream of those who are working so hard to turn a gigantic piece of scrap metal into what will be known as The Center for Sonic Arts. More than a recording venue, it will be for learning about music, about sound, about perception.
What is The Tank? I see it as the nexus of a new community. That weekend people who had never met made connections that will enhance their lives. Townspeople who didn’t know each other shared stories about their long-ago experiences, and talked excitedly about the music they’d just heard. Two guys who had driven up from Grand Junction, a couple of self-defined old hippies, spent a long, long time inside. Then one sought out Bruce Odland, de facto leader of The Tank’s renaissance, to find out how he could make the tank “a part of my life for the rest of my life”. Bruce’s genius and vision will no doubt find him a place. A man from Austin, just passing through, met San Antonian Mark McCoin, who has been involved with The Tank for years. On the spot, a Tank community sprouted in Central Texas. Paul, a recent transplant from Boulder, envisions an artists’ colony – all types of artists – growing up on the hills around the Tank. I’m in – I’ve already decided where to place my weaving studio.
One local couple understood both the sound and the community immediately. They went straight home to retrieve a huge old saw blade they thought would make a great gong. They were right.

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They also donated other metal tools, including some gold-panning pans. Bruce and Mark staged an impromptu percussion performance on the deck between The Tank and the new recording booth. Bruce declared these repurposed tools “a gold mine”.
It’s a cliche to say that we need community in this fragmented modern world. But clichés get repeated for a reason. What is the The Tank? It’s more than the sound it makes. The Tank can actually be an agent of change, as its vibrations circle out into the world, just as they do inside – like the woman said, blossoming up and out.

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